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Thursday and Friday I worked Thor at continental shoots. He had 25 retrieves on Thursday and 60 retrieves on Friday. These shoots are not tower shoots but instead look very much like British driven bird shoots. There are plenty of marked retrieves but there are also plenty of birds that the dog does not see. Some things that we did:

1. Thor had plenty marks to work on---pheasants and ducks.
2. Friday we got to our stand early, before shooting started. We went to a stream where there were about half a dozen wounded ducks from the day before. Thor got to run down these cripples.
3. Thor is steady---at least for now. I am counting my blessings.
4. After the shooting, many use their dogs to hunt up cripples. I don't do this but Friday was an exception. Glad I did it. Thor had to dig out half a dozen birds from the thickest stuff---pheasants and ducks. Birds that I couldn't see. I watched him search for an opening in a brush pile, then pull out a cock pheasant when he could finally poke through.
5. I watched Thor push down branches and pull some out of the way in order to make an entrance to get to the bird in one brush pile.
6. Even though there were poor scenting conditions Thor's nose worked well.
7. I did watch Thor chase one cockbird that took off. He jumped for it but only got some tail feathers. Just needs a little more experience for this one.


I am very happy to have the opportunity to do this. I saw some things that we will work on---well we do have several more shoots. Overall we had a terrific two days. For the old time field trialers---This was at Spring Farm, preserve and kennels of the Schellinger family.
 

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We will be working another shoot next Sunday. I will be doing some preliminary training to mark an unseen bird by the sound of it hitting the ground. This is what may happen at these shoots. The gunners are hidden by brush, the birds are hidden by brush but shots are heard and a thump is also heard. Meanwhile the dog sees nothing.


Example, Spring Farm Peg #4 Five foot berm and tall bamboo to the right of dog and handler hides the gunners and the bird. A seasoned dog will look in the direction of shots and hear the thump of the bird hitting the ground, will then get to the bird for a retrieve.
 

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I think I will have a little fun with this, I am guessing that most do not have experience with this type of work. I will also try to get pics at the next shoot. Anyway, a word about the horn.

A horn is sounded at the end of each frame signaling all gunners to unload and shift to the next peg. While gunners shift, I release Thor. He can get a drink, poke around a bit, maybe pick up a hidden cripple, lie down. After several minutes a second horn is sounded signalling the gunners to load their guns in preparation for the new frame. No matter where he is Thor will come running back to our station and sit and immediately start scanning the sky. I am amazed at the unintentional conditioning that has taken place. It really is something to see.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
We worked a 650 bird continental shoot yesterday. Thor retrieved 45 birds. I had the opportunity to make some good observations.


1. Twice he chased flying crippled pheasants, they short-hopped a couple times. He leaped and got them.
2. I watched him circle a clump of thick bushes ten yards in diameter. He could not penetrate them, he circled attempting to enter several times.
He finally found a small opening, pushed in, and pulled out a hen mallard. This scenario was repeated a couple of times. Took several minutes. Good perseverance.
3. I watched him adjust his hold on several birds. Hmm...What was wrong with the hold he had? Well yesterday the light bulb went off in my head and that question was answered. There is a reason a dog (at least Thor) needs to get a better hold. Curious if anyone else has the answer. Watch how your dog brings the bird in after adjusting the hold. I am not telling but would like to hear from others. :wink2:
4. Thor was steady. I positioned us under a cedar tree, it was raining all day. Let me count my blessings.


Overall, good progress on this stuff. He needs more of this but I am very happy with what I see.
 

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I just noticed your question/comment on how dogs pick up birds and why the adjust their holds.
Not an expert on this by any means but I think mine will pick up from the back or adjust his hold to avoid getting spurred by a rooster.
Also sometimes when a bird is flapping its wings over his eyes he will adjust his hold.
I have noticed frequently he will set the bird down and pin it with his paw when he is adjusting his hold, interesting to watch.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I just noticed your question/comment on how dogs pick up birds and why the adjust their holds.
Not an expert on this by any means but I think mine will pick up from the back or adjust his hold to avoid getting spurred by a rooster.
Also sometimes when a bird is flapping its wings over his eyes he will adjust his hold.
I have noticed frequently he will set the bird down and pin it with his paw when he is adjusting his hold, interesting to watch.
I am no expert either but I agree with you. I think that Thor now prefers to pick even dead ones up by the back. At these shoots most birds are cripples. In fact I bought a tool to help me kill them. I use the FOWL NECKER. Age has affected my hands so I found the tool to be very helpful.

