Hectorkirk Gundogs and Sporting is a small family run business based in the Yorkshire Dales, specialising in quality Gundog training days in the north of England alongside breeding top quality gundogs and field trialing dogs.
The small family business was founded in 2018 when I took the decision to step away from Gamekeeping. Up until I decided to step away I had been a very successful keeper for 24 years, breaking records on all four grouse moors which I worked on. The last twelve years found me head keeper on Coniston and Grassington Estate in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.
My real passion from school age was hunting, terriers and lurchers. I worked terriers for both mounted and fell packs for many years however sadly due to a change in law my young family had to come first. I was also passionate about breeding working terriers and lurchers, This, at a high level has helped me no end, breeding labradors and working out traits in breeding, line breeding and pairing dogs to suit the quality I am aiming to achieve through breeding.
Where I learnt about Gundogs and training days…..
I worked as a senior beat keeper on the famous Leadhills grouse moor, South West Scotland. Leadhills is well known in the gundog world for being the home of the Steel family. Billy Senior, from the very well-known Leadburn Gundogs, worked on the estate for over 30 years and has made up 12 Field Trial Champions, and qualified for the retriever championships 24 times.
His son Billy Junior had made up 11 Field Trial Champions and qualified for the British retriever championships 20 times qualifying two dogs for six of those. Billy Junior has won the British Retriever Championships three times firstly 1996 with FTCH Linksview Jet, 2000 with Bracken of Berrybrae and again in 2015 with Harperrig Breac.
I was lucky enough to buy my foundation bitch from young Billy, she was called Pimms. Pimms was bred by Billy Senior, out of FTCH Kenmilintri Bramleybank by FTCH Rod Wallace Leadburn.
As I worked on the largest beats of the 19,500-acre estate my beat had the most rabbits. Leadhills was famous for its rabbit shooting days for field trailers from all over the world. At first, I had no interest in rabbit training days, only catching rabbits with my lurchers. I soon got into taking trainers out on days and evenings and this is where my passion grew.
Leadhills gave me a big leg up into the Gundog world, taking famous trainers out like John and Sandra Halstead, Young John Halstead and other top end trainers, Billy Steel Senior, Billy Steel Junior, Gary Ford and David Lissett to name a few.
It was not uncommon to take trainers out on an evening and shoot over 100 rabbits in the early days. I also took spaniel handlers out and helped them run spaniel trials meeting David Lissett of the famous Buccleuch gundogs who used to be a picking up friend when helping out next-door on Queensberry. So I was lucky to have experienced some of the best rabbiting days with the very best handlers. At the time I really didn’t realise how lucky I was taking some of the best in the business out training on rabbits (I do now).
I left Leadhills after breaking the grouse record on my beat to become Head Keeper on Coniston and Grasstington Estate as Head Keeper. I opened up the estate to spaniel trials hosting up to four trials a year, also running rabbit retriever training days. Doing these days also helped me with training myself again training with the very best again, John and Sandra Halstead, Young John Halstead, Allan Schofield, Jimmy Swindlehurst, Mark Demaine, Tony O’Hare Phil Highfield, Wayne Skett, Kevin Butler, Dave Latham, Anette Clark, Roger Philips and Declan Boyle to name a few. During this time we were culling around 10’000 rabbits per year and shooting around 70 – 100 rabbits per day ( depending on who was shooting).
I was very good friends with young John Halstead at the time and I remember taking him out training on the run up to the championships which he had qualified five dogs, winning with FTCH Asterix Aguzannis of Chatsworth. John also used to come grouse counting in the springs well as out walked up days later in the season. Dave Latham and his friends also used to help me on these walked up days and were big clients on the rabbit days.
I owe a lot of my knowledge in running training days to the old school trainers, one imparticular that sticks out the most is Allan Schoffield of the famous Eastdale Gundogs. Allan Shchoffield and Jimmy Swindlehurst really moulded me into the way I run our days to date. Allen still is a great source of help and is always at the end of the phone for me.
So….. Training with the best of the best got me into this whole training day business. I have learnt so much watching the masters training their dogs and how they breed their dogs.
Breeding Gundogs at Hectorkirk
We are a council-awarded five-star breeding kennels. I now only keep four breeding bitches but really do enjoy breeding quality gundogs. All my dogs nearly go back to the foundation bitch Broadlaw Nora “Pimm”. We have been lucky enough to have bred the Danish champion winner in 2018 and the Sako and Beretta Nordic championship winner also in 2018, as well as test and trial winners in the UK. We have many overseas clients, including in the USA.
As I am sure you have all come across Tania’s beautiful dog Hector – well Hector was all bred here proudly at the Hectorkirk Kennels!
Our Training Ground
The Company owns Garsdale Training Ground which is possibly the largest bespoke technical training ground in the UK, the ground is mainly set up for retrievers however we also host days for spaniels and HPR’s.
Garsdale is just over 60 acres with a full size game fair course, training pond and the famous undulating valleys. Garsdale is very much a family thing with both my children helping out on weekends with everything from repair work to planting trees. I offer training packages with some of the top UK trainers and also hire the ground to groups on a DIY basis. I do also take days myself as a non-trainer, even though all my experience over the years I will never call myself a dog trainer. These days are set up in a scenario more like a shoot day environment, I am there to help talk clients through the testing ground and break things down as a non-trainer.
Under the HKGS umbrella sporting side of things, I offer mainly gundog based training days from rabbits to red grouse. I have a very good reputation within the field for sourcing, organising and hosting some fantastic days in the field both for the UK and overseas. I also offer driven shooting including Grouse, Pheasants and Partridge on some of the top estates.
The Hectorkirk Family
Our Kennel Club breeding affix is Hectorkirk, named after my son ‘Hector Kirk Wiggings’. Sadly my two children no longer live with me but help as much as they can be it with the kennels, training ground or office. Bea, my daughter has her favourite dog ‘Roxy’ a black Labrador carrying the chocolate gene by FTCH Amancio Tirpitz of Fly Patch. Bea and Roxy can be seen most weekends walking to heel around our village, for the flying machine Roxy is she really does have the best temperament. Bea is also the head puppy socialiser, any puppies from our kennels have gone through hours of snuggles and playing.
Hector is the tech guy, he helps dad with the social media and computer side of the business.
We have also recently set up our own business selling dog food and training equipment called Hec’N’Bea Ltd. This is something we are very interested in. Hec’N’Bea is also currently in the process of launching a new long-distance target dummy and our own range of tennis balls which have been tested by many at Garsdale, to help handlers achieve their goals. We also stock some big brands including Sporting Saint and Shuttlesocks, these products can all be found on our page.
And don’t forget to follow Hec’N’Bea Ltd