Dwight Dial (Alaska Region)
Tom Rourke (East Region)
First, I’d like to thank the Invitational Committee and the NAHRA BOD for inviting me to judge this prestigious event! For nearly 30 years it has been my privilege as a NAHRA judge to watch the best retrievers in the world display their skills, determination, and teamwork through the various levels of our NAHRA program. I am honored to have been invited to judge these talented retrievers and their handlers as they challenge the NAHRA hunting retriever standard once again – this time, at 2024 Invitational Test! Having attended several Invitational Tests myself, Co-chairing the ’09, and working with the ’15 Committee as the Hospitality Chair, I really appreciate all of the effort that has gone into the planning and preparations for this year’s event. So, again, a tip of the hat and a huge ‘thank you’ to each and every one of you!
On behalf of NAHRA, the Midnight Sun Gun Dog Association, my co-judges and myself, I would like to offer congratulations and extend a hearty ‘welcome!’ to all of the dog-handler teams that have qualified for the 2024 NAHRA Invitational Field Test!! We know the amount of time, effort, and dedication that goes into producing a finished retriever! We all applaud your prodigious accomplishment!
For me, this whole retriever thing came about because I had figured out a way to save money. Seriously! You see, I loved trout fishing and tying trout flies, but I couldn’t afford fur and feathers while in college, so I took up hunting, thinking it to be an inexpensive and a ‘better than collecting roadkill’ way to get those fly-tying materials. Clearly, the cost of guns, ammo, calls, boat, decoys, etc., etc. never entered my calculations! Only a few years later I began to see a “need” for a working retriever, and wouldn’t you know, that was just about the time I was settling into a new job, getting married, and buying a home … great timing! Yup! I had decided I needed a retriever and that training one myself would certainly be preferable to getting immersed in lake waters at first light – water that would be ice by day’s end. Oh, training a pup would be far easier than wading in the boot-sucking muck of a wood duck swamp while stumbling over downed trees and submerged stumps just to add one more bird to the bag. Throwing birds and bumpers and slogging equipment unquestionably had to be more fun than crawling amongst the thorns of wild rose and berry bushes to maybe – or maybe not – find that downed pheasant, grouse or woodcock. Uh-huh!! Should’ve just bought the flies I needed and been done with it!
Seriously, looking back now, I wouldn’t trade any of it (‘cept a few of the vet bills). The experiences and friendships that retriever training and NAHRA’s testing program have afforded me were well worth the price of admission. I can’t imagine where I would be without the people I have met, friends I have made, and the opportunities – both personal and professional – that only came about because of my association with retrievers. I am happy to say there have been very few hours since ’91 when there wasn’t a Labrador at my side, on my lap, or out in front of me in the fields and swamps. They go where I go, or I don’t go. My first pup had more frequent flyer miles than most humans as my travels for work took the two of us to something like a dozen states before he was 9 months old. Thinking back, I guess really had no idea what retrievers were capable of until I attended that first hunt test as a spectator. When I left that test, I was amazed – and I still am, thankfully – to see how finished retrievers take skill and ability to the levels that they do. The best do it with a mix of enthusiasm and professionalism, and they do it in an most matter-of-fact manner. Wow! Was I ever inspired to start training my first pup!
While I learned more than I can begin to tell from that first retriever (and all of those that followed) I‘ve also learned a great deal from watching other trainers, handlers, judges, and their dogs that I’ve had the great fortune to come to know through this wonderful program. Thank you all and most especially, thank you to the Leatherstocking Hunting Retriever Club and its members – past & present – for bringing and keeping the NAHRA program alive and well in Central New York!
I look forward to witnessing some sensational field work from this year’s handlers and their finished retrievers! Best of luck all!! See you at the line!
Harry Williams (West Region)
“The Last Frontier” is a great place to hold a NAHRA Invitational. I am honored to be a part of this years Judging Panel. I’d like to thank the host, Midnight Sun Gun Dog Association and all of their members especially the Invitational Committee.
I thank the Owners and the Handlers of the dogs entered. You deserve a worthy test that is both fair and fun. A deep breath might be in order for all.
I will do my best to live up to my judging motto: Be fair to the dogs. Be fair to the handlers. Be fair to the standard.
I truly hope you will enjoy this Invitational.
See ya in the field!!! Harry Williams