Mar 302011

By Naomi Hatch —

Members of the Snowflake-Taylor Tourism Committee agreed to assist those attempting to bring dog trials to the area during their March meeting.

There are 281 American Kennel Club (AKC) events in the State of Arizona with 55,000 dogs, generating over $20 million, said Guy Shelander of the White Mountain Bird Dog Club.

Backup information he provided profiles field trialers at an average age of 50, who have participated for 20 years. They own horses as well as an average of six dogs, and spend an average of 152 days a year in related activities and training. They incur an average of $12,500 a year in expenses and are versed in animal husbandry. Ninety-seven percent are hunters.

Shelander made a presentation on field trials, explaining that they began in 1874, take two sections of land, and are completed by foot or on horseback.

Dogs compete two at a time and look for birds, which have been planted. When the dogs find a bird, they point and hold. “The American Kennel is no kill,” said Shelander. There are a variety of games that dogs participate in.

Pointing Dog Field Trials (PDFT) have been in the White Mountains for approximately 20 years, but seven years ago a man, and several horses and dogs were killed by lightning, which caused a decline in participation. The re-establishment of the Mexican Gray Wolves, who call the field trial grounds home, has not helped.

“We felt this was the appropriate time to look for other grounds for our events,” said Shelander. He noted in the backup materials, “The Snowflake/Taylor area is blessed with gently rolling hills and grasslands. The terrain, altitude and weather conditions lend themselves to ideal ‘Field Trial’ country.”

Shelander explained that “vehicles stay on dirt roads…We make the place better than how we find it. We’re sportsmen, we’re outdoorspeople, we respect the land.”

“The amount of money (to be made) depends on how aggressive the community wants to be,” said Shelander. “If you love horses or love dogs, you will want to watch.”

The National Shoot To Retrieve Association (NSTRA) was represented at the meeting by Mike Kitchen. He explained that 40 field trials are conducted in the country to decide regional winners who will go on to the national trials.

Arizona would like to host a regional field trial, which would bring 30 to 40 recreational vehicles along with family, horses and dogs that would be a boost to the economy.

“The Snowflake-Taylor area is a beautiful area for us,” said Kitchen who explained they need 150 to 160 acres to put on the trials, which are all on horseback. The event lasts two days with 30 to 40 dogs per day participating.

“This is a family oriented association. I believe this area is the perfect area, perfect climate,” he said, noting that they are looking at spring and fall for events, starting with the White Mountain Bird Dog Club.

“This will bring in a lot of business to restaurants, feed stores and things like that,” said Hodge Foster.

“Gently undulating hills where birds would gravitate is preferred. A piece of land with camping facilities would be good,” said Shelander, who suggested well maintained dirt roads, a flat area and water tanks would add to the facility that could be three to four miles off the highway. He added, “Cows don’t bother it.”

“There is a lot of enthusiasm up here within the dog fanciers,” said Shelander. “We need some support.”

Shelander, Kitchen and Foster were asking for help with contacts and the committee’s influence to help them acquire suitable grounds, as well as to bring awareness to the community of the positive impact that can be made with field trial events.

A motion to accept the request for assistance in field trials in the Snowflake-Taylor area and that the town managers be kept informed passed unanimously.

Shelander said the initial meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6, at the Branding Iron Steakhouse in Show Low. Bird dog enthusiasts are invited to attend and become involved in a social, family oriented club dedicated to the training, hunting and enjoyment of bird dogs.

“The meeting will focus on input from the attendees on what will become the mission and purpose of the club. The steering committee believes that sporting dog families will enjoy the opportunity to meet people with similar interests for monthly get-togethers, fun hunts, training days, barbeque picnics and educational topics,” said Shelander. “We envision monthly speakers such as Fish and Game, professional dog trainers, Forest Service representatives, and dog health and wellness.”