In the Field

Next Level Hunting Dog

by Derek Baune

I’ve lived in the great state of South Dakota for eight years now. I came not only for the wide-open space and freedom, but the hunting opportunities. I caught the upland bird-hunting bug early and it has only strengthened its grip on me.

Eventually, I made the decision that it was time for a dog. A family member had an incredible Vizsla I was fortunate enough to hunt with as a kid and I decided that was going to be my breed of choice.

After months of researching breeders across the country, I decided Martinsen’s Red Point Kennel was where my future pup would come from. The kennel’s owners introduced me to the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) Utility and American Kennel Club (AKC) Hunt tests before the litter was even born. The idea of training my dog to a higher level was intriguing.

As a puppy, West had phenomenal desire and drive in the field and water. He just wasn’t ordinary. His energy to succeed, I believe, rubbed off on me as a new handler and pushed me to do everything I could to see where his talent could take us.

As a six-month-old, West ran his NAVHDA Natural Ability Test, prizing in his first leg of NAVHDA testing. We then proceeded to obtain four AKC Junior Hunter passes to receive his Junior Hunter title.

During the summer of 2015 we began preparing for the NAVHDA Utility Test that would take place in August. This test focuses on versatility. A dog must excel on land and water to receive a prize 1 score and an invitation to the prestigious NAVHDA Invitational the following year.

We worked incredibly hard for months to prepare him for this event. He was able to pull it off, earning a prize 1 title. West is the second youngest Vizsla to ever obtain this distinction at under two years of age.

Fast forward to the present. West has passed his first AKC Master Hunter leg, and I’m hoping to achieve that title yet this year.

More important, we are preparing for the NAVHDA Invitational this September. My nerves are beginning to get the best of me with just a month to polish his skills on land and water.

Dogs successfully competing in the Invitational Test with a passing score receive the title of Versatile Champion. In my opinion, it is the highest honor a pointing breed dog can achieve. This year, five Vizslas will compete, more than in any year, ever. With only nine Vizslas ever obtaining a Versatile Champion award, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to run West with some of the best dogs in North America.

This passion for dog training has taken over a big portion of my time. The journey is not just for my personal satisfaction, but for his as well. You can learn things from a great dog, and West has shown me what true desire can achieve. West could be the youngest Vizsla Versatile Champion ever this September.

With the help of fellow dog handlers and friends, we will continue to work hard in preparation for the big day. Whatever the outcome, this passion-turned obsession has forever changed who I am as a person. I’ve grown immensely, and I truly understand the work and dedication it takes to succeed with champion tier dogs.