Some of the best retrievers in the country have assembled in Oak Harbor this weekend to compete in the Super Retriever Series qualifier trials.
Both professional and amateur trainers and their dogs are contending for a place in the top three to move on to the SRS semi-finals.
The first-place amateur and professional teams also pocket a $5,500 cash prize.
The trials arrived in Ohio for the first time because of a sponsorship deal with Port Clinton duck and goose call manufacturer, Zink Calls.
Jeff Adams, who is hosting the event, said Fred Zink asked to use his property because of its combination of fields and wetlands.
"I think it's good for the area and good for the dogs. It brings a little bit of money into the economy," Adams said. "This day and age you need every little bit you can get."
The dogs in the competition are tested on their instincts and ability to listen to their trainers in hunting and field-type scenarios. For the first trial on Friday, the dog had to overcome its urge to chase an artificial duck that was thrown into a pond a few feet away. If the dog successfully stayed by his trainer's side, it was then directed by hand signals to a duck placed 300 yards away in a field.
After the dog retrieved the far duck, it was instructed to retrieve the duck in the pond.
The judges called out the team's score when they finished. If the dog passed the first trial, it qualified to move on to three additional trials that are increasingly difficult.
At the end of the weekend, only three professional and three amateur teams will advance to the semifinals.
The Oak Harbor trial is the first of 10 qualifier trials around the country during the summer and fall.
Several local teams were among the 94 dogs at the competition.
Sean Hager of Port Clinton was getting ready to run the field trial Friday with his 5-year-old yellow Labrador retriever Drake when the judges called a break for lunch.
"I'm a little nervous," Hager said as he went to prepare his dog for the run. He said Drake has already been named a master hunter, the highest distinction a dog can receive from the American Kennel Club.
Hager said he might have a little bit of an advantage over some of the teams because he and Drake have practiced on the Adams property before. Drake didn't look nervous as he bounded out of his crate ready to chase some ducks.
Justin Tackett, an SRS analyst, said retriever trials are the most popular hunting event on television. The Oak Harbor trials, however, are not televised this year. Tackett said next year SRS plans to have a video crew at the event.
"With Zink being in Port Clinton, I think you can expect to see a lot more of these type events in the area," Tackett said.
Want to go?
The Zink Calls Super Retriever Series Qualifier
6700 Oak Harbor SE, Oak Harbor
Today 7 a.m. - afternoon
Sunday 7 a.m. - afternoon