Brawley wins Memphis field trial

Brawley wins Memphis field trial

Don Brawley of West Memphis, a long time dog trainer and field trialer, recently won the Memphis Retriever Club’s two big events. He won the Open on Saturday with Wendy, a chocolate female Labrador Retriever and the Amateur on Sunday with AFC Choco, a chocolate male lab.

There’s a national circuit of trials that occurs almost every weekend in the spring and fall.

These trials determine the title of Field Champion and Amateur Field Champion.

Choco is now qualified for the National Championship that will be held in Vermont in June. The trophy is the traveling Nash Buckingham Memorial trophy that goes to the winner of the trial each year. Brawley also won in 1983 with Midnight. There has never been two chocolate labs win the Open and Amateur at the same licensed trial.

Don trains with his wife Bettye, who owns Wendy and runs her in some trials. The Brawley’s train several times a week and travel almost every Friday-Sunday from February to June and then in the fall from September-November.

The trials in the spring start down south in Louisiana and finish up in Illinois and Wisconsin. The fall circuit is a reverse and start up north and come down south. The heat is a major factor. Most retrievers do not have a high tolerance for heat. After all, they were bred to hunt ducks in cold water.

These retriever trials are open to any retriever breed and are extremely difficult. The marks, which is another name for a thrown duck or pheasant, are often two to three hundred yards and are done in multiples up to four thrown birds. The marks are done on both land and in the swimming water.

Blinds, which are hidden from the dogs, are also long and occur on both land and water.

The handler who runs the dogs knows where the bird is hidden. Two judges trim the number of dogs after each series, usually four, and the final winner is determined.

The goal is to win the trial and qualify for the National Open and National Amateur that is held each year. These are the best retrieving dogs in the world.

Don Brawley had been to several Nationals with his original dog Midnight Satellite. This will be Brawley’s first trip with Choco. These dogs have a long registered AKC names, but are called by their working name.

With three more trials left, he is hoping to get Wendy qualified also. Brawley’s dogs are also hunting dogs and are hunted several times a week during duck season. If a dog can get a bird in a trial at 200 yards, then a duck in the decoys is “Duck Soup.”

One of the nice things about dog training and retriever trials, both men and women can compete on an equal basis. It’s the dog doing the work, not the handler. Ladies train and run their own dogs. There are several female handlers at the National each year. Some are professional trainers that train other owner’s dogs.

Training your dog in the off season, which to most duck hunters is when duck season is closed, is fun and good for the dog. You will make friends with other hunters and dog owners. After some training, you might want to enter some local hunt tests. There will be an article about hunts at a later time giving dates and location.

We wish the Brawley’s the best of luck at the National. We have never had a National Champion from Arkansas.

There is a good chance it will happen this year.

Take that young hunter with you when you train your dog.

You, the kid, and the dog will have a good time.

Papa Duck Lakeside Taxidermy 870-732-0455 or 901-4823430

By John Criner Outdoors Columnist