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The Michigan Upland Championship Vision.

My name is Ray McVeigh. I came to hunting late in life, but have been trying to make up for lost time. I own Brittanys (including a French Brittany), although I have also hunted over English Pointers, English Setters, Gordon Setters, Viszlas, Weimereiners, German Short Haired Pointers, German Long Haired Pointers, Irish Setters, German Wire Haired Pointers, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Springer Spaniels and a Poodle.

I discovered Tournament Hunting in 2003 at a small club event in Indiana. I fell in love with the sport and cajoled my hunt club here in Michigan to put on an annual tournament for its members that is styled as the club "Gun Dog Championship". Unfortunately, there are few tournaments hosted in Michigan. (A notable exception is an excellent UFTA event put on by Al and Sarah Shull in Morely, MI the past couple of years - check the events page at the UFTA website at www.ufta-online.com ). To slake my thirst (addiction?) for Tournament Hunting, I have been required to travel extensively, often west of the Mississippi. In the course of those travels, I have participated in tournaments conducted under a number of different formats and sanctioned by a number of different organizations (Pheasant Hunters Unlimited, the Wisconsin Series, Illinois Upland Championship Series, United Field Trailers Association, Bird Dog Challenge and several hunt clubs).

Bird Dog Challenge (National Bird Dog Challenge Association or "BDC") is one of the larger and more successful sanctioning organizations. It divides the US into four regions. Its Region 1 covers most of the states between the Mississippi and the Rockies, Region 3 covers most of the US east of the Mississippi (that's us), Region 4 covers most of the US from the Rockies west, and Region 2 is Wisconsin. Wisconsin has so many competitors and events that it is its own region! I have been active in AKC and other competitive field events in Michigan for more than 10 years. I believe that there are as many or more championship caliber bird dogs in Michigan as there are in Wisconsin. So why am I having to travel 300 miles or more to find a tournament hunt? For some reason, Tournament Hunting has just not yet spread to Michigan. My vision is to change that.

Central to MUC format is a commitment to making Tournament Hunting a spectator activity as well as a participant activity. Tournament Hunting has attracted a following on various cable TV networks and appears to be enjoyed by spectators as well as competitors. Consequently, friends, family, potential competitors who just want to check out the sport, and anyone desiring to watch champion caliber bird dogs doing what they have been bred and trained to do are welcome to come and watch all events.

The series will consist of at least 3 "qualifying" events between November 2010 and February 2011 that will be scattered around the state. The 20 top dogs from those events will be invited to the "Championship" event in March. For the first year, in an effort to keep entry fees low and not discourage participation by new players, money prizes will not be built into registration fees. (At the end of the year, players will be surveyed to determine whether to include money prizes during the 2011-12 year). Competition during the first year will be mainly for bragging rights and trophy plaques. However, an optional prize money pot will be available at the Championship event and Championship event winners will receive a jacket denoting their accomplishment. We will also recognize a "Dog of the Year" in both the Flushing and Pointing Divisions for the dog that accumulates the most competition points over the course of the year.

For the first year (2010 - 2011), we will run just four divisions: Top Gun Flushing (one dog, one handler), Top Gun Pointing (one dog, one handler), Doubles Flushing (one dog, two hunters) and Doubles Pointing (one dog, two hunters). Depending upon interest at the end of the first year (all 2010-2011 participants will be surveyed), we will consider adding divisions for Master (handlers aged 50 and older), Amateur (limited tournament experience and no professional trainers), Youth (18 and under) and/or Women Classes. For the first year, however, to allow us to "get our feet wet" in the process of hosting events, and develop some kind of gauge as to how many folks may want to participate, we are going to keep it simple and just stick to the four basic divisions.

We will be affiliated with BDC (www.nbdca.com or www.birddogchallenge.com) and BDC sanctioning fees will be built into our entry fees. You do not need to be a member of BDC to participate in MUC events, but placements in MUC events will earn BDC points and can help you qualify for the BDC National and World Championship Tournaments. So we recommend joining BDC. BDC also has a system of awarding and honoring dogs for accumulation of championship points over time, not unlike the AKC system of recognizing performance excellence. Breeders may find this of value and competitors will appreciate the bragging rights that this conveys.

It is not my intent to generate any profit from MUC activities. The intent is to merely break even. Entry fees will be set so as to cover costs of hosting the events, paying for plaques and awards, covering BDC sanctioning costs and covering the cost of hosting this web site. But, if we can develop enough of a participant base to attract sponsors, sponsorship revenues will be used to keep entry fees low and/or increase prizes.

At least for the first couple years, I will not be participating in any events except as a coordinator, although others may participate with my dogs. My hope is that we will develop enough interest in Tournament Hunting in Michigan that others will consider putting on Tournaments here, and I will not have to travel west of the Mississippi to feed my Tournament Hunting addiction. Otherwise, my satisfaction will come from being a contagion for the fever that is Tournament Hunting.

Come try it! Catch the fever!

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