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Working back and forth on the two courses, the judges tried to mix things up so that each dog would get a downwind and an upwind. By the luck of the draw, I ran my pup in four downwind series (two stakes) with no upwinds, but she did just fine.

Send in the Cockers

In the past, this trial, which looks more like a cocker trial than your typical ESS field trial, has attracted cockers (ECS & ACS) and even a Welsh Springer. The M-AHSC is a flushing spaniel club and their events (except licensed trials) are open to all flushing spaniels. With attendance way down because of the storm, only springers turned out. The cockers have been exciting to watch in the past and hopefully will show up in force again next year.

The dogs were run singularly (unbraced) in this trial, which greatly simplified things and enhanced safety. Stakes for unsteady puppy and steady puppy were judged by Chuck Urland and Brad Penoyer, while The Open and Gun Dog stakes were judged by Jeff Brooks and Carl Rausch. These men took the weather conditions in stride and looked as if they were having a good time. Brooks, as usual, got compliments for the "best hat at the trial", a rabbit fur "Mad Bomber".


Certain elements of a grouse trial can make a dog come unglued. Birds, when shot in the woods, would often bounce down through the trees, prolonging the time until the tap. This helped the judges sort through the dogs. Range became much more critical, as a dog that could not be kept in range would flush birds down course with no chance of being shot. And even for birds within range, there were some fly-aways, as intervening trees blocked shots (as in grouse hunting). All of these factors provided a great test of steadiness and control, which is a prime objective of a trial.

Pattern work

With Springers, much is made of textbook perfect patterns. Obviously, the textbook was not written for the grouse woods. With trees, brushpiles, sinkholes and briar patches you could just leave the textbook at home.

However, the wind conditions, especially the downwinds, required that the dog know how to gain complete coverage of the course. Range, as in grouse hunting, became more critical. Ultimately the dogs and handlers had to just improvise patterns, and bird finding ability ruled the day. It was interesting to see the better dogs pick up on the propensity of the birds to hide in the greenbriar and start really paying attention to that feature. In other words, "hunting".

At the conclusion of the trial a brief awards ceremony was held, judges and others were thanked, and a simple meal was provided. Most of the contestants did not linger but chose to "get out of Dodge" in an effort to beat the storm which moved in early that evening. I left cold and tired, but with the satisfied feeling of a good day's hunt.

Bill Fawcett resides in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife Cindy and his Springer Jenna. He is a hunter, field trialer and member of the M-AHSC. He also maintains a public FB ESS pedigree database at and writes book reviews for the Spaniel Journal.

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