After long winter, hunters, dogs get workout at Field of Dreams

Sean C. Morgan

As the black Labrador retriever hits a small thicket, a chukar partridge bursts from the underbrush. The dog’s owner quickly points his shotgun into the air and shoots the bird down – or not.

That’s the test of skill that dogs and their owners were busy with Saturday and Sunday at Field of Dreams during its first bird-hunting tournament of the 2014 season on Saturday and Sunday, drawing around 40 dog owners to Sweet Home. Sometimes, the hunters get their bird. Sometimes they don’t. The one who bags the most, up to three, the fastest wins the tournament.

Field of Dreams is a boarding and training kennel business owned by Kirsten Fulk and located off Highway 20 west of Liberty and Fairview roads. Field of Dreams has been operating in Sweet Home since 2001 and annually hosts a series of bird challenges, culminating in a state championship in September.

During the tournament, hunters and their dogs are scored for finding and retrieving up to three chukars in a maximum of 15 minutes. Hunters and their dogs also receive points for time. In case of a tie for flushing and retrieving, the best time wins.

Dogs and hunters work on two fields, one dedicated to pointing, the other dedicated to flushing.

“The dog is searching right now, hitting cover, looking for the bird,” Fulk explained as Ric Harris of Albany and John Strauch followed Zoey, a black Lab, on Saturday, training day.

On the other field, a dog froze into a rigidly intent pointing posture at the thickets, and a hunter flushed a bird.

Fulk said she’s been hosting such tournaments since the late 1990s.

“It’s kind of had different forms.”

Originally, her tournament was sanctioned by the national Bird Dog Circuit. Few Oregon state winners went to the national events held in Iowa, so she left the organization and runs her event solo.

Now, Fulk hosts six tournaments each year, she said. She does profit from the events, although not necessarily directly from the tournaments. It gets people onto the Field of Dreams, where she sells her dogs, German short-haired pointers, mostly, and services.

It’s also just a lot of fun, she said. “I love it. I’m the one who judges all the flushes. I love watching the dogs work. You get to watch all these great dogs work.”

The hunters develop friendships, attending the tournaments year after year, she said.

Fulk’s son, Bill Burroughs, spends the weekends planting the chukars, which are raised in California for use in bird-dog events and restaurants. He uses a computer program to randomize locations on the fields.

It can take a dog and hunter a couple of minutes to find the first one or most of the 15 minutes, he said. It depends on different factors, such as moisture.

He’s been helping out by planting the chukars for the past six years, he said. “It’s fun watching the dogs run and getting to meet new people.”

At the end of the day, he gets to run his own dogs as well, he said.

Max Berthold of Sherwood and his friends were participating for their first time.

“We’re mostly waterfowl hunters, so this is really nice to do in the off season,” Berthold said. “Good people. Good fun.

“You just can’t get over when you’re out in the blind watching the sun come out and the world come alive.”

“Max is full of quotes, but it is peaceful,” said Adrienne Hardin of Scappoose.

For Brian Gusman of Sherwood, it’s about “working with your dog. After a hard work week, it’s something to relax.”

And it’s a chance to let the canines do what comes naturally.

“There’s not a lot of sports where dogs are doing what they’re made to do,” Hardin said.

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