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. It is only permissible to follow on horseback and horse-drawn wagon. Motorized vehicles are not allowed.
A Long Tradition...
Begun in the early 1900's, the trials have drawn the attention of club owners and hunters from across the country and around the world. Each February, the fields surrounding Sedgefields Plantation come to life as owners and their dogs prove their 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
combined in the latter years of the 1920s by the late L. B. Maytag who is known as
the originator of the Maytag line of appliances. In 1931, Maytag, an avid quail hunter,
gave the Field Trials a permanent home. There are several other game preserves in
the county ranging in size from a few hundred acres to the thousands.
During the competition, when a dog points, the judges verify the point and the handler
dismounts, walk over to the dog, and 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. The night before the competition begins a drawing is held to pair the dogs, two to a brace. Eight braces are run each day-five braces in the morning and three after lunch.
Of the many field trials in Bullock County from November through March, there are three championships, two professional and one amateur. The February amateur championship, namely The National Amateur Free-for-All, might be termed the main event as it attracts visitors from all over the United States, even occasional visitors from a foreign country; also a large gallery of riders, sometimes more than 500 people.
The city of Union Springs, the Bird Dog Field Trial Capital of the World, welcomes hundreds of tourists during the annual event. 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.