Modern Era Scouts
Hunter Gates scouting in the 2010 Manitoba Championship.
Much has deservedly been written about field trial scouts and the job of scouting all-age dogs. The last Christmas edition of the American Field featured a story “The Era of the Scout” by Robert J. Franks. Strideaway has published several stories and podcast interviews on the subject, covering the great scouts of past eras and today’s scouts, who in most cases are also handlers. Gone are the days when all-age dogs were scouted by the famed men who worked for trainer/handlers exclusively and were also responsible for much of the dog training. This meant they were more closely familiar with their canine charges than today’s scouts can be. Despite lacking this advantage, I am convinced most modern day all-age scouts are as gifted at their craft as their predecessors.
As a professional photographer of field trials, I am often watching performances unfold from the back of the gallery on the dog wagon, with mere glimpses of the dogs and handlers far to the front of the scene. Having attended many all-age championships, I discovered I could tell much of what was transpiring in a brace by watching the scouts. If a dog’s performance is smoothly flowing to the front, the scout isn’t riding hard while weaving back and forth through the back of the gallery as the dog crosses from one side of the course to the other. If a dog’s race is erratic — and perhaps too lateral — watch the scout ride hard and wide in an attempt to round up the dog and put him back on course. Scouts never take their eyes off a dog knowing how easily it can become obscured by the heavy cover at Ames Plantation or the piney woods of South Georgia. If a dog is lost on point, both handler and scout go searching and the performance slowly deteriorates if the dog is not quickly located. An exciting limb find by the scout turns everything around when handler, judges and gallery gallop to a staunchly pointing dog and the sound of gunfire rings out.
Mark Haynes scouting at the 2015 Continental Championship.
It’s been said many times. A field trial performance is a “show” and in the all-age game, put on by a team made up of dog, handler and scout who conversely add to the show by being mostly unseen. The recent Continental Open All-Age Championship, contested on the beautiful Dixie Plantation in Greenville, Florida presented a perfect of example of what is looked for. The Winner and Runner-up winner come from the last brace of callback dogs on a gorgeous January morning. Both dogs put on a riveting “all-age show” with handlers confidently pointing them out far to the front and scouts quietly working their magic to help make it happen.
Mark McLean scouting, 2016 Blackbelt Open All-Age.
Ray Warren scouting, 2015 Masters Open All-Age Championship.
Mazie Davis scouting, 2011 Manitoba Championship.
Judd Carlton scouting, 2017 Continental Championship.
Tommy Davis scouting, 2015 Southeastern Quail Championship.
Lee Phillips scouting, 2017 Continental Championship.
Luke Eisenhart scouting, 2016 Blackbelt Open All-Age.
Jamie Daniels scouting, 2016 Continental Championship.
Nick Thompson scouting eventual winner, Connor’s EZ Button in the 2012 National Championship.
Listen to my interview with Nick Thompson about scouting dogs in the National Championship
This story was written for the 2017 issue of Field Trial Review which is published each year for the National Championship.