Saturday, May the Fourth
8:30 am – 3:00 pm
Rebel Ridge Farms, Elkton MD
MSDA’s Annual Field Day — a full day of FUN, bird dog training for all levels, and some very good food — will be Saturday, May 4th at Rebel Ridge Farms in Elkton, MD. Training hours will be 8:30 am – 3:00 pm.
There will be training groups for flushing, pointing, and retrieving breeds; each of these will be explicitly divided into beginning and advanced groups. There also will be opportunities for very experienced handlers to “work on your own”. And we have additional beginner and other educational activities. We want to give everyone the opportunity to stay busy throughout the day. Fees are $10 per handler plus $25 per dog. Guests/observers are free. We also ask that you/your group either bring a potluck dish to share (preferred) or contribute $10 per person toward lunch. MSDA will provide gunners. Birds are included for both introductory and advanced training groups.
Note that, though training is targeted at Sporting Group dogs who are interested in hunting, hunt tests, and field trials, Field Day welcomes all “birdy” dogs.
Rebel Ridge Farms is located in northeastern Maryland and has:
- 250+ acres of specially-managed sporting dog training areas connected by a driveway that runs the length of the property
- Eight major field areas, up to 1,000 feet long, with low to medium cover
- Four large ponds
- Air-conditioned clubhouse
- Property edged by large trees and dense cover
- Parking at the fields, ponds, and clubhouse
Many photos and an aerial tour of the property are available on the Rebel Ridge Farms website.
There will be field and water training opportunities throughout the day. MSDA will provide gunners. Birds are included for both introductory and advanced training groups.
- Organized Training: Work at introductory through advanced levels with experienced trainers, handlers, and gunners. Group activities and individual attention for you and your dog(s) based on your training goals for the day. Field Day is set up to be attentive to each dog’s experience and training needs, rather than running all dogs through a standard set of drills. We will keep the groups small so that everyone has plenty of training time. Birds will be provided and are included in the per-dog fee for the day. For introductory sessions, if you have your own favorite training bumpers, please bring them with you and make sure they are labeled with your or your dog’s name.
- Introductory: Demonstrations, individual and group activities to work on quartering, flushing, and basic retrieving skills. Land and water work. Dogs who are ready may be introduced to gunfire. For example, with a beginner dog, we may start out allowing the dog to chase down a bird (usually a quail for the smaller dogs). Once the prey drive has been ramped up, the next step would be to flush a pigeon with a starter pistol fired in the background. If there is no reaction to the noise of the starter pistol, the third bird would be a flushed chukar which the gunner would shoot, if possible. The Intro Flushing group will be led by a team headed by Steve Roth. Steve is an AKC hunt test judge, and is an experienced handler and amateur trainer who has worked with many sporting dog breeds.
- Advanced: For dogs with at least a semi-reliable recall and exposure to live fire. Field work similar to AKC hunt tests. Find, flush, and retrieve birds. Also practice marked and blind retrieves, with water work at an adjacent pond. Trainers will help the handler evaluate their dog and offer suggestions for training methods and techniques. For example, while one trainer/handler/dog team is out in the field, a second trainer can be getting to know the next dog and handler. Time permitting, handlers will be able to work with both trainers to get different perspectives. The Advanced Flushing group will be led by John Bruggeman and Bill Pierson. John and Bill are both widely known in the sporting dog field community and are both approved by the AKC to judge both Spaniel Hunt Tests and Spaniel Field Trials.
- Introductory: No live fire. Heeling, quartering, and bird work drills. All dogs will participate as a group in each drill on a check cord (long rope attached to your dog). Will have the opportunity to also have an introduction to backing as participants in these drills. If interested, your dog can be introduced to a cap gun. We encourage those in the Intro Group to also watch the Advanced Group.
- Advanced: For dogs with a reliable recall and exposure to live fire. Backing dog will be available and birds will be in launchers. A cap gun or live fire will be used. Dogs can run in braces and practice retrieving. We encourage those in the Advanced Group to assist/mentor those in the Intro Group.
- Introductory: We will have individual and group exercises with bumpers and live birds. We can work on basic retrieving skills, learn what basic obedience skills are needed, and introduce dogs to land and water marks. Can introduce gunfire to those who feel their dog is ready. All dogs without a reliable recall are required to work on a longline or checkline attached to the dog’s collar. The Intro retrieving group will be led by Gary Seibel, an experienced hunter and handler.
- Advanced: For dogs with exposure to dead or live birds and at least basic land/water retrieving skills. Land and water exercises may be done with and without gunfire. No live flyers, however, without prior permission from trainers and gunners. Advanced dogs may focus on single, double and triple retrieves, blind retrieves and honors. If there is time, can also accommodate those looking to practice special skills such as tolling. Advanced dogs should arrive at the field with a plan and their training goals for the day. More experienced handlers also are expected to share their expertise with the intro handlers and dogs.
