West Tennessee has a rich sporting dog heritage. Geographically, the area is recognized as the birthplace of America's pointing dog field trials, because the first-ever field trial was held near Memphis in 1874 and it is home to the century-old National Field Trial Championship held yearly on the Ames Plantation near Grand Junction, Tenn.
The trials and the museum at Grand Junction are important hubs for bird-dog enthusiasts the world over. Headed by executive director David Smith, the museum highlights more than 40 breeds of dogs, including pointing, flushing, and retrieving breeds.
In addition, it has a wonderful library where I have spent many days researching old books and sporting journals. Lucy Cogbill ably runs the library and is a delight to talk to.
Garette and Wilson Dunn, owner of a local sporting goods store, donated 4.5 acres for the museum in 1988, and Dunn's original display of field trial memorabilia is the nucleus of the museum's present-day collection of paintings, photographs, trophies, and bird hunting accessories, now displayed in a 25,000-square-foot complex.
It was on a Saturday after a previous afternoon of snowfall that I visited again the museum and chatted with David Smith and Lucy Cogbill.
The setting could not have been more spectacular as the countryside was draped with whiteness.
The wet snow clung to every vine, every branch, everything, and featured all of God's handiwork. I marveled at its beauty and how blessed I am.
The occasion for the visit was to witness inductions into the Field Trial Hall of Fame that highlights the field trial superstars.
The heroes, both human and canine, played a significant role in developing the sporting breeds.
Honoring dogs and people who excelled in the field trial sport began in the late 1930s.
In 1953, William F. Brown, editor of The American Field Journal, compiled the necessary rules and regulations governing elections of the field trial dogs and their owners and trainers to a proposed Field Trial Hall of Fame.
In the June 16, 1954, issue of The American Field, Brown announced the Field Trial Hall of Fame had become a reality and nominations were taken.
That year, five dogs and five people were elected into the Hall of Fame. This year there were inductions for Brittany, ointer/Setter, Spaniel, and Retriever.
Under the leadership of the Bird Dog Foundation, the museum is still growing. It highlights each national field trial winner with a write-up and portrait. Then, it has a Hall of Fame of sporting dog people that includes a breed section and a trophy/gun room.
The Wildlife Heritage Center is a favorite family attraction. It has various taxidermy mounts, many donated by the late William “Chubby” Andrews (Memphis).
Outside the museum is a walking area with bronze statues of hunters and game birds depicting hunts in natural settings. The statues are life-size and wonderfully done.
If you want to see a tribute to these wonderful dogs, then you must visit the National Bird Dog Museum, located 50 miles east of Memphis on Hwy 57.
Admission is by donations only. If you are lucky, Captain Lockee, retired Navy, will give you a personal tour through the museum.
The exhibits provide a glimpse into a tradition that has made Grand Junction the place where bird dog devotees gather each February to watch the nation's top dogs pursue bobwhite quail — and the national championship — just as they've done for more than a century.
When the competition concludes, one dog is crowned national champion, an honor bestowed yearly since the first National Championship in 1896.
Wayne Capooth — outdoorsman, writer, and physician — has hunted extensively in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas for 50 years and has written four books. On the Internet, go to www.waterfowling.org.