Fun in the field

The blue ribbon cocker, Posie K stands atop its trophies for taking first place in the National Amateur Cocker Championship on Wednesday, Dec. 13. (Photo submited)

George Akkouris, left and Rex Humston, right return from the field trials at the end of the day. (Photo by Ethan Gray)

Julie Mommaerts, originally from the U.K., stands with her Cocker that recently completed its trial. (Photo by Ethan Gray)

National Amateur Cocker Championships held at Talbot Conservation Area
The National Amateur Cocker Championships were held at Lawrence County’s Talbot Conservation Area, west of Mt. Vernon, recently in a contest of cocker spaniel hunting ability. Dogs and their handlers from across the nation competed in a series of hunting trials to determine who would take home the gold.
The dogs were graded by judges on their ability to bird hunt, but it isn’t that simple, according to Tim Baker, who is a member of the Missouri Hunting Spaniel Club and helped organize the event. Baker said that one of the most important things to winning and performing well in a trial is discipline.
In one of the trials, live birds are dropped at certain points along the trail at Talbot, and the dogs are tasked with finding the birds and either flushing them or catching them, depending on what the judge is looking for. Once a bird is flushed, though, the dog must return to their handler’s side; they aren’t allowed to chase after it until it has been shot down and the judge has given it all clear. This defies their nature, said Baker.
“When [dogs] flush a bird, they want nothing more than to chase after it,” he said.
This trial was one of many last week in a competition that began Dec. 5, for which about 75 people came from as far as New Jersey and Texas. The community of Spaniel owners is small; according to Baker, the Cocker Championship is a way to bring everyone together, though it comes at a price they have to pay out of pocket. To enter the contest, a fee of $390 is required. On top of this number, guests had to pay for their own hotels and housing. That’s part of the allure, according to Baker; the people who come all this way and take on the financial burden are those who are most passionate about the sport.
Baker does not own a Cocker; he owns Springer Spaniels which are not eligible for this competition. He decided to attend it anyway because of his love of the sport.
“I could talk about it for hours,” he said.
Barry Littlewood is a competitor in this year’s competition, as is his wife. Last year, he took home the blue ribbon after a stellar showing from his dogs. According to Littlewood, he and his wife don’t share the prize-winning pooches.
“Her dog sleeps in the bed; mine sleeps in the kennels,” he said.
Over the course of the contest, each dog gets two birds in the field per trial. That adds up to a lot of pheasants; according to Baker, about 100 birds are used per trial. So many birds are used over the course of the events, in fact, that the competition holders have to preorder them and wait for them to grow.
People come from all over, not just for the competition but to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. Not many compete in such trials across the country; this is one of only a handful of such competitions that have been held, but those who do come have an appreciation like no other.
“We had a lovely time; we didn’t get any ribbons, but we had a fantastic trip and a fantastic few days,” said Littlewood.
“It’s really a cool experience,” said Baker. “I drive out here every day to see it.”



Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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