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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Jack Austin Smith spends a lot of time outside with his dog, which is typical for many 13-year-olds, but Smith isn’t playing, he’s in training and finding success as one of the youngest members of the National Shoot To Retrieve Association (NSTRA).

Smith, the son of Gina Austin Smith and Noland and Traci Smith, all of Williamstown, has won two hunting competitions against older, more seasoned hunters.
Smith has been learning the sport of sanctioned field trials where he has hunted for quail since he was 10, which is the youngest age allowed.

Competitors must be 16 to shoot, so Smith has a gunner, which shoots for him.
The competitions test the handler and the hunting dog’s ability to find quail, which have been placed in a field. The handler uses voice commands to control the dog. Once the dog locates the bird, the gunner shoots it and the dog retrieves it.

The object is to find the most birds in 30 minutes.

Judging criteria is based on how well the handler works the dog, the dog’s obedience to the handler, the dog’s behavior with the bird and how well the dog hunts the field.

Hunts are held at various places in Kentucky.

Smith was won two competitions in Morgan, Ky. at the home of Tom McCandless, who also acts as his gunner.
McCandless and Clyde Wyatt own and trained, Ginger, the dog that Smith hunts with in competitions.
Smith has also competed in two national trials in Indiana and is gearing up for another one in Florida in February.

“He’s the only young person that I’m aware of that participates in this sport in this area,” said Gina. “He has a good dog, but we’re really proud of his success.”
Smith is an eighth grade student at Williamstown Middle School. He enjoys hunting, being outdoors, horses and camping.