* Club History researched and prepared by Ross Peden (MGDA President, 2002). Information taken from Article by Ruth Copeland, Winnipeg Free Press, Field Trial Programs dating from 1953 - 1983, and Interviews with Gordon Bryce, John Sellen, Joe Kerr, Kevin Howarth, and Bob Chrystal. Hunt Test information researched and prepared by Fred Benjaminson.
The Manitoba Gun Dog Association originated in 1935 when it was formed by a group of prominent Manitoba hunters and sportsmen, with an express interest in promoting the training and use of Retrieving Dogs for waterfowl hunting. This group started hosting unofficial Field Trials as early as 1936, and held Canada's first CKC licensed Field Trial on July 16, 1938. As such, the MGDA is recognized as the oldest Field Trial Club in Canada. A second licensed Trial was held one year later on July 15, 1939. Quality, rather than quantity, seems to have been the flavour of Field Trial evaluation at that time, as the dogs were marked on single retrieves, with the focus on scoring 70% for style and 30% for delivery. One of the tests from the ’39 Trial was a tracking test simulated by dragging a dead mallard through the grass, firing a shot, after which time the dog was commanded to fetch. Some names from those first two early trials are those of C.E. Greenlay, Bert Aconely, H.S. Scarthe, and Jim Duganis (winner of the first open all age stake).
World War II called many of the original group away to active service duty, some of whom did not return. As a result, the club's activities lay dormant for most of the war years and for quite some time after, although there is a record of at least one sanctioned trial held in 1944 at Fort Whyte. The lapse in Field Trial activity for this period seems to explain the absence of any club records for those years.
Towards the end of the Forties, however, interest in Field Trialing was rekindled. Somewhere around 1949, a loose association of original club members from the Thirties mixed with some newer like-minded hunters, and started to gel into a volunteer association of hunting dog afficionados. It was hunters from this group that eventually held the first "formal" club meeting in 1954 at the Kirchoffer Hunting Lodge at Delta Marsh. Present at that meeting were Albert Hochbaum (Director of the Delta Research Station), Gillis Tidsbury (President of the Manitoba Game and Fish Association), Gerald Malaher (Director of Game for Manitoba), Dr. Duncan Croll, Gordon Bryce, Jim Duganis, Hugh Crozier, Alan Robertson, Ron Gilmore, Frank Marsh, and Angus Gavin (of Ducks Unlimited). Dr. Croll was the club's first Executive President. The historical link to the original Club of the 1930's is found in the inclusion of Jim Duganis and C.E. Greenlay: both of these gentlemen were members of the original MGDA of the thirties. Mr. Greenlay was made the Honourary President of the 1954 club. And in 1954, a membership cost $2.00!
Other prominent members from the 1950's were Fred Ward, John Sellen, Gus Stone, Louis Turenne, Homer Good, Frank Booth, Fez Sharpe, Joe Kerr, and, later on, George Duganis. John Sellen relates that, "In those days we had a hard time trying to find enough qualified dogs to hold an Open. We had to phone around to places like Fargo, Minneapolis, and St. Cloud in order to get enough qualified dogs to meet the CKC requirements to hold an Open. At one point in those early years, we hired a dog trainer from Fargo named John Hall to come up in the spring and teach us how to train our dogs. John also competed in our trials in those days and at the outset, won most of them as well. It was not long, however, before our local guys caught on and started beating John Hall."John Sellen and Gordon Bryce also stressed the point that in the early days, all members and trialers were hunters, and consequently great emphasis was placed on Field Trial tests simulating actual hunting conditions.
In the Fifties, the Club's Trials moved around and were held at locations such as Fort Whyte, St. Andrew's Bog (now known as Oak Hammock Marsh), and Petersfield, but eventually took up a semi permanent residence at "Perrins' Farm," in Headingly, Manitoba. One of the MGDA's chief benefactors in those days was a gentleman by the name of Steve Cara, of Carling Breweries. It was with donations organized by Mr. Cara that the first club house was built at the Headingly site.
