Top gun dogs hit town
A GUN dog's natural instinct is to hunt and retrieve, and that is the basis for the sport of retrieving trials which tests the abilities of a handler and dog in duck shooting scenarios.
Trial competitions involve the use of dokken dead fowl trainers, artificial birds that simulate fallen game, with a dog required to retrieve them from both water and land in a test of all the assets required in a top gun dog.
Locals have a chance to witness the action at this weekend's Sporting Shooters Association Australia Queensland State Championships in Kilkivan, with competition starting at 8.30am tomorrow and Sunday
"Competitors from Queensland and interstate will compete for the title of state champion, not to mention an impressive prize pool," spokeswoman Kerri Underwood said.
"This is the ideal place to see some amazing dog work, and observe dog and handler working together at this high level of competition.
"People interested in retrieving, gundogs, or those just interested in having a look are more than welcome to come along."
Dogs will complete three to five different tests (or runs) over the course of the competition.
A run can include a marked retrieve, in which the dog sees where the artificial game lands and doesn't require any instructions from the handler; or a blind retrieve, where the dog relies on directions to find the game after not seeing where it lands.
In all runs, the dog must deliver the artificial game back to the handler, and a judge then scores both the dog and handler, with places awarded based on the scores received throughout the competition
"Retrieving trials provide a great outing for dog and handler alike, with a great camaraderie among the members," Underwood said.
"Some people participate as a fill-in during the closed shooting seasons to keep their dogs trained and exercised, while others aren't hunters but simply enjoy the competition with their pets."
The sport in Queensland has a long history, with events held here for more than 30 years, but has struggled with low membership numbers in recent years.
Since the inception of the SSAA United Field Retrieving Branch though, part of the Working Gundog Association Australia, membership has increased by 25% and the sport as a whole is experiencing its first growth in more than 20 years.
"As well as the assistance of SSAA and the WGAA, the use of artificial birds has also helped introduce a wide audience to retrieving trials, providing a more socially acceptable form of the sport.
"Competitions are run from March to October every year, and we currently hold 10-12 events during this time, as well as regular training days," Underwood said.
For more information on the state championships and the United Field Retrieving branch, visit ufr.org.au, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0412 633 632.