USA gundog team wins Irish International

Drake, the official mascot of Ducks Unlimited, became the first U.S. retriever in history to be sanctioned to compete in the United Kingdom by the British Kennel Club. 

A chapter of gundog competition history was written in the Irish Isles during the week of May 20 to May 30, 2004. The beautiful grounds of Moria Demse, North Ireland were the site of the 2004 Irish Field Sports National Game Fair that hosts the Irish Sea International Gundog Championship and the National Individual Gundog Working Tests.

On May 29, 2004, the USA Gundog Team placed first in the prestigious P & O Irish Sea International Gundog Challenge. The team also won the Atlantic Cup International Team Competition.

The winning team consisted of Mike Stewart and Drake, the Ducks Unlimited Mascot, Bill Gibson and Jet, our upland hunting representative, Marty Newport handling Bob, a Wildrose sire, and Boss, an AKC Senior Hunter of American genetics.

Blackharn Bob, a popular Wildrose sire, handled by Marty Newport of Highmark Kennels, put forth a stellar performance receiving the award for overall "Top Dog" for both international tests! He went head to head with Burt Taylor's 1999 British Retriever Championship winner, FTCh Stiverson Dipper, holding his own to a narrow one-point final score to Dipper's advantage.

Six teams of four, all Labradors, competed on Saturday, May 29, 2004 in the International Test, the results were as follows:

1st: USA, Irish Sea International and Top Dog (Bob) 284 points
1st: USA, Atlantic Cup and Top Dog (Bob)
2nd: Scotland 252 points
3rd: N. Ireland 249 points
4th: England 226 points
5th: Republic of Ireland 182 points
6th: Wales 123 points

On the second day of events, the team achieved additional firsts. I had the privilege of being the first U.S. person approved to judge a British Kennel Club sanctioned working test. The 3-judge panel saw 33 dogs during the day with Scotland taking the top 4 honors.

This was not a team event. Each dog/handler was scored individually. Two of our dogs did quite well in the advanced: Bob finished sixth and Boss finished seventh. Meanwhile, Marty ran Boss in a separate Novice class of 30 dogs and placed 1st overall.

Significant achievements for team USA

  • The first U.S. gundogs ever to enter the UK under the Pet Passport Program for competition purposes, an interesting ordeal to say the least.

  • Drake became the first US retriever in history to the line of competition sanctioned by the British Kennel Club anywhere in the United Kingdom. (Hillsborough, N. Ireland, May 22, 2004)

  • Bob and Marty were the first US dog/handler to do the same at Omeath, Republic of Ireland. This test was licensed under Irish Kennel Club and run under their rules. Yet, another first.

  • Boss became the first US dog to run in competition for a UK team, the N. Irish Gundog Field and Show Club, a club of which Wildrose is a member. The team also included Nigel Carville, our UK associate, running Brook, a FTW and littermate to our own Ash. The team took 2nd place in the Eukanuba Interclub Challenge.

Individual awards

  • Bob: Received the "Top Dog Award" (out of 24 dogs) in both the Irish Sea International and the Atlantic Cup Competition on May 29.

  • Boss: Top US Dog, Hillsborough, N. Ireland, May 22, 2004 and the
    Top N. Irish Club Dog for the Eukanuba Interclub Challenge (N. Irish Team), May 25.

  • Drake: Top US Dog, Eukanuba Interclub Challenge, May 25

  • Jet: Top US Dog, Omeath, Republic of Ireland, May 23, 2004

Another unique first, rabbits

Another unique first was a rabbit hunt using ferrets with our friends from N. Ireland, a novel experience unlike anything we had experienced in the field. Drake and Jet were used as pick-up dogs on the evening's hunt.

Fur didn't deter their exuberance in the least with each retrieving four rabbits, 12 rabbits were taken in all.

I am quite sure no US retriever has had such an opportunity, but I can safely say Drake and Jet would recommend it. Drake actually sat shaking at heel in anticipation.

A busy schedule, a word of thanks

Our schedule was as follows:

  • May 22: Hillsborough Working Test, Lisburn, N. Ireland Team Test: Fourth place finish

  • May 23 Astraglen Working Test, Armice, Republic of Ireland, Team Test: Third place finish

  • May 25 Eukanuba Interclub Challenge — Fifth place out of 10 teams

  • May 26 Filming for DU TV and Lisburn Department of Tourism

  • May 28 Rabbit hunt with ferrets and labs

  • May 29 P & O International Championship: First place finish; Atlantic Cup Championship: First place finish

  • May 30 Novice Test: Boss took first place out of 29 dogs; Advanced Test: Bob took sixth place out of 33 dogs; Boss took seventh place out of 33 dogs; Mike Stewart judged as a panel of 3 judges in the advanced test

A busy schedule, but what an experience! I wish to thank the following sponsors of the US Gundog Team who made this trip possible:

  • Eukanuba Dog Food

  • Ducks Unlimited, Inc.

  • Mossy Oak

  • Barbour, N. America

    Their commitment to shooting sports and gundogs should not go unnoticed.

    A special thanks to Nigel Carville and Bill Beckett of N. Ireland for their tireless efforts to assemble the schedule of activities and competitions7 competition events and one hunt plus unbelievable tours, all in 10 days. A remarkable trip that was only possible through our sponsors' generosity and the fantastic support of our N. Irish friends and associates, Nigel and Bill.

    Check back soon, as I will detail the tests we faced and our training preparations, as well as one of the wildest hunting experiences I have ever encountered with gundogs — rabbit hunting with ferrets and labs.

    Mike Stewart