TOWN CREEK — A smile automatically flashes on Frank Arnau’s face when he begins talking about working with his bird dogs.
“It’s a joy; it’s something I’ve been doing a long time and I really love it,” said Arnau, a Commerce, Ga., resident. “I’ve got six dogs and I look forward to being with them.”
And he’s pretty good at it, too.
Arnau, 83, defeated 52 other entries earlier this week to win the seniors division in the United Field Trialers Association’s 2013 Nationals.
Competitors also are involved in four other divisions of the national competition being held at Doublehead Resort near Town Creek.
“I’m the oldest one in the competition and the oldest to ever win one of the divisions,” said Arnau, who also serves as the organization’s treasurer.
The competition continues through Saturday when the Open Class championships are decided.
Melissa Bunnell, event coordinator at Doublehead, said the nationals have been held at the resort since 2008. There are handlers from 25 states and Canada involved in this year’s competition.
Association president Jeff Beasley, of Indiana, said there are about 350 dogs in this year’s competition, which is the 12th national championship event.
He said handlers and their dogs had to qualify for the nationals through events held throughout the U.S. earlier in the year.
The competition is based on the skills of the dogs and their handlers and their ability to work together.
Beasley said the dogs and handlers have 15 minutes to find three quail.
“The dogs have to point and flush the birds,” Arnau said. “Then, the handler has to shoot the bird and the dog must retrieve it,” Arnau said.
Beasley said it takes an average of six or seven minutes for a handler and dog to complete a round.
He said the sport is gaining in popularity.
“The nationals event is a perfect example of that,” he said. “We have more younger people and more women this year than in past years. They’re getting involved and that’s really opening the door for a lot of people to see what the sport is about.”
Arnau said he’s been bird hunting and running dogs since he was a boy.
“I grew up doing this,” he said. “I love being in the fields and seeing dogs work. It’s fun and relaxing, and it gives me exercise. It keeps me young.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.