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South Carolina Chocolate Labrador RetrieversMark Hatfield Bio

A wildlife biologist from Elizabethtown, Ky., Mark Hatfield landed in Johnston, S.C. by way of the National Wild Turkey Federation located in nearby Edgefield. There, Hatfield’s efforts involve the conservation of wild turkeys and the preservation of hunting.

The conservation group’s headquarters happens to be at the heart of a rural area known as the Ridge, and the Ridge is known for growing Southern peaches. Incidentally, the peach orchards also work well for training dogs thanks to an abundance of undeveloped, open acreage, farm ponds and woodlands. So, in January 2007, Mark took advantage of what was in front of him and brought home a pup, a Chocolate Labrador named Booyah. Only two years earlier, Hatfield’s first lab Dreamer died of lung cancer. He bought the pup when he was 16 years-old with money he’d saved from working as a Wendy’s cook.

“I guess my interest in labs and dog training started the first time I ever went waterfowl hunting,” said Hatfield, who has hunted in 11 states across both the eastern and western United States. “My Uncle Kenneth took me. It was a trip to Indiana and we took Kassie, Uncle Kenneth’s black lab. I loved the social atmosphere of the hunt and the interaction with the dogs.”

After Hatfield fulfilled course requirements for a bachelor of science in wildlife biology and a masters of science in biology at Murray State University, he moved to Ipswitch, S.D.where he worked as a research biologist for Ducks Unlimited on a waterfowl and upland nest study. From there, he and Dreamer moved to Flagstaff, Ariz., where Hatfield worked for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. When the biologist did his fieldwork, ranging from vegetation measurements to tracking mule deer, Dreamer was there.

“The work experience is important, I believe, because the collaboration between that and my education lend themselves to hunting,” said Hatfield. “That’s the emphasis at Birdie Dog Kennels, hunting dogs. For me, it’s the next step. You work hard to have wildlife and manage wildlife through hunting, so a good hunting dog is the next step, an expression of an interest and a chance to enjoy what you’ve worked for.”

Granted, that interest doesn’t lend most hunters to opening a kennel and devoting most evenings to training dogs.

“Training labs is gratifying for me, it’s a release,” says Hatfield, who believes the cornerstone of obedience is consistency. “It’s a test to figure out how to get the dog to do certain things. All the dog wants to do is please you. So a trainer must tap into that desire and figure out how to coach this willing companion who, despite its will, can’t communicate with you.”

Hatfield is fascinated with just how much a labrador wants to please its owner.

“They just have a desire and ultimately trust you,” he said. “ They’ll sit for you, in the snow, on a 20 degree day without question. They trust you to take care of them, they trust you are not going to put them in a bad spot.”

Hatfield is married to the former Amy Forrest of Ward, SC. Hatfield spends his time hunting waterfowl, turkeys and deer. He enjoys planting food plots and various other land management projects. He loves Kentucky basketball, college football and living in small towns.

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