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 Club History     July 13, 2024  

Minnesota Iron Range Retriever Club

P.O. Box 661

Virginia, MN 55792






The Minnesota Iron Range Retriever Club was formed in 1951 by a group of hunting dog owners from the Virginia, Eveleth, and Mountain Iron area with the objective of improving the performance of their retrievers in the field.  In 1954 the club acquired an 80-acre lease at Four Mile Lake from US Steel Corporation that was to become its home grounds and the site of its clubhouse.


The club took a big step forward in 1977 by becoming a Minnesota non-profit corporation in March and by receiving permission to hold its first AKC sanctioned retriever field trial in June. A second sanctioned trial was held in April of 1978, followed by the first AKC licensed trial in July of that year.  This year the club will conduct its forty-fourth annual licensed trial on July 23-25.  In 2006 a second AKC field trial was added the weekend after the traditional trial.  This year’s will be on July 30-August 1.  An AKC licensed hunt test was added to the club calendar in 1998. There will not be an AKC licensed hunt test in 2021.  In addition to AKC events, the club holds informal or picnic trials every spring – this year’s will be on May 1-2.  The Arrowhead Hunting Retriever Club will hold a test on August 28-29 on the club grounds.  The Minnesota chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association holds a training session and test on August 7-8 and August 28-29.  


The Minnesota Iron Range Retriever Club was the host club and site for the 1997, 2001, 2005, and 2009 National Amateur Championships and the 2008 Master National Hunt Test.  The best retrievers in the United States came to the Iron Range to compete and perform at these events.  Hundreds of owners, workers, and spectators have attended these events, and literally hundreds of thousands of dollars have been brought into the Iron Range economy.  The club has also hosted the American Chesapeake Club’s specialty field trial four times.  The MIRRC is a member of the National Retriever Club, the National Amateur Retriever Club, the Master National Retriever Club, the Master Amateur Retriever Club, The National Derby Club, and the Greater Minnesota Hunt Test Association.  The club is also a proud Sponsor Member of both the Mesabi Chapter of Ducks Unlimited and the David Salsman Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society.


The club suffered a setback in 2002 when it lost its lease at Four Mile Lake because US Steel sold the land to a developer.  A 40-acre parcel of land just south of the old club grounds was purchased, and the clubhouse and pole barn were moved there in the fall.  A massive fund-raising campaign was conducted with a good response locally and from across the United States.  A training pond was excavated on the property in the fall of 2004, and in 2005 and 2006 the rest of the property was developed into a training field.  The club purchased an adjacent 40-acre parcel in December of 2005, and a world-class training pond was excavated in the summer of 2008.  The members decided to add on to this pond in the fall of 2009 and excavation was begun in January 2010 and completed in the spring.  The IRR/Benchmark Pond area is now complete.


The primary focus of the club still is, as it has been for 70 years, to improve the performance of retrievers in the field and educate the public about wildlife conservation through the use of trained hunting dogs.  A substantial majority of the club members are waterfowl and upland game hunters, and much of the club’s retriever training program is directed toward hunting dogs.  Club training nights are held every Tuesday night from May through August with club members assisting retriever owners in training their dogs.  Meetings are held the first Wednesday of the month from December to September.


Membership in the MIRRC is open to all outdoor sports enthusiasts and hunting dog owners.  Annual dues are $60.  Membership forms can be obtaining by writing to Minnesota Iron Range Retriever Club, P.O. Box 661, Virginia, MN 55792, or e-mailing  Membership forms and other information are available on the club website