Saturday, November 15, 2008

Marks and Blinds

AM: Oaks Area 2

CONDITIONS: Overcast, gusty winds, intermittent light rain, tornado watch in effect. Terrain was calf-high cover, standing water, with the usual uneven footing and distracting wildlife scents of the Oaks properties.

LAND SERIES: With a holding blind borrowed from Bob Hux at the SL, three blinds and a double, left to right in a 135° angle:
  • #1: 120-yard blind, OD with no marker, with line to blind thru a keyhole made by two trees, the blind just before a road crossing; additional trees flanked the trees that formed the keyhole; I couldn't place the blind on the far side of the road because it carries occasional traffic
  • #2/3 (go-bird of the double): 70-yard mark, RL/stand-in/duck (see "Using RLs with Birds" below)
  • #4: 180-yard blind, OD with no marker, with line to blind thru a keyhole made by two trees; additional trees flanked the trees that formed the keyhole, and additional trees were behind the blind
  • #2/3 (memory-bird of the double): 170-yard mark, RL/stand-in/duck
  • #5: 220-yard blind, OD/SF, with line to blind past a hedgerow on the right that acted as suction from in front and that risked the dogs wrapping around behind after passing it
NOTES ON THE MARKS: Both dogs did great. I was especially pleased with their handling of the 170-yard mark, which simulated a memory bird in an open field with a retired gun. Both dogs pinned both marks, running straight to the launched stand-ins and then executing excellent, running pick-ups of the nearby birds.

NOTES ON THE BLINDS: Laddie slipped one whistle on #1, resulting in me calling him in. After that, he lined #1 and was then responsive running the the other blinds. Lumi did not line well on the blinds, but had no slipped whistles, and displayed reasonable, though not always great, casting accuracy.

Using RLs with Birds

Alice Woodyard suggested a way to use our remote launchers (RLs) and still have the dogs retrieve birds for marks. The four RLs we own are called "LCS (Lion Country Supply) Universal Bird Launchers", with Innotek electronics. As Alice explained, they're designed for tossing a small bird for a pointing dog, not tossing a "mark" for a retriever to be seen from many yards away. They don't throw very far, but they're compact and economical. We have four of them, and until this week, we've only used them with our 2" WDs (with ropes and streamers). They didn't seem useful with anything heavier, and we didn't have any small birds in the freezer.

Alice's suggestion was to launch what I might call a "stand-in" (my term, not Alice's), something small but relatively heavy with streamers attached, so that it would land near a pre-positioned bird. In our case, I used two carriage bolts and two 1-1/2" steel washers for a total of four stand-ins. To those, per Alice's guidance, I attached streamers made of 12"x2" strips of white plastic made from grocery bags. Today, the dogs, having been previously trained with the stand-ins, marked the stand-ins, then left them behind and retrieved the nearby ducks instead.

We did the training with the stand-ins a couple of days ago, when Alice first made the suggestion to use streamers with the RLs. The training went like this for each dog:
  1. Throw a bird 20 yards, throw a stand-in 90° to the side, send dog to the bird.
  2. Throw a bird 20 yards, throw a stand-in 45° to the side, send dog to the bird.
  3. Throw a bird 20 yards, throw a stand-in next to the bird, send dog.
  4. Throw a bird 50 yards, throw a stand-in next to the bird, send dog.
  5. On easy terrain (mowed lawn), set up launchers with the stand-ins and nearby pre-positioned birds, run two singles at 50 and 70 yards.
Based on that preliminary training, both dogs seemed completely ready for today's set-up, which featured the additional elements of a 170-yard mark — longer than they's seen with the stand-ins before — higher cover that hid the launchers, the ducks, and the fallen stand-ins, and a double with go-bird and memory-bird instead of only singles.

Not only did both dogs do well in marking the streamers and yet retrieving the birds, but Lumi had two excellent, running pick-ups of the birds. That's the norm for Laddie but Lumi tends to dawdle over a pick-up. We've been working on her dawdling extensively the last few weeks so that may be the only reason today's pick-ups were so good. But I think the stand-ins may have also been a factor. Lumi ran to the stand-in, perhaps experienced a moment of disappointment that it wasn't a bird, glanced around for a bird, found it and registered excitement, and then ran to pick it up and head toward home. It seems as though that sequence may have in some way triggered better quality pick-ups than usual. It will be interesting to see whether it continues to happen, and whether it carries over when we get thrown birds at training days and events.

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