Mangonui shepherd Ed Long was away from home but still in familiar surroundings on the hilly terrains of Maungakaramea.
A first-timer to the 99th Maungakaramea sheep dog trials, he is competing against the best from as far away as Hawkes Bay for a place in today's final.
"I've been trialling up north but this is a tougher competition ... the big guns have all come up," Mr Long said as he and his dog Maia competed in the zig zag hunt.
He was hoping for a top-five finish for the intermediate grade to qualify for today's Tux round.
Mr Long said zig zag was his preferred category, although he would compete in the other three - long, short and straight hunt.
There are three categories - open, intermediate and maiden - and a competitor in the last two categories must gain 50 points or more to qualify for the prize money.
The Maungakaramea Sheep Dog Trial Club - one of the oldest sporting bodies in Northland - has attracted a top-class field with competitors from Taupo, Wairoa and Gisborne.
President Leslie Child said 2012 would be the club's centenary year.
Also, Northland would host the North Island championships in May 2012.
This year, five young competitors have registered for the first time and Mr Child said the interest in the trials grew every year.
"We take a bit of pride in involving the community. There's a lot of voluntary work," he said.
The competition finishes today.