- Work Entirely On Your Own: Experienced handlers only. All sporting dog breeds. There will be a designated field area and pond for those not needing training assistance or gunning. Peer-to-peer training opportunities within your group, using thrown or planted bumpers and birds. No live fire. Bring your own birds. Work-on-your-own attendees do not pay the per-dog fee.
Lastly, Field Day is a group event. Everyone will have time in the field and individual trainers’ attention, of course. But, one of the main benefits of training with a group is the opportunity to observe other handlers work their dogs. We also hope that attendees will help out with training (maybe by working in teams, planting birds, etc.), make new friends, identify future training opportunities, and consider a new dog club membership. The Field Day registration form asks for your interests in particular activities, but you are welcome to move between the sessions to get the most out of your day.
Come to Field Day and leave with an actual AKC title! Okay, not a “Junior Hunter”, but we will be offering CGC (Canine Good Citizen) testing. Karen Cottingham will conduct CGC and CGC-Advanced evaluations. The fee is $10 (cash, or check to “MSDA”), payable at Field Day.
Sally Eck, an experienced handler, will provide information about using e-collars for field training. This will be introductory information along with some suggestions for next steps and where/how to learn much more. (This is not a clinic and will not include training your dog in the field using a collar. However, if you are already utilizing an e-collar in your field work, you are welcome to use it at Field Day.)
Safe Gunning: We will be showing AKC’s video on safe gunning practices for flushing, pointing, and retrieving hunt tests and field trials. Field Day’s expert gunners will be available to answer questions and provide advice to those who might be interested in gunning at events. This information also is helpful to handlers for knowing how to manage your dog in the field, understanding why a gunner “didn’t take that shot”, and for safe gun handling when you are required to carry a gun during an event.
Raffle! Several useful field training items will be raffled. Prizes include:
- Urban Gun Dogs: Training Flushing Dogs for Home and Field by Anthony Z. Roettger and Benjamin H. Schleider III (hardcover book)
- Dokken Dead Fowl Trainer – Mallard, with Duck Wings and Power Throw Grip
- 1-2 additional items to be announced.
Each registered participant, guest, and volunteer will receive two raffle tickets when they pick up their name tag. Additional tickets will be available for purchase on site for $1 each. Winning tickets will be drawn during lunchtime; prizes must be collected by the end of the training day.
- $10 per handler. Guests/observers are free. Kids are welcome as handlers and guests.
- PLUS $25 per dog for those participating in the organized training. Birds are included.
- Participants also are asked to bring a potluck dish to share (preferred), or to contribute $10 per person.
Payment may be made by mailing a check or by submitting your credit card information to a secure online site. (We’re using Square.) Payment must be received no later than April 29th. If you’re ordering a t-shirt, payment must be received by April 22nd.
We can’t resist… we’ve designed custom t-shirts that will be for sale this year. May the Fourth be with you! (Huh? It’s a Star Wars reference.)
Field Day t-shirts feature white printing, front and back, on a Gildan cotton/poly blend “safety orange” short-sleeve shirt. Click on the images above for a larger view of the design. Shirts are available in adult sizes only. Prices are $20 each for Small, Medium, Large, and X-Large; $22.50 for 2XL, $23.50 for 3XL, and $24.50 for 4XL. If you’re ordering a t-shirt, your payment by check or credit card must be received by April 22nd to give us time to place our custom printing order. T-shirt ordering is included on the Field Day registration form.
This event will be held rain or shine! There will be no refunds after April 29th, except for dogs who are injured/sick or (bitches) in season. A veterinarian’s note may be required for late cancellations.
For safety reasons, blaze orange clothing (not just a hat) is strongly recommended for all participants and guests, and is required in fields with live fire. Field Day T-Shirts may be ordered when you register.
It’s important to bring shade for your dog to rest and plenty of cold water to drink in the field. The perimeter of the property is forested and there is intermittent shade along the edges of fields and in the parking areas near the clubhouse. However, many cars (and people and dogs) will be spending time in unshaded areas. Dogs are not permitted in the clubhouse.
Everyone (trainers, gunners, handlers, guests, adults, kids) must have a signed liability release on file with MSDA before proceeding onto the property. In case you haven’t signed one in the last couple of years, we’ll send it with your registration confirmation. They’ll also be available at the Field Day registration table.
No horses at this event.
Ready? Register now for Field Day May the Fourth!
If you have questions about whether your dog is ready for these activities, what to sign up for, what to bring, how to help, or any other issue please contact:
We continue to finalize details for this year’s Field Day. If you are interested in helping or would like to volunteer on the day of the event, please contact one of the committee members listed above. Trainers, gunners, and committee members receive free admission and birds for their own dogs’ field work, as well as access to the fields outside of general training hours. Handler fees may be waived for other volunteers.
You do not have to be an MSDA member to participate in Field Day. But, if you are interested, learn more about us, how to join the club, and sign up for our e-mail list.
View our full calendar of upcoming and recent activities.
Join the conversation! MSDA has a (private) Facebook group.