Soon small game season begins and those who hunt pheasant, grouse and quail enjoy nothing more than working behind a good bird dog. Good in bird hunting being defined as a well-trained, obedient dog. I've had the privilege of knowing Curt Fry, who is without doubt the best dog trainer in the state. There are numerous awards to prove it.
In the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association, Curtis has trained 90 percent of the winners. He is a professional gun dog trainer and owns Slamming Point Kennel in New Brighton.
Some years ago he sold a puppy to Larry and Linda Mock, who operate Larke Lab Kennels of Williamsburg. That dog, "Major" is the most superbly trained dog in the county, I'd bet. And the dog now also has the awards to prove it.
Major is an extremely talented, intelligent dog. His first exposure to hunt test competition came in 2006 when he was awarded a Natural Ability Prize 1 within the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) testing system, scoring a maximum score of 112 points. The NAVHDA Natural Ability test measures a young dog's ability to find and point birds, retrieve from the water, and track wounded game. Major continued his training and matured into an exceptional bird dog. In 2010 and 2011 major competed in the American Kennel Club (AKC) Master Hunt Test competition and passed 6 out of 7 tests to earn his Master Hunter (MH) title. The Master Hunter Title is reserved for exception dogs that demonstrate at the highest level the ability to find birds, point/retrieve and be steady to wing, shot, and fall.
Next Major competed in NAVHDA at the Utility Level. The Utility Test measures a finished bird dogs ability to hunt in the field and find and point game as well as retrieve on land and water.
The dogs need to be steady to wing, shot, and fall. They are required to perform a duck search in a swamp, and track and retrieve a duck at over 100 meters. They also need to show obedience and remain by a duck blind while the handler walks out of sight and shots are fired. Lastly they have to heel through heeling stakes on their way to a duck blind. In November of 2010, Major earned a Utility Prize 1 scoring a maximum score of 204 points. By earning a Utility Prize 1, Major was qualified to run at the NAVHDA Invitational to compete for the coveted title of Versatile Champion. The NAVHDA Invitational is reported to be the toughest test in the gun-dog world and is reserved for only the top performers in NAVHDA (Only Prize 1 Utility Dogs are eligible). The dogs must run in the field with a brace mate for an hour and demonstrate strong search, pointing, backing, and be steady to wing, shot and fall. They must execute a 100-yard blind retrieve across water, and honor another dog during a duck retrieve. Lastly, they must perform a double mark retrieve of two ducks on the water in the reverse order in which they are thrown with a diversion shot. And, during judgment, they are off lead and must be heeled to each venue off lead. It is truly a tough test and only about 50 percent of the eligible dogs earn VC titles.
On Sept. 15, Major and his trainer/handler Curt Fry, of Slamming Point Kennel, arrived in Bloomingdale, Ohio to run in the NAVHDA Invitational. The weather was poor at best with high winds and steady rain. In the end, Major and Curt executed each phase of the Invitational Test to the highest degree of competency and scored a maximum score of 200 points and earned Major the Versatile Champion title.
But the most impressive thing about curt Fry and Linda and Larry Mock is the time they give and services they donate to youth hunts. Many a youth in this county has hunted pheasants and chukkar behind Major and many of Fry's own dogs at Trophy Mountain Lodge youth hunts in Huntingdon County.
A couple years ago a wheelchair-bound bound John Boss was part of the youth hunt and Fry and Mock went to extraordinary lengths to give him one of the most enjoyable times of his life. John's parents got John a dog from Larry Mock and Curt Fry volunteered to train that dog so that John Boss can enjoy hunting birds.
If you have an English Setter that needs some training or you want to get a quality dog, you can contact Larke Kennels at Gunnarlab@aol.com. They can give you all the info you need and put you in touch with Curtis Fry.