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 birds.

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 land owners.

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 horses.

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 questions.

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 questions.

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.