I haven't seen adjusting hold when a wing covers the eyes but maybe they haven't been completely covered. In any event I start talking to the dog so that he is directed by the sound of my voice.

Now that you mention it I have also noticed the pinning of the bird. Interesting.
 

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When Lucy picks up ducks, if they are really hissing and mad, she'll spin around and pick them up by the back. She's pretty good at it. Riot just grabs them however. Reilly also spun around to the back of the duck also. My dogs have never had pheasants.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
"My dogs have never had pheasants."


Many have shown up to our hunt tests in this situation. It was customary for our club's hunt test to do pheasants on land and ducks on water. Trouble affording pheasants lately. And our local game bird guy recently lost ALL his pheasants to disease. Anyway many dogs that hadn't ever had pheasants had a problem.
 

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winner winner chicken dinner! And yes, Lucy has had a pheasant! I introduced it to her, remember??? And the first pheasant flyer he got was with someone on this forum and because of lack fo smell Proof hunted for 2 hours. no we helped him out after an extensive hunt. Now a hen drops in the cover and he's got it figured out! Amazing how quickly they adjust to new birds.
 

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winner winner chicken dinner! And yes, Lucy has had a pheasant! I introduced it to her, remember??? And the first pheasant flyer he got was with someone on this forum and because of lack fo smell Proof hunted for 2 hours. no we helped him out after an extensive hunt. Now a hen drops in the cover and he's got it figured out! Amazing how quickly they adjust to new birds.

Ack! Thanks for doing that with her. She turned up her nose at that pheasant, it really shocked me. Every other bird of any kind she loved. Then the pheasant, wow I was not impressed. Now when I read the NRC blog, I look for where they place the hen pheasants, since they smell the least.
 

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Was fortunate to go to a pheasant shoot this past Saturday. Were they high on "dog cocaine"! Each had two piles of 20-30 birds.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
I worked Thor at a Continental Shoot this past weekend, small shoot---450 ducks. I always look to work one aspect of basic training. This time it was honoring. I shared the stand so it afforded me the opportunity to work on honoring and steadiness (OK, could have been just a little closer but hey, first time.) Thor never broke, even while the working dog retrieved a duck about 15 yards from right in front of us. I also was checking on whether or not the upland hunting affected his retrieving work. Didn't look like it.


Also, comparing Goldens' work to other retrievers---I have seen many other breeds run right over birds and it happened at this shoot too. Thor and his co-worker Golden did not.


Temperature was probably 20 deg or less at the time. I had sent Thor on a very short blind, a bird that fell just on the edge of a small stand of trees. Cold temps+dry air=bad scenting conditions. Saw it in action. Of course Thor got the bird but I can't say that once he was on top of it that he scented it immediately. Hen mallard.


All together my stand partner and I retrieved about 40 birds. OK, our dogs retrieved about 40 birds. It was a great day. In addition to having a great day we got to talk to the preserve owner and talked a little about how field trials used to be run---on salt marsh, in cranberry bogs, etc on Long Island. Again, great day.
 

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This past Sunday we did another Continental shoot. It provided more learning opportunities. Thor went into some brush and flushed out a wounded duck. The duck went out onto a frozen pond. As Thor went after it he was breaking ice. Interesting to watch. It was his first time doing this. Then later we went after a cripple in a pond, not frozen. There was a chase, as Thor got within inches the duck would dive. He finally dove after it and got the duck.



We had a good day. Too bad it was pouring rain all day but we had a good time.
 

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On Monday we had another shoot. I am very happy with Thor's progress. He has become skilled at locating birds for which he only sees a small arc of travel because of hills, ridges, and trees. He also is getting better at chasing swimming cripples. One shooter recorded Thor diving and swimming underwater to get one swimming cripple. He needs just a little more experience with this.


Small comment: It would have been nice to have trained with shackled ducks. I am a member of four retriever clubs, one for 35+ years, the others for 10 years. Nobody uses shackled ducks at their training sessions. I guess no need to, not allowed to use them at hunt tests and field trials. With two gunners and instructions to sluice every bird a dog will very rarely encounter swimming, diving cripples. However this scenario is encountered while hunting. (Not when I shoot.:grin2:)
 
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