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Kurt Mueller column: Hunting Dog Expo has something for everyone

Shorter days and cool nights beckon a return to the duck marsh, or to the expanse of South Dakota in quest of the ringneck pheasant, or to the northwoods for that hair-raising flush of a grouse.

Whatever game bird is your bag, it is time to focus attention on your hunting partner, the one that makes it all come full circle, your trusty retriever, spaniel or pointer, as the case may be.

If you haven’t already started getting your canine partner in shape for the hunt, it is time to make every such opportunity count.

One of those opportunities is the Manitowoc County Kennel Club’s Hunting Dog Expo slated for Saturday, Sept. 11 at the club’s fabulous dog training grounds three miles west of Valders along Quarry Road and the Manitowoc River.

For the sixth year in a row, the club is hosting the event, which also includes raffles, a silent auction and concessions in a picnic-like atmosphere where mom and the family will enjoy the day perhaps as much as dad and the family bird-dog.

It is a day that offers you the chance to train your dog on live game birds, but also to play any or all of the club’s many hunting dog “games” that range from a pheasant scurry to a simulated jump shoot on wood ducks.

What I find unique about the event is that it allows any and all breeds of bird dogs to take part in hunting and retrieving birds under conditions much like real hunting.

Working in the chukar hunt at last year’s Expo, I enjoyed seeing many different breeds of field dogs quarter and hunt the tiny game birds in various ways.

Pointers searched and stiffened to point, while spaniels and retrievers rushed in to flush.

A few dogs showed training skills such as shot steadiness to flush and retrieving to hand. Many of the dogs retrieved the downed birds, but some didn’t.

Dogs were scored accordingly and earned points based on both natural and learned abilities.

New this year is the wood duck shoot, explained Mike Brookins, a member of the Expo committee.

Brookins likens the event to a jump shoot. The hunter and his dog move along and jump three birds in a timed retrieving exercise. Dokken deadfowl trainer wood ducks are used to test the dog’s marking and memory skills.

In all, there are ten events to challenge the hunter and his dog. At day’s end, the dog with the overall high-point accumulation from many different events is named the most successful gun dog and recipient of the David G. Meisner Memorial Trophy presented by The Pointing Dog Journal and The Retriever Journal.

Proceeds from the event are used to promote and preserve field breeds and sports on both a local and national level. The event has made past contributions to the Bird Dog Hall of Fame, the National Amateur Retriever Club, Ducks Unlimited, the Bird Dog Foundation, Fox Valley Cluster and the Professional Retriever Trainers Association’s land development grant.

Pre-registration is not necessary for Expo activities. However, early bird packages are available at a discount and special raffle eligibility is offered for early sign up. Numbers to call for more info are (920) 467-6117 and (920) 999-2352.

To get to the club grounds it will be necessary to take County Highway JJ and turn south onto Quarry Road. No access from Highway 151 this year due to bridge construction.

Maps and information are available, too, on the event’s Web site: www.geocities. come/mckc_expo.

And don’t forget seasonal attire (rain gear just in case), a camera, lawn chairs and water for your dog.

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