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Those of us who are members in UKSHA are very lucky to have the opportunity to be invited to organised events in Europe such as the one I have had the pleasure of attending this weekend.

The 25th Soonwald Hauptprüfung took place in the Rheinland-Pfalz region of Germany this weekend. Not only driven hunts and tracking but also food,drink and socialising.A fantastic weekend. Soonwald is a huge forested area incorporating many different areas with different terrain.

I was over in my capacity as a trainee judge. I have only one more test to do a report on as well as an exam and I will hopefully be a judge,the first in the UK,however by no means the last. We are only at the beginning of this journey in UKSHA. There are no recognised tracking judges in the UK,so where better to go and become a judge,than the country where tracking and the specialist breeds for the job originate from,Germany. There is only one way to do this. Prove oneself by passing all relevant tests with your own dog then become a judge,when or if asked to do so and if you want too give back to the club that has helped you personally develop. Which the Verein Hirschmann and KBGS most definitely have with all of our members,including myself. At the Soonwald Hauptprüfung there are various people to thank and the organisation from the Verein Hirschmann,specifically Rolf Bergheim and Joachim Bertes,your jobs of organisation was fantastic as always. To organise the tracking teams to be in contact with all the driven hunts in the area is no mean feat. The game in the area is Red deer,Wild Boar,Roe deer,Mouflon and now even Muntjac have been sighted,along with the odd Lynx and Wolf. Last year at Soonwald I completed my Hauptprüfung with my Pascha on Peters driven hunt,with whom I've became good friends with. Peter was doing his Hauptprüfung this weekend.Peter and his dog,Kira,we would be judging the first day. They are a very experienced team. The team can read each other's minds,Peter always gives commands in a calm and mild manner. The first track we were given was a 80kg Keiler,apparently shot in the stomach. Kira and Peter made short work of the 1km track,showing blood as we went and we then came to a second shot site on the track. 50m away another high seat. A quick phone call to the hunts larder and we confirmed that the animal had been shot a second time at the seat that Kira took us too. Good work and confirmation that the animal was dead. These are the issues you run into on driven hunts,along with the many distractions for the dogs. All good however as at least the animal was not suffering.

Later that day we got a second track,once again a boar that had went a considerable distance. Our team were to be the 3rd attempted on the track. Very small drops of blood were found on the track,each drop around 300-400m apart. Kira indicated the blood perfectly,we came to a road and it was a pleasure to watch Kira work it out. We picked blood up at the other side of the road and continued,then it got really interesting.

Many Red deer had bedded down in the thick cover and the amount of boar sign around was eye-opening. Kira circled and backed back on herself numerous times.Going around in circles,never a good sign with boar. There was absolutely no doubt the dog was correct,always going forward on the track. We had to stop because of the light. The track would maybe be continued the day after,making the track over 48 hours. Exceptional work from Peter and Kira.

The day after I was to be judging the other team in the organised Hauptprüfung. There were 2 teams in this organised event. Ralph and Ben are again another experienced team and the day I followed them,shows what we know,tracking is all down to the luck of what track you actually receive. The day before,Peter and Kira had long tracks with next to no luck. Ralph and Ben tracked and finished 2 leg shot boar before 1300. The first track was in a steep valley,with Beech and Oak trees. The shot site could only be described as busy,there were 4 other animals shot on the same position,all killed but with one boar of around 50-60kg having went away from the shot site. Ralph got Ben sat and concentrated as he looked at the busy shot site. Ben was called up,he immediately took a line into the thickest blackthorn bushes around and Ralph got on his hands and knees. The benefits of being a judge immediately became apparent,we went around the thickest cover.Poor Ralph..... Ben stuck to the track,which was 24 hours old,he indicated bone around 50m from the shot site,this confirmed 100%,a leg shot,we continued for another 400m and Ben started to bark,telling his handler to let him go,this Ralph did immediately,Ben had the boar bayed within 100m.Ben worked the boar perfectly until the finishing shot could be given. A very good first track before 10am in the morning.

Ralph's second track was again suspected to be front leg shot. We continued to the shot site. This time it was estimated to be a 30-40kg boar. Again the team were on it very quickly,indicating good blood but no bone. Shot in a field,the boar continued into a pine wood then into thick,dense bramble. Once again,we tracked into the dense cover,Ralph again got on his hands and knees through the tunnels the boar make in the brambles and we had went around 500m from the shot site when the dog again started barking,he had seen the boar. Ralph released and a chase of around 200m ensued,with the dog barking all the time. The tone of the bark changed and we knew the dog had the boar at bay.The different tones of bark allow you to know what the dog is doing and what is happening. The barking is all natural ability,not taught. We hurried to back the dog up,Ben didn't need help. We arrived at Ben barking and the boar broke past us,followed quickly by the dog who managed to stop the boar within 50m,sounds easy......not in bramble and blackthorn that is over 8ft high. Patiently,Ralph got a shot on the boar and finished it when it was safe to do so. The animal had been initially hit along the front of the chest,no bone damage. A very good piece of work with a very good dog.

With these 2 main test reports completed,this means we in UKSHA will have a qualified tracking judge in the UK very soon. The Verein Hirschmann,KBGS and the ISHV have all helped this happen. With these parent associations support,members in UKSHA have gained more experience and qualifications. The Board of the Verein Hirschmann have always been there for support and has said previously and echoed this again this weekend. "If there is anything we can do to help UKSHA,ask anytime." We have never once been refused help or support. The support from the Verein Hirschmann is truly fantastic. All of the friends that many of our members have now made abroad all get thanks as well and we all appreciate the help and support from all of you,you all know who you are as the list is too numerous to mention. You all make it very much easier to manage to do what we are doing. Then there are our families,if we didn't have the support from our wives and families,none of it would be possible. The training,the travelling,the seminars in the UK and abroad as well as the dropping of doing things as a family to go and track is a sacrifice that the families of UKSHA members know only too well,the phone rings and we cover the tracks,not only when it suits us but when the animal is required to be found and it's suffering ended. All the best George and all at UKSHA

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