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Field Trial Gunning
by Tom Kirkman and Dale Luther Jr.

It seems like only yesterday when I was standing at the beginning of the course in Walla Walla, Washington, mentally preparing myself to gun my first AKC English Springer Spaniel Field Trial. Nervous? You bet! But I was confident that my training by mentor, Chuck Dryke would get me through it. That was 1974.

Over the years, I have been privileged and honored to participate in numerous field trials throughout the US and Canada. For a field trial gunner, there is no greater recognition than being selected to shoot the Nationals. I have been fortunate to have been selected many times and have enjoyed the camaraderie of teaming with the finest guns from the US and Canada.

One thing always stands out in my mind - and that is how well a properly trained gun team functions as a unit. It makes no difference what part of the country you're from, good guns shoot as a team. Safety first. Shoot for the dog. And, respect your teammates ability… don't cross shoot! I cannot stress how important the mentor is to a new gunner training to shoot field trials. For our sport to enjoy continued success, it is essential to have a strong mentor, sponsorship, apprentice program.

"In the case of an experienced gun team, it is apparent that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Recent rule changes by the AKC Parent Club now require an approved Gun Captain for AKC licensed field trials as of July 2003. This new requirement is only for English Springer Spaniel field trials and not required for Cocker trials and hunt tests. But I think the writing is on the wall about how important gun safety is to the future of our sport and I expect the other groups to adopt this policy in the future.

For the last two years, a group of nationally recognized field trial gun captains have been putting on field trial gun safety seminars throughout the country. The goal being to establish a list of qualified guns and gun captains. We also have started the Field Trial Gunning Apprentice and Sponsorship Program. As a working member of this group, I am

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