After completing series one of the Super Retriever Series Crown Championship, 70 of the 72 dog/handler teams that began the competition remain. Day two started with the final two teams remaining from series one finishing the course. Series two began around 10 am CST, at the WK Palmetto Event Center in Benton, Louisiana. The second series followed a master hunt test scenario, with handlers swapping out their white coats from yesterday’s field trial scenario for more natural colors to simulate a real hunt. The unique Super Retriever Series format is designed to simulate a true hunting scenario that tests each dog/handler team and pushes natural instinct and trainability to the limits.
The course and weather conditions also reflected the challenges of a real hunt. Overcast skies and strong gusts of wind caused event staff to fasten down tents, banners, and booths early in the day. The hunt test course was equally complicated and challenging. On the surface the course consisted of two blind retrieves sandwiched between two marks, but several course features made things much more complicated. On the far left of the course, bird one was a “poison bird” that disqualified any dog that retrieved it. Bird two was a long middle mark of 170 yards situated near a snow goose spread with two tree branches positioned between the dog and the mark to force them off course and cause mistakes. Moreover, if a dog veered too far right on the middle bird, the handler’s view of the dog was blocked by a tree. Bird three was a 90 yard “go bird” falling just over the rise of hill.
Handler/dog teams were required to retrieve the go bird first, followed by the short and then the long blind. Both blind retrieves required handlers to keep their dogs within a narrow corridor. As if things weren’t complicated enough, the short blind was placed at the base of an oak tree, making it difficult for dogs to find. Teams finished with the long middle mark, also having to navigate the aforementioned tree limbs.
The two blind retrieves were make or break for many teams, often being the difference between going home or living to see another day. Competitors ran according to scores from high to low, with most dogs making the cut coming towards the end of the day.
“If the course is too easy, the scores are great, but everything stays the same,” said open division competitor Luke Cour. “On the other hand, if the course is too hard, all the scores blow up and things still stay the same. It takes a good course to allow people to catch up or prove their position. The judges did a good job of creating a good test today.”
After completing the first two series, the field of competitors was cut to the top 36 teams (18 amateur, 18 open). Teams have worked very hard to reach the SRS Crown Championship, and competition was tough over the first two series. One competitor who sticks out going into series three is Eukanuba Team of the Year handler Stephen Durrence. Going into series three, Durrence has dogs in the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth positions, with an additional dog also making the cut. With Durrence representing a third of the Open Division field going into the third series, many are wondering if he will run away with the competition or be challenged by other competitors.
“The key to all this is consistency,” said Durrence. “One good run isn’t going to win it all.”
Going into series three, judges will be looking to see which dogs can hold the straightest line and trust their handlers while also testing the handlers on their ability to hold it together. Series three kicks off tomorrow, Nov. 4, at 8 am CST at the Caspiana Plantation just south of Shreveport, Louisiana. The event is free and open to the public. You can also stream all the series three action at superretreiverseries.com or livestream.com/srs
To see the full list of amateur and open division series three teams visit superretreiverseries.com or huntsecretary.com