First of all let me introduce myself. I am Jeff Brezee, current President of Southern MN Hunting Retriever Association. I work in Health Care; I have a beautiful wife of over 21yrs and three incredible daughters. My passion has always been the outdoors and more so, retrievers! My current two Labradors are 6yo MHR HRCH Brezee Oak’s Brother Bear MH “Bear” and 2 ½ yo MHR HRCH Brezee Oak’s keep to the Code MH “Jasmine”. Jasmine is also half way through her UH title with HRC and now has a good start towards her MUH title. I am a strong advocate for retriever enthusiasts to get involved! No matter what the venue, it’s all about that teamwork! Probably my favorite is NAHRA. I’ve often posted on social media that after a NAHRA test weekend, I feel like I was on a hunting trip! The realism and comradery is second to none!
I was asked to describe this past weekend’s test for the Blog, so here it goes.
Saturday, February 27th, 2016 proved to be a very memorable day where it reached 55+ degrees in MN! I believe this is the second year of the Upland program for NAHRA and Four Points Retriever Club once again didn’t hold anything back! I had Jasmine entered for both senior events and Bear was along to be one of the test dogs. After our 2 ½ hour drive, I checked in to Pheasant Ridge Shooting Preserve and then promptly found a place to “air the dogs”. The grounds looked awesome! Everywhere I could see was a beautiful pheasant haven! To the West I could see one of the senior tests getting setup, so we made our way over and started catching up with friends I haven’t seen all winter. Clear skies and fields of gold with very little snow was left on the ground, workers and contestants were dressed in blaze orange hustling to meet the 9am start. This is when I learned that we were using all Roosters! Sweet! Just like hunting! This meant that all of those flushes were going to be very tempting for a dog to break! (Cackling, gaudy, giant birds flushing with that eruption that can give a man a heart attack!)
The two tests were going to be occurring simultaneously. The 1st test was starting as an upland hunt w/blind, after running that we would go over to the 2nd test. During the 1st test, handler and dog would hunt their way down a strip of sorghum next to standing corn. After about 75 yards, a gunner would yell “ROOSTER-ROOSTER” and a bird would be launched from a winger across the field of view in front of the team. Sometimes that bird would be going about 45 mph, but pretty much every bird was knocked down, the dogs were expected to sit to flush and shot. After the judge released the dog, they would retrieve the bird to hand and then continue hunting down the field. Forty yards down the sorghum, one of the judges would fire two rounds from behind some cover and start an excited dialogue about knocking down another bird! (Keep control of your dog!) This would be where you have to reign in your animal (after hunting on their own) to a very controlled, precise blind! The blind started on a steep bank that was sloping to the right. The object was to keep the dog from falling with the terrain, try to cut a sliver of corn field and proceed across a roadway, up another hill and into some cover for the bird. This was a challenging blind, but very rewarding if done well. After the blind, each team would continue hunting around the field for about another 150 yards.
After completing this portion of Test 1, all the handlers went over to Test 2 to run that COMPLETE test. Dan Hove and Phil Hines had a 30 acre field set up and they were going to use it all! But before we got started, Four Points delivered enough hamburgers w/the fixings to feed an army (like I said, they didn’t hold back)!
Test 2. Bear would be the test dog for this event and it started with a hunt along a grass wetland in a ten acre field. At the end of the wetland, each team would curve around some willows to the left where a wily rooster would get launched into the air. This bird proved to be a bit too tempting for a couple of dogs as it was bigger than life! Bear actually had to do it 3x because the electronics weren’t behaving! He proved to be a very competent test dog! After that bird was retrieved (providing the dog was steady to flush and shot) you worked your way to a ridge where a couple of shots signaled that a double blind was awaiting. Again, this is a trying situation where you have to be able to really reign in your dog to work again as a Team.
The first blind was downwind, down a side hill to a deadfall, bear did this in one whistle. The second was across a large ditch, through a wall of cattails and back up the hill (crosswind blind). This took two whistles for the veteran. Once the blinds were completed, you would turn and resume hunting across another large field. These weren’t small hunts; the dogs had to prove that they could cover some ground in front of you and both judges on each side of you! At almost the end of the field another “bigger than life” rooster was launched into the air. (Both birds in this test were very tempting birds because the dogs truly had to work for them. By the time they were put into the air, the dogs had probably forgotten that this was a test!) Anyways, what impressed me was the fact that this second bird always seemed to get launched at a questionable gunshot range and the gunner almost always dropped it!
After the “Steady to flush/shot” the dog would make his/her retrieve and then proceed to the end of the field where a “second bird” fell on the other side of some corn. This was the “hunt-em-up” portion of the test. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for this but I have trained a bit at home. Dan gave me a bit of a pep talk (being the test dog) and Bear was sent into the cover and quickly re-emerged with his bird! End of Test 2, but you can tell that there was a great deal of expectations!
Back to Test 1: John Giudice and Troy Callanan had finished setting up the rest of their test. First was a trail (Oh no! I forgot that we haven’t done a trail since last October!) Since there wasn’t any snow to deal with, this was an excellent opportunity to trail a rooster. It was along a waterway at the bottom of a hill. Troy always seems to knock down a bird and “can’t find it” J. My little Jasmine put her nose down in the feathers and once I barked “Get that bird”, she was off to the races with her nose on the ground! Didn’t take her long, whew! The next stage was another hunt along some sorghum with standing corn on each side of you. We walked about 100 yards before another rooster was launched and quickly gunned down. Once again, steady to flush and shot!
One blind left! On the way back from the last flush, there would be a shot fired. The blind was a concept that few have trained for! Through sorghum, across a grassy field and right into a standing corn field! The bird was visible and about 20 yards into the corn, but getting that precision cast proved to be a challenge
This was a very solid test with many challenges! I’m sure that my fellow handlers would all agree that on this day, we were hunting! Hunting with very high caliber dogs! You had to earn that ribbon and I applaud NAHRA for coming up with this new program!
Following both Tests, the Four Points crew once again didn’t hold back! They always have a way to make you feel welcome and with friends. A full coarse meal was served! A modest raffle, good fellowship and then the award ceremony! First time titles were acknowledged for the Upland program in both Working and Senior levels! We had handlers from Alaska and Missouri, a very nice turn out! Can’t wait until the next one!
Thanks to Jeff Brezee for being the guest blogger this week. He did a great job, so much so he may have a new job!
Photo credit-Travis Lund and Jeff Brezee
Congratulations to Phil Hines who earned the first national MUR titles on his two dogs Molly and Ruffy (2015)
Congratulations to Travis Lund on his MUR title on his dog Atlas, the first black lab in the nation to earn this title and also congrats on his passes on Atlas’s daughter Rayna at the WUR level.
Congratulations to Joe Grohs on his WUR title on his dog Sunny. The first WUR titled dog from Alaska. The trip from Alaska was worth it!
Congratulations to Todd Fuchs and his dog Ice on being the first national WUR titled dog.
Congratulations to Eric Borg on his MUR title on his dog Link.
Congratulations to all that earned a ribbon!
Hopefully I didn’t forget anyone on their title.
Thanks to Travis Lund for chairing the event, Paul Agranoff for doing the test secretary duties, to all the judges and workers for your outstanding work, and all who participated and had fun.
Special thanks to Mike Bergren and the staff at Pheasant Ridge Shooting Preserve for allowing us to use your facilities. Without you we couldn’t do what we love.