This week is an exceptionally busy week at work. The up side is that next Sunday afternoon the dogs and I are leaving for Michigan.
While there we will visit my dad, watch the Brittany National Field trial, and chase some grouse and woodcock with my best friend.
Last year we had more than enough flushes to keep is interested. Woodcock were hung up in the U.P. due to a warm front, but we still flushed several. Note I didn’t say we shot several.
While drumming counts don’t equal birds, all observers suggest we are just trailing off from the 2010 peak. As always, it is the cover that matters, and a good cover dog, and in my case, some luck with the shot.
I am crushed. I went to the hunt test on Saturday with high hopes. Nim had been doing well. He has been consistent with ‘stop to flush’ and his play with other dogs has been absent while hunting. Saturday, however was a complete meltdown. Off the line he aggressively chased the bracemate. It was hard to get him separated and hunting. Immediately into the back field he pointed a bird, his bracemate honored, the quail flushed, he chased = “pick up your dog.”
Once home, I immediately emailed off withdrawals to the up coming events on the 29th and 6th. Apparently he isn’t ready.
What is frustrating is that all the hard work, and ‘good’ performance went down the porcelain receptacle in 5 minutes. Blarg. Back to the drawing board!
Tomorrow is a hunt test, also known as the Anthracite Brittany Club‘s Brittany palooza!
We have DQ’d twice at the Senior level. Tomorrow is our third try. Each of the DQ’s were due to breaking on the shot. So most of the summer we have been working on that. We have backed up, gone back to the table, yard drills, and work on live birds in releasers (not launchers).
This evening we went out to the farm where we do our live bird training. No birds used this time, but when we are there he always expects them, so drills are fun for him. Shelby came along to hear the blank pistol some more.
This time we did a drill my friend Tim Gardner uses with his exceptional GSP Bella. He learned it from a local writer and dog trainer, Lisa Price. It goes like this. Let the dog work, quartering out in front. Then, when the dog isn’t watching you, fire the blank pistol. When he looks to you, whoa him up (if necessary), then throw the dummy or toss a bird from your bird bag. By the 3rd or 4th time, Nim was staunch at the shot. The drill reinforces the staunch at the shot, as promised. Tomorrow, we’ll see.
Today I took a break from my “Honey Do List” to take the dogs out dove hunting. It wasn’t very productive, but here in SE Pennsylvania it seems like late evening is when they are flying. About 5 pm not only the dogs were restless, I was too. So we got up out of our hide and went for a short walk down the field. We did have a pass of 5 and I managed to drop one. I attempted to swing on a second, but missed and so didn’t mark the first as well as I should have. Shelby, the new dog, didn’t appear to flinch at the shot. She was about 10 feet away when I shot.
When I gave the command “hunt dead,” both dogs swung out into the field. Nim, I suppose because he knew what was going on, raced out into a wide quartering sweep. Shelby surprised me by going directly to the bird! She didn’t pick it up, but she must have marked it pretty well.
I think she is ready for a hunt. She will certainly be ready to go to Michigan grouse hunting in October.
We have been training hard, hard in the sense that we hardly go a day when there isn’t some yard work thrown in, or a week without some bird work.
I have learned too. I have overcome my reluctance in using the ecollar around birds. Following some advice (via her writing) from Martha Greenlee I have used a very low stim just like I would use the check cord while working on birds. At that level, it is a reminder, not a correction. The only caveat is this: I do not use any high stim to ‘remind’ Nim to be steady…if he isn’t steady, he doesn’t get the bird. He is such an athlete that it is hard to intercept him after a bump or flush if he breaks, but that is why he’s dragging the check cord.
I started this ‘different’ exercise with a whoa post, so that training alone I could still have control while flushing the bird.
The other thing I do now is to make the drive over to the farm to do some training even though I don’t have birds. He expects birds there, so his drive is high and so is his attitude. To do whoa training in the yard or on the table isn’t much fun. As Martha has written elsewhere, he looks at me and I can tell from his expression he’s saying, “rats, here he comes and is gonna make me do stuff.”. At the farm, he’s hunting and having fun. He doesn’t know we are working.
We are registered for 4 hunt tests between now and October 7. Here’s hoping.