With much anticipation, the end of June saw the 10th Zimbabwe National Pointer dog trials finally arrive. These were hosted for the third time at Rosslyn Safaris, Cawston Block in Matabeleland North. Cawston has excellent game bird populations and makes a point of preparing the trial areas through cutting roads and feeding. The plentiful wildlife on Cawston also makes for some wonderful game viewing during the competition.
The Pointer Dog community is small and consequently a tight knit one. Leading up to the event, the group WhatsApp chat was very active with many challenges, jibes and bragging taking place. Last years’ GSP winner Kevin Cooke couldn’t resist leading the men in a friendly war of words against the ladies, and the challenges moved from gender focused to tribal with the Matabeles standing strong against the Shona invasion. The show was set and we were very privileged to have South Africa’s esteemed judge and leading pointer dog champion owner Luke Bell and his wife Vicky to be our guests and leading judge.
With a five o’clock wake-up call and a quick coffee, we were all ready at first light to start the Derby and Maiden trials. All new young dogs, typically a year and older, compete in the Maidens. Older dogs that have not won anything before, including any dog running in the Maidens, compete in the Derby trials. Scenting conditions were not great the first morning and few birds were found. This combined with young dogs being inexperienced and not yet fully au fait with trial manners, made for a difficult morning.
The afternoon session provided better scenting conditions and soon the riff-raff were sorted out from those with potential, and the leading dogs were grouped together for the final rounds. Fifteen dogs took part on day one and results were a one-way ticket for all the lady trained dogs who showed the men up superbly. Derby results were in first place Lundi, owned by Angie Ross; second place Chillie owned by Jane Mackie. Most promising pup Purdy owned by Dexter Freeman. Purdy is used by his owner in his falconry pursuits thus beautifully combining two age old sports. The Maiden was won by Lundi, owned by Angie Ross and in second place was Floyd, owned by Laura Groenewald. First and second place winners in the Maidens and Derby trials allows the dog to automatically go through to the Championship round the following day.
An all-female win on the Maidens and Derby resulted in plenty of friendly challenges between the competitors. The men had a lot to live up to! The Championships started out well that second morning with lots of birds being found and chased which gave the judges ample opportunity to grade the twelve dogs competing. It was an interesting morning to watch top dogs make elementary mistakes and be eliminated, the first to go being none other than last years’ winner who won a bottle of whiskey for the best chase after the shot was fired! There were great birds to be found in the last session with many points and brilliant backing being exhibited. The judges had great opportunity to really test out the leading dogs. At last light we watched the sun go down in a beautiful natural amphitheater surrounding, celebrating the end of the championship with a cold beer.
Tradition has it that the final evening is a banquet of black tie dimensions. Jackie Ross creates a spectacular banquet environment with natural bird and dog related decorations on the table. Cocktails are served and lengthy speeches are given. Not a single person is left out of the proceedings. Various awards are given out including the very amusing BallSac aka Wooden Spoon award for which there is seemingly always plenty of competition – this year presented to our very own Zimbabwean judge who accidentally shot a bird! Only blanks are fired during the bird trial and this is pretty difficult to cope with for many of the competitors. Thankfully Graham Ross has stepped in to rectify the situation with a clay pigeon shoot. This is a very popular competition and this year won by two youngsters who have been bird shooting with their families since they could hold the shotgun safely.
The ladies held onto their winning streak and walked away with all the awards!
2017 Championship winners:
First Place – Tango, Laura Groenewald
Second Place – Maverick, Jane Mackie
Third Place – Sport, Jane Mackie