In the Sixties, a small piece of property was purchased near the town of Niverville. With financial assistance from Carlings and other local Manitoba businesses, the clubhouse was moved from Headingly to Niverville, and an addition was added.
The Sixties saw the arrival of "newcomers" like Kevin Howarth, Jack & Gladys Dunn, Tony Bartosh, P.J. Fitzpatrick, Bob & Mimi Chrystal, "Croft" Dangerfield, and Bill Furr.
The Club was officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1971. By the mid-Seventies the town of Niverville had expanded to encompass the club grounds, thus increasing the local taxes, so in 1976 the Club purchased 80 acres of land north of Winnipeg and moved to its present site near Balmoral. An additional 80 acres was added a few years later. Over the years, the hard work of club members has developed the MGDA Club Grounds into one of the Premier Field Trial venues in North America.
The Association has held Hunt Tests with its Informal Trials as well as on fun days since the Fifties. All "Gun Dog" breeds were invited to participate - a tradition that continues today. During the 1980s and 1990s the Association hosted several DU fund raising events in the form of Hunt Tests.
Working Certificate Tests were officially licensed by CKC in 1982. The first Working Certificate Test and Working Certificate Excellent Test run in Manitoba were hosted by the Labrador Retriever Club of Manitoba on May 16 and August 2, 1982 respectively. Fred Benjaminson's dog Win-toba's Fallegur Taefa was judged to have had the best performance in each. The Association started hosting Working Certificate Tests a couple of years latter and continues to do so.
As the CKC Retriever Council Representative for Manitoba, Fred Benjaminson supported having Retriever Hunt Tests as an official CKC event and was actively involved in finalizing the original Hunt Test Rules and Regulations for Retrievers. CKC Retriever Hunt Tests were introduced in 1996. The first licensed Retriever Hunt Test hosted by the Association was held in 1997. Shortly thereafter, to encourage participation, the Association substituted Junior Hunt Tests for the Puppy stakes that were previously held with regular Field Trial stakes. This practice was discontinued when the popularity of Hunt Tests grew large enough that the Association began to host two Hunt Tests per year.
The first MGDA dogs to earn the Master Hunter Title were Percy Ruddock's dogs Tank's Pic Super Hi Madison MH and Harley's Souped Up Bow-Bear MH doing so in July and August 1999 respectively. Terry O'Reilly's dog GMH Win-tob's Talisman earned its Grand Master Hunter title in May 2005 the first MGDA dog to do so. In August 2005,Dewayne Hay's dog GMH Ram River Ripple CD WCX was the second MGDA dog to earn its GMH title.
MGDA members actively supported the introduction of the National Master Hunt Test. Ross Peden judged the first unsanctioned National Master Hunt Test in September 2005 which was held at Luther Marsh, Grand valley, On.. Terry O'Reilly was a member of the first Canadian National Master Retriever Club's Board of Directors and remained on the Board to oversee the first licensed National Master Hunt Test stake which was held in 2007. Trent Sproule's dog NMH GMH Bailey's Misty Lake WCX earned its National Master Hunter title in 2007 - the first MGDA dog to do so. Fred Benjaminson served as the Canadian National Master Retriever Club's secretary from 2008 thru 2012. Dewayne Hay was elected to be Manitoba's CNMRC Director in 2008 which was the first year that Directors were elected to the Board of Directors.
The MGDA Club Grounds have been the site of 4 Canadian National Retriever Championship Stakes (1982, 1992, 2004 and 2011), 4 Canadian National Amateur Retriever Championship Stakes (1997, 2002, 2007 and 2015) and 2 Canadian National Master Hunt Test Stakes (2010 and 2017).
Today the MGDA has approximately 70 members. The Club normally hosts 2 licensed Field Trials, 2 licensed Hunt Tests and 1 Working Certificate Test per year. In addition the club holds winter "Fun" Trials, and holds Retriever Workshops (the most notable being the Carr /Rorem Retriever Workshop held in 1994; the Rick Stawski Fowl Dwags seminar in 2012 and the Avery Sporting Dog seminar with Kenny Trott in 2014.