Field trials are a competition to display a bird dog's ability to successfully point out the hiding places of quail. While riding on horseback, dog handlers, judges, officials, and a gallery of spectators follow the dogs that run along designated courses.
A Long Tradition...
Begun in the early 1900's, field trials have drawn the attention of bird dog enthusiasts from across the country and around the world. Each February, Sedgefields Plantation becomes the center of activity as owners and handlers prove their dogs' worth.
In 1950, the first National Shooting Dog Championship, an amateur free-for-all,
was sanctioned and held on the hunting preserve known as Sedgefields Plantation,
an area of land that consists of approximately 14,000 acres. The acreage was
purchased in the late 1920s by Lewis B. Maytag who is known as the originator of the
Maytag line of appliances,
During the competition, when a dog points, the judges verify the point and the handler
dismounts, walk over to the dog, flushes the bird or birds. and shoots blanks into
the air. The winners are awarded their place according to their range, speed, class,
style, and handling as well as their bird finding ability.
The actual length of any trial depends on the number of dogs entered. Before the
competition begins, a drawing is held to pair the dogs, two to a brace. Several braces
are run each day depending on the length of the braces that is set by the trial..
Of the many field trials in Bullock County from October through March, there are several championships, both for professional handlers and amateurs. The National Amateur Free-for-All Championship, might be termed the main event as it attracts visitors from all over the United States, even occasional visitors from foreign countries. It is not unusual to have a large gallery of riders watching the braces.
There are several other game preserves in the county ranging in size from a few hundred acres to the thousands, and many host field trials and championships as well.
The city of Union Springs, the Bird Dog Field Trial Capital of the World, welcomes hundreds of tourists during the field trial season. In February, downtown stores have window displays decorated by local organizations using a field trial theme. Visitors often stop to take photos of the Bird Dog Monument and Field Trial Mural, each a tribute to the dogs and the men and women who compete in the sport of Field Trials. Many festive activities held in conjunction with the trials make a visit during this time a memory to be treasured.