First hunting trial draws 26 dogs

Published 11:14 am Monday, September 12, 2011

A Llewellin Setter hurdles its way into corn at the beginning of its first field competition Saturday near LeRoy. Hunters and their dogs were being judged on several categories while they hunted for quail.

It may have appeared awkward to see a crowd of people wearing blaze orange, hunting birds in Minnesota on an 80-degree day, three weeks before the upland bird season starts.

But that’s exactly what happened on Saturday a few miles northeast of LeRoy. For rural resident Ben Jacobsen, it was what he’d waited for seven years — letting the grasses on his land mature until the time was right. One month ago, Jacobsen opened Three Acres Hunting Preserve, and Saturday he was already hosting his first field trial.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Jacobsen said about the night before the event. “I went to bed at midnight and woke up at 4:30.”

Denny Domnick and his Llewellin Setter watch as hunters work the field during the National Llewellin Setter Club’s field trial in LeRoy.

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Roughly 20 members and 26 dogs of the National Llewellin Setter Club were up bright and early, already competing in half-hour intervals that would continue all day and part of Sunday. Two-man, two-dog teams scoured fields for quail, while dogs were judged on obedience, ground coverage, pointing and retrieving. Club members came from across the Midwest, including several from southern and central Illinois, and a family from as far as Kansas. But the event wasn’t high-stakes, nerve-racking competition by any means. These people know each other. They don’t compete for money or prizes — they do it for the love of the sport.

“We’re kind of like family,” said Caren Mansfield, club treasurer and wife of Club President J.D. Waters.

She and her husband traveled all the way from Illinois to help with the club’s first of five events this year. Though the club previously held competitions at a facility in Lonsdale, Minn. — and the facility near LeRoy is still in its infancy — Waters was happy with what he saw at Three Acres.

“It’s beautiful; it’s very nice,” he said. “When these tree lines grow up, it’s going to be amazing.”

Three Arrows has several fields with native grasses, corn and other plants for cover and food, and will take some more time to fully mature into a prime hunting facility. Jacobsen realizes that, and he also realizes it will take time for his business to grow.

“It’s going to take time to build a clientele base,” he said.

For the first month, Jacobsen didn’t have much business because of the heat and other factors. Those worries were far removed last weekend, however. Not only did he enjoy the time as a member of the club, he was excited things were coming full-circle for him — right in his own backyard.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “Our young dog did well, so that’s even better.”

“The chain gang,” as the National Llewellin Setter Club calls it, sits in a holding area during field trial competitions Saturday near LeRoy.

Furthermore, Jacobsen’s family, including his four kids, wife, father, cousins and their children shared the joy with him.

“We basically did it for the grandkids,” said Jacobsen’s father, Bob.

The trials are kid-friendly events, as field judges and parents teach kids dog-handling skills, gun safety and overall responsibility.

“They want to see the young kids get involved because that’s the future,” Jacobsen said about the club’s intentions.

That was apparent Saturday, as people of all generations worked Three Arrows’ fields, with dogs ranging from puppies to seasoned tracking veterans. Though the weather was hot for the dogs, the fields had multiple drinking-water barrels; and club members provided shaded areas for dogs while they rested. The National Llewellin Setter Club often uses the same facilities each year, and Mansfield said its event could be back at Three Arrows next year. That’s good news for Jacobsen because of his passion for dogs, hunting and sport.

“He’s wanted to do this forever,” his dad said.