What Does It Take To
Put On A Field Trial
by Cyd Kitchens
Unless you’ve never undertaken the massive job of putting on a field
trial you don’t have a clue all that it involves. It begins
months before the date of the trial.
First you set your date so it doesn’t conflict with any other
trials. Then you have to decide what stakes you are going to have
and the length of the stakes. Next comes one of the biggest task
of all, finding the judges! You want judges with experience, someone
other field trailers respect, someone who is reliable and congenial and
gets along with people but only judges the dog and not the person
running the dog. This is also the time to get your reporter and
all the above applies to the reporter as well. After you get over this
major hurdle then the real work begins.
Now its time to start preparing the grounds. This includes paying
the insurance first. Then you start bush hogging, making sure all
the water crossings are safe, trimming low limbs, putting out your
feeders at the covey sites and covering the with limbs for camouflage
against hawks and other predators. It’s also time to order your
This is also the time to order all your plaques, trophies and prizes
for the amateur stakes and ordering gifts for the judges, reporter and
Now is the time to touch base with all your sponsors to let them know
what you would like them to contribute. It’s also time to line up
your lunches for each day and plan what nights you are going to have
dinners after the days running and plan the menus for a crowd.
You also have to make plans for accommodations for the judges and
reporter and make plans to feed them three meals a day. It’s also
good to plan now for ice, ice chest, bottled water and sodas to have on
hand each day for everyone.
Now it’s about one month before the drawing and the birds for early
release have to be picked up and put out at each covey site and the
feeders have to be filled. This is also when you order the rest
of the birds you will need for putting out each day of the trial and
when you are going to pick them up. It’s always good to keep your
bird supplier happy. If you do they might deliver the birds when
you need them and save you that time for other task.
The week before the drawing wood has to be cut for a fire if it
gets cold and the port-a-toilets have to be set up and water troughs
for horses and dogs have to be put in place along with a place to wash
Now it’s just a few days before the drawing and the phone is already
ringing so someone has to be there to take entries and answer lots of
Now it’s crunch time. Quail callers have to be put out and more
birds released. All the food for the dinners has to be shopped
for and some of the cooking done and frozen. Judges and reporter
meals are planned and their rooms are set up and stocked.
The day of the drawing is wild with the phone ringing off the
hook. You are also running back and forth to the grounds with
chairs and tables and a hundred other little things you have
forgotten. Drawing time comes and chaos reigns until all the dogs
are drawn but the phone starts ringing before you finish drawing,
people wanting to know when they run.
Now you have a day or two depending on when you drew to get all the
last minute things done. Picking up feed and hay for the judges
and reporter’s animals, getting the dog wagon ready, putting up signs
along the highway from all directions, icing down all the bottled water
and sodas and filling the water troughs. The programs have to be
printed and folded and the gifts, prizes and trophies have to be picked
up along with all the things the sponsors have donated.
The day before the trial the judges and reporter and have to be settled
in their rooms and their animals put away and plans for their meal are
settled. Oh, don’t forget the cell phone and home phone are still
ringing off the hook.
Then the big day arrives. You’re up at 4:30 a.m. to feed animals,
cook judge’s breakfast, load everything and get to the grounds by 6:30
a.m. There are birds to catch and release, questions to answer,
entry fees to collect, horses to saddle for the judges, reporter and
yourself and get the first brace of dogs on the line by 8:00
o’clock. The club official’s make their announcements; the judges
have their say about what they are looking for and how much scouting is
allowed then the familiar words everyone have been waiting finally come
“turn em loose lets look at em” and so it begins.
The old saying “The best laid plans” really suit field trials.
Something unexpected always happens. The weather never fully
cooperates. It rains or it gets to warm or the temperature drops
to miserable. Someone always has a horse get loose or hurt or
sick, someone falls off their horse or gets thrown, the food wagon is
late, dogs get lost, etc. and of course you still have people asking
At the end of every stake there are pictures to take, information to
gather about the winners and papers for the judges to sign. After
the days running there are animals to tend to for judges and reporter
and dinner to prepare for handler, judges reporter and guest.
Then it starts all over again the next morning for four, five, six days
depending on how many dogs you drew.
Each day the trash has to be gathered and hauled off, the dog wagon has
to be filled with gas, ice chest have to be restocked with soda,
bottled water and ice and batteries changed in the quail callers as
needed. Quail have to be caught and released each brace and a
hundred other little things come up each day.
When the last dog runs and the last picture is taken and the last truck
and trailer pull out the gate clean up begins. Signs and banners
have to be taken down, garbage has to be hauled off, water troughs have
to emptied, toilets have to be emptied and cleaned. Quail callers
have to be gathered up and put away and everything that was borrowed
has to be returned and everything that was hauled over to the grounds
has to be has to be hauled back.
Then you have to track down all the winners that didn’t give you their
information for the American Field and the A.F.T.C.A. get the report
and pictures together and mailed as soon as possible.
Most people think that field trial clubs make lots of money but I can
tell you for a fact it takes every cent you make from entry fees and
donations from sponsors to pay for judges and reporter expenses, birds,
land leases, film and developing the pictures, batteries for the quail
callers, plates, cups, napkins, utensils, ice, sodas, and bottled
water. You have the cost of the prizes, plaques for the amateur
stakes and pay out of 50%, 30%, and 20% for the open stakes.
There is the cost for the ad in the “Field”, the water bill for the
grounds, the quail and feed to fill up the feeders. Then there
are numerous other miscellaneous expenses.
Your very lucky if you have a small reserve that you can carry over to
get you started the next trial. If you’re in the field trial
business to make big money forget it. It’s an expensive operation
and lots of hard work but anyone that does it will tell you that when
the trial is over it’s one of the most fulfilling things you can ever
be involved in.
So next time you go to a field trial before you leave, take a minute
and thank the club members and let them know you appreciated and
enjoyed being there.