Laura Pradere, 13, will go into this weekend’s U.S. Bird Dog Western States National Championships with the confidence of one championship already under her belt.
“I’m still kind of nervous,” she said, “but I think having one national title is an advantage.”
She won the youth division of the North American Gun Dog Association championship in Wiggins, Colo., last month.
This competition will be in Mound House, just up the road from the Pradere Ranch in Dayton, where her family has lived for five generations.
“It’s kind of her hometown turf,” said her father, Paul Pradere, a 1990 Dayton High School graduate.
Laura, a seventh-grader at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School, has spent most of her life around guns and hunting.
“I like to shoot guns and being in the outdoors,” she said. “I like working with a dog.”
And when Paul started tournament hunting — and has since partnered with to host competitions — with family friend Dan Hannum a few years ago, Laura and her little brother, Cole, 9, got interested as well.
Laura started by attending the tournaments, offering to clean the birds.
“You just skin it, open it up and take the meat out,” she said. “It doesn’t take me long to do one, but when I get piles of them, it’s harder.”
She said she would clean between 60 and 70 birds a day, taking home about $180.
“I’ve kind of retired from that job though because I compete now,” she explained.
Paul said his daughter has a natural talent, performing as well as youth older than her and winning the women’s division at some events.
In Colorado, he said, “She was competing against kids who were 16 or 17. And they were all guys. She was the only girl.”
It’s important, he said, she enjoy what she’s doing, whatever it is — dancing, gymnastics or hunting.
“I always just let her make her own decisions,” he said. “I hoped she’d be into hunting. But she’s an all-around girl. She’s not just a tomboy.”
Laura hunts mostly with Bandit, a 19-week-old English setter, the son of Pongo, her father’s dog.
As Paul, Laura and Cole get ready for the competition, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday, they are relying on Hannum’s advice to take a cue from the dogs.
“The dogs aren’t nervous, you shouldn’t be either,” Paul recited.