West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area hosts 78th National Retriever Championships

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Nov. 8, 2018) — Each year since 1941, the best retrieving dogs in the country compete for the title of national champion.

The National Retriever Championship is the Super Bowl of the competitive retrieving world and is being held in Kentucky for the first time this year.

The event starts Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area (WMA) outside of Paducah. It continues through Saturday, Nov. 17. The 2018 national champion will be crowned that day.

Several thousand retrievers compete in American Kennel Club-licensed field trials each year. Only 100 or so qualify for the prestigious National Retriever Championship.

The event consists of a series of judged tests designed to challenge the dogs’ abilities on land and water.

“This event showcases retrievers doing what they were bred to do,” said Tim Kreher, public lands biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “To have it on a state-owned WMA that also is open for other hunting activities is a significant accomplishment for our department.”

Kreher and other area staff have spent the past two months preparing the grounds.

Discussions about bringing the National Retriever Championship to West Kentucky WMA extend back more than a decade, Patterson said. Along with Kreher, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife First District Commission member Dr. Harry Carloss and Migratory Bird Program Coordinator John Brunjes have played important roles.

“This event brings hundreds of staff, trainers, owners and, of course, top dogs to our area,” Carloss said. “The tourism component is very important to Paducah and the region, with an economic impact of millions of dollars. Working with Mitch Patterson and other members of the organization has been a pleasure and we look forward to hosting these events for many years to come.”

The event is open to the public and admission is free. The WMA office off KY 358 will post directions to the field trial grounds  each day of the trial.

Spectators are asked to stay within areas designated by officials. Spectators please refrain from making loud noises or unnecessary motions while a dog is working. Please hold applause until a dog has completed its test and is leaving the line. Dogs not competing in the event are not permitted on the field trial grounds.

If he has his say, Patterson said the National Retriever Championship will return to West Kentucky WMA in four years.

“It has beautiful, technical water that allows dogs to be tested thoroughly in water,” Patterson said. “It has beautiful fields with all different types of habitat, which really plays very well into challenging the dogs on land. In this field trial game, the dogs are tested equally on land and water. The tests will go up to 500 or 600 yards, so you need an expansive place to run them, and you need to be able to see the dogs while they’re working. It just works out perfectly here. It’s the perfect recipe for us.”

Find more information on Kentucky’s Wildlife Management Areas on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website.