top of page
  • Writer's pictureDotty Ann Harding

Bird Hunting With Dogs In NC

By Dotty Harding

President & CEO of Onslow County Partners for Animal Welfare

The air is crisp and cool and the leaves crunch underfoot as you and your dog who remains close by your side move into position. The dog sits unmoving, muscles twitching, ready to explode with a burst of speed at your signal. The sounds of rifles ring into the air as the birds fly high into the sky from their cover and then fall back to the earth in different locations. The dog watches intently as one, two, or three birds fall, noting their locations. The hunter then gives the signal, and the retrieving dog enthusiastically runs to the first spot, gently picks up the bird to return to the hunter takes off into the field or water to retrieve the second bird, and then heads out for the third.

Your neighbors and their dog bumpers

I watched this amazing demonstration on Mary Williams property known as High Tide Kennels in Holly Ridge where several folks gather every Monday to train their young dogs and strengthen the talent of their more experienced dogs. On this day there was (going left to right) Lauren Daniels, Diane Galliger, Mary Williams, and Brad Fields. The equipment that is used in this training is hidden in various locations, quite a distance apart on the farm. As the dog stands close by the hunter’s side, you hear the sound of a duck honking and the crack of a rifle, and then the BUMPER, representing the bird, is fired out of an automatic launching device as the dog intently watches where it falls from the sky. The dog cannot cry or bark and must wait for the command to retrieve it before racing out to the fallen bumper. The dog must bring back the bumper to the hunter without dropping it and complete the retrieve before heading out to the second or third bumper. In this training exercise, the owner blows a whistle to get the dog's attention, where the dog immediately sits and looks back to its owner for guidance, usually given with hand signals to direct the dog on course if they are not picking up the scent or heading in the correct direction.

Brad's dogs

Brad had Toby, a Boykin Spaniel Retriever with him, who is a 3-year-old who placed 3rd in 2022 in competition with about 90 other dogs. He has his Seasoned Hunting Retriever Club title (next to the highest) and is working on FINISHED (highest). Toby also has his JUNIOR AKC title and is working on his SENIOR this year. Riley, now 14 and retired, won the Novice class in Boykin Spaniel National Field Trials in 2013 competing against 85 other dogs. And Intermediate Boykin Spaniel Retriever and together they do lots of bird hunting for doves, ducks, and quail.

Brad shared a few of his hunting stories with me about how when there is some ice forming on the ponds and lakes care needs to be taken when the chest and front legs of the retriever break the ice to get to the fallen bird and the precautions the hunter takes so the dog remains safe.

Mary's letter

In 1981 I married a duck hunter, Sidney Williams, who introduced me to hunting with a dog. We became active members in the Tar Heel Retriever Club and when AKC introduced their Hunting Test for Retrievers we immediately participated with our Chessies and Labs. It was not long before I chose dog training over school teaching, and we built High Tide Kennels.

The AKC Hunt Test Program became such a success that a national event was established in 1991. It is the Master National Retriever Club and its test is conducted around the country once a year. Dogs must qualify to participate and that takes months of testing. All our dogs have earned their Master Hunting Title. It is work, but very rewarding. This year over a thousand dogs have qualified to attend the MN in Thomasville Georgia this October.

Accomplishments have been humbling as well as rewarding. Sidney and I are both AKC 8-point judges. In 2007 I was President of the Master National Retriever Club. In 2010 I judged the Master National in California. In 2005 Sidney judged the Master National in Texas and again in 2012 in Alabama.

This sport gave us the opportunity to see most of the United States, and in doing so we have made many friends. It has been a great ride., but we both have had to “hang up our whistles”. We have wonderful memories, and we thank the Good Lord for it all.

Today we share our property with new dog training folks. We get to sit back in our chairs, watch the dogs work, and tell the new folks, “What it was like in the Good Ole Days!”

The dogs show amazing discipline, training, strength, and stamina being the working dogs that they are. They absolutely love doing this with their owners who spend many hours training their dogs to compete in hunting trials locally, around the state, and the country. The event in Kinston would be a great day to attend with your family to enjoy and watch this highly disciplined competition.

Kinston-Neuse Retriever Club Hunt Test

At Headquarters aka Nature Center 401 W. Caswell St. Kinston 28504 252.939.3367 OCTOBER 21-22, 2023 A.K.C. LICENSED HUNTING TEST THE STAKES BEING: JUNIOR, SENIOR AND A MASTER

- If you are planning to attend, please wear muted colors. Please no white or bright clothing.


bottom of page