Handling Away From Old Falls
Hey guys, I wanted to share a write up from WildRose Kennels about Deke, the DU dog. Please weigh in and give your input...enjoy the article.
Deke wrapped up the Mississippi regular duck season this weekend, January 30, 31, 2010 (pictured above) with two morning duck hunts with water locked up due to ice and a very productive afternoon hunt which provided challenging retrieves for the lad. Our best hunt at Buck Lake Outfitters, Rochdale, Mississippi, (www.bucklakehuntingclub.com) required Deke to hide with the shooters in a below-ground blind so all his retrieves were to be unseen blinds. The most impressive to me was a nice line to the far bank, about 60 yards, where a wounded bird had tucked away in bean stubble and coffee weed. Once Deke was in the area, a second bird was shot by Steven Lucius. Deke saw the fall, the bird landing between us. One cast off the diversion and he was handled back to the hunt for the first bird down... love those diversions!
It has been a disappointing season for Deke. The number of birds he has seen have been far fewer than I had hoped. We needed practical waterfowl experience to connect the dots from training to hunting; from bumper/cold game to real birds. Despite our shortcomings at producing game (both at Wildrose and at Ducks Unlimited), I have been pleased with Deke's accomplishments.
He has developed into a fast, stylish retriever, powerful in cold water conditions and cover, yet he remained quiet in the blind and very patient.
Handling: Throughout the season, Deke stayed on the whistle and responded to hand signals.
Flexibility: He worked equally well with any handler who took him on the hunt and there have been several including those with DU who he had never met.
Steadiness: Not a single break or whine in the blind on any hunt.
Delivery: A clean, soft mouth despite the bird's size. Live or dead.
Exposures: He experienced ice, different blind types, lay out coffin blinds, dog hides, and hunting from boats.
Watch: He grasped watching the sky for birds. He understood how to hide and not move while watching the sky for birds, spotting birds often before the hunters.
Scenting: Good game-finding nose in a variety of hunting environments.
Decoys: Exposure to various decoy spreads.
All in all, a good first season of accomplishments. I like to make a realistic lists of desired accomplishments for my dog's first season, realizing that our first season is really an extension of training, keeping expectations reasonable for our first hunts as we begin to transfer skills learned in training to actual hunting conditions. Despite Deke's insufficient number of birds that I would like to have picked, I consider this short list of accomplishments quite adequate, especially given the number of cold blinds he ran in the last few hunts.
One area that did prove to be a minimal challenge for young Deke was experienced on the hunt with Patrick Allen. Throughout the morning a number of birds were picked by Deke. Three repeated falls had been located in the same area. Later, another bird fell in the same direction, but not in the same spot as the previous picks. This was a blind retrieve for Deke and initially he pulled to the old fall area. Once in the area of the previous falls, a whistle stop and hand signal sent him on his way to the correct area and prompt find. Switching on doubles and handling off old falls in training exercises paid dividends. Here's how it's done the "Wildrose Way."
1. A helper is stationed across open water with several large stones and a cold game bird. Hide the bird about 20 yards up the bank's water line in cover, just where a wounded duck might swim to.
a. Experienced dogs - down wind
b. Rookies - up wind
2. Dog and handler watch across the water from the bank or standing in the shallows. Have the helper toss a stone high to make a large splash in the water to mark the fall area.
3. Handler heels the dog away a short distance to set up a training memory. Once steady and patient, send the dog.
Two options depending upon what we want to accomplish:
a. Allow the dog to get close to the old fall area and make a brief search, then cast to the correct area of the hidden bird OR
b. Line directly for the hidden bird and handle the dog away from the splash - handling off of fall area.
4. Once in the correct area, give the hunt command and hold the dog in the target area avoiding the old fall splash down.
Note: Deke did not run this type exercise more than once during a day's cyclical training and only infrequently. We do not want to dilute the dog's ability to stay on the hunt in a fall area. Whether it's a mark, memory or blind, we want diligence on the hunt with a tight search pattern, forgoing the habit of leaving the area too quickly.
This exercise can be modified for upland hunting exercises to teach handling of marks or to switch a dog from a seen bird to an unseen bird that perhaps is escaping on water. These are scenarios the hunting dog will face so prepare for them.
Good article......and I understand the whole concept. On marks I like to see a dog confident on its own independence to find the game. Using both eyes and nose. Eyes at first to mark the fall and to make it to the fall area. If the bird is not found by the eyes to switch and to start using its nose. While hunting I have learned to trust what your dog is telling you. I have seen countless times where the bird fell at point A but then fido went to A and then....hey where the heck are you going. But if the nose is working and they appear to be on the hunt I'll leave'em alone. They never cease to amaze me with their tracking and trailing ability.
Yeah, I know....that's right...if I shot better I wouldn't need to worry about it. I never said I could shoot. LOL
This lesson is for dogs already experienced in lots of marks. Also these dogs are well versed in handling.
I too have a training drill very similiar. Instead of throwing a stone I use an anchor line attached to a bumper or dokken. The dog can readily see it so you can get a good initial line in that direction. As the dog gets close I pull the other end of the line making the item disappear under the water. I let the dog get a little confused.....about the time it would take a duck to resurface in another area....I then would handle the dog to another location where I have another bumper/or dokken planted for the dog to be successful.