A look at a young rising star in the field trial world from South Georgia.
Field trialing as a sport has been at the defining end of gun dog development since the early days the American Field as reflected by the reports of Mr. A.F. Hochwalt. Since the mid to late 1800s and moving into the 21st century we have seen some of the most iconic names of bird dogs and their handlers cover the vast distances of the field trial circuit from Manitoba to South Georgia in hopes of revealing the next season’s set of Derby’s, Shooting Dog, and All Age champions.
As the history of field trials expands, there are a number of young bird dog trainers who stand out to me and consistently produce and train superb field trial performers. It was no coincidence to talk to Diamond R Kennels Trainer Tommy Rice about the definition of a truly special dog as this season started off with a bang as he saw his dogs into great success.
Handling at the Montana Open Shooting Dog Championship, Tommy handled Charitable Deed (owned by Keith Finlayson) into a Championship, and also handled Thrill Me (owned by Keith Finlayson as well) into a Runner Up Championship. Shortly after, at the All America Shooting Dog Championship, Rice handled Mac Stidham’s Grand Prairie Thrill into Runner Up success as well.
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I’m proud to say that Tommy is also a native Georgia boy and oddly enough we never crossed paths during my tenure in Albany. But all relationships will develop in the right time, and I’m privileged to be able to get Tommy on the line as he ended his long day running dogs on the northern prairies.
Speaking with a premier trainer like Tommy opened up a conversation about the culture of field trialing, its misconceptions, and the good people that judge these trials. The class and artistry that is expected and reflected in the performances of these dogs is a true testament to the breeding that make these “special dogs”. The term is specific and intentional. Tommy hits the nail on the head as he details what it takes for a dog to rise to the occasion. It is my hope that this conversation is a very candid and enlightening look into the field trial circuit from one of the all stars of the field trial game.
Durrell Smith is a 28 year old Georgia native, visual artist, wing shooter, and dog handler. While creating compelling ink and watercolor illustrations based on his field experiences and hunting dogs, he also runs a podcast called The Gun Dog Notebook, which can be found on iTunes and Soundcloud. Aside from hunting upland game and waterfowl, he participates in Hunt Tests with his Labrador Retriever. As a first generation hunter, Durrell seeks to learn and contribute to the community by connecting with visionaries and veterans within the bird dog community who are willing to share stories and knowledge about the various breeds, creating a bridge to welcome new and novice dog handlers to the gun dog community.