By Matt de Simone
Botetourt County 4-H held the first Shoot-To-Retrieve Fun Field Trial fundraiser for the 4-H Shooting Education and Hunting, Wildlife, and Outdoor Skills Clubs at the Juniper Valley Licensed Shooting Preserve in Troutville.
Last weekend saw 15 pointing dogs and their handlers compete for the best score in the points-based event. Hunter Jacobs and Sadie earned first place honors by achieving a perfect score for the event. Tommy Spellman and Bo placed second, followed by Bruce Mooneyham and his dog, Chip, finishing third.
The event brought out a gallery of onlookers that consisted of friends and family of the competitors and coordinators. Refreshments were provided to guests on their way to the gallery and for competitors waiting to take their shots.
For each hunter, three quails are planted onto the field of play. The hunter and the dog sit in a tented area, blocking their view so that they don’t know the quails’ location.
Once the competitors are ready, they are led out to the field by a judge, who then tallies points for the performances of the hunters and their dogs. The dogs point out the quail, and the hunter flushes the quail and then looks for a hit.
“The judge is there to not only judge the point value for every step of the trail, but he’s also the safety,” 4-H Rifle Instructor Greg Wilhelm explained during the event. “When you’re hunting, you’re usually hunting with people too. The judge (during the trial) isn’t restrictive in any way.”
Some of the things the judges look for are the dogs holding their “point”—locking on the quail for three seconds, the hunter hitting the bird, and the dog retrieving the bird to then hand it back to the hunter. The dog can’t drop the bird, which will result in point deductions. Each hunter and dog could accumulate 30 points per quail pointed, or 90 points total, in 20 minutes. If there is a tie between competitors in points, the tiebreaker is the amount of time it takes to earn their points.
4-H Instructor Mike Wolfe and his wife, Jane, own the four-acre preserve in the Troutville/Fincastle area.
“One of the really cool takeaways (from this event)—these are all local (hunters competing in the event) who didn’t know each other,” Wolfe explained. “They’ve hunted all over the state and now get to meet each other in the same world locally and get to swap stories.”
None of last weekend’s competitors had previously competed in shoot-to-retrieve events. The event was a new experience for those competing, and the gallery of onlookers enjoyed the warm weather and occasion.
For more information about Botetourt County 4-H’s programs, visit https://botetourt.ext.vt.edu/index.html.
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