Promoting Field Trials
Many of us have participated in pointing dog demonstrations or talks at game fairs, sportsman shows or conservation organization events. These are all great opportunities to share our passion and invite newcomers to field trials. It takes work and preparation and time. Field trialers have always given freely of these to the benefit of our sport.
Many years ago when I was involved with NAVHDA, our chapter did extensive demos of dogs pointing, retrieving etc. each fall at an event put on by the Kittery Trading Post in Maine. It always amazed me just how little — even among sportsmen and women in a rural “hunting” state — they knew about upland bird dogs, never mind the various organizations that hold tests and trials. But the crowds that gathered to watch and ask questions proved without doubt they were interested and spellbound in the dogs and what they did.
For the past three years that I have lived in South Georgia, Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear and Apparel in Thomasville has hosted the fabulous and popular Southern Game Fair along with the London Gunmaker, Purdey, on the beautiful campus of Greenwood Plantation. Primarily an opportunity for attendees to shoot clay targets with Kevin’s and Purdey shotguns, the fair is a celebration of the sporting life for which this area is so famous for, nestled in the Red Hills quail plantation country. Of course, nothing speaks more of the sporting life than dogs. Labrador Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels are in attendance each year showing off their training and the Live Oak Foxhounds of Monticello, Florida make a grand appearance with their handsomely attired handlers. Each year I have been asked to give demonstrations with my field trial pointers.
All-age handlers Jamie Daniels, Judd Carlton and amateur Betty Shearouse brought their pointers and English setters, helping me with the 2016 demo; last year Til Hankley lent a hand and this year, Betty Shearouse and I took greater advantage of the opportunity to further inform spectators about field trials sanctioned by the American Field and the AFTCA. Betty drove down from Tennessee with her horse trailer bringing one of her Tennessee Walkers as well as setters of various ages. We set up a display in front of the trailer, showed field trial videos on a large monitor, sold raffle tickets to win bird dog baskets of goodies donated by the American Field, Purina and Mazie Davis and my Strideaway store. The proceeds helped defray our expenses of quail, a banner and rack cards with basic information and links to field trial websites. Betty and I spent the day engaged with people on the topics of pointing dogs and field trials and overwhelmingly proved wrong a pair of ’ole bird hunters who confidently announced that field trial dogs can not be shot over! Betty’s setter puppy and horse, Swag stole the show.
Surprisingly however, the past three years have proven to me again that even in the heart of bird dog country at a game fair celebrating the sporting life, few people are knowledgeable about pointing dogs and even fewer know anything at all about field trials. This would certainly be depressing if it were not for the overwhelming interest, curiosity and pleasure displayed by the many people we engaged with. As a communications and marketing specialist by profession, I believe we have not done a good enough job promoting our dogs or sport. No one can argue that the loss of upland bird hunting due to lack of opportunity in so many parts of the country has had a significant negative effect of exposing people to bird dogs but we have obviously not done enough to show our wonderful dogs and sport to potential new enthusiasts. There was an moment for many of us, myself included, that we first witnessed a dog stand intensely on point that hooked us. I can think of no one in the many years that I have been an upland bird hunter and field trial competitor who gave up on either because they tired of the dogs, birds or the places where our sports are pursued. There are still plenty of people, young and not so young for whom the great outdoors, dogs, horses, and sports have great appeal and they can be reached through Social Media. Video is no doubt the most powerful means we have to show our great dogs off. We can and should do better to communicate our sport and welcome potential new enthusiasts.
If any one or group would like the Field Trial banner and/or the rack cards I designed, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can be ordered at Vistaprint at an affordable cost. If you have ideas or a story of how your field trial club is promoting field trials through demonstrations, youth trials etc., please share it with us so we can help communicate your successes via Strideaway to the field trial community.
Betty Shearouse, field trial display of books, caps, note cards, raffle items.
Betty flushing quail for Ben while the audience watches nearby.
Maxine shows off her style and intensity. (photo: Ray Stanyard)