A while ago I ended the course “From Dummies to Warm Game” which I have been attending for the instructor Jens Palmqvist at “Line Up Gundogs” during a whole year. Lena was there during the course as well, almost every time, as a babysitter and sometimes bringing Tassla as honorary retriever, and, of course, she was there also the last time. (Lena also blogged about one of the occasions a while ago: Retriever Class with Seeker & Tassla).
The course has in a very pedagogical way prepared us for different situations during the hunt, and the last time was a hunting day, and Jens explained which birds you should send your dog to retrieve immediately (if they are injured), the best place for the shooter and retriever to stand, the best way to dispatching an injured bird, and a lot of other things. Even though I have been on several hunts before, I still have a lot to learn, so this exercise was really perfect. I had somebody to discuss the difficulties with all the time and also the opportunity not to send my dog sometimes, when it for example sat down half a meter away from me or wasn’t calm. (If that happened Jens sent his dog instead, so that Keen wasn’t rewarded for something that I didn’t want to reward him for.)
This day of hunting was really fantastic! The shooters were nice, the grounds were great, and there was a lot of game. The best part of it all was that we could hunt together, Lena and I. With the dogs Kat and Tassla Lena searched a field that had been cultivated for birds, and Keen retrieved the birds that were shot.
Let’s start from the beginning. Luckily, we had decided to drive down the night before, and after a number of hours in the dark and fog, we arrived at our little house. We heard the ducks “talking” not far away but saw nothing at all because of the darkness and the fog. In the morning, the fog was still there, but it disappeared a little so that we could see a bit more than the day before.
We started with a driven hunt on pheasants down in the forest. We stood in a glade, where the shooter had very little time to see the birds before they flew back into the forest again. It was a good start for Keen – he had a lot of time to wait and get calm, and then a pheasant to retrieve. Lena walked in the line, where she help to drive the game towards the shooters.
After that we stood at the edge of a small field overlooking a thicket, and then the drive came from the other end of the thicket so that pheasants and hares ran past us (we also got to see a deer). When we were hunting a month earlier, Keen retrieved a hare for the first time, and that was a little difficult for him, but this time he didn’t seem to doubt at all, and just took it very nicely right away.
Then we walked over to the next place, a huge field that had been cultivated for the birds with a high stone wall in the middle. A spaniel searched the grounds on each side of the stone wall, and a shooter also stood on each side of the wall with a retriever next to him or her/or rather a little bit behind. Lena and Tassla hunted the grounds on our side of the stone wall, and Tassla did a great job!
When we walked between the different places Keen was too energetic and jumped at my side (on leash), but as soon as the leash came off, it was as if he dressed himself in a “serious costume” and walked in a very good way and focused by my side. It was too difficult for him only once, and that was when the handler that walked behind us said “yes” to his spaniel – Keen thought that he said it to him, but he came back immediately when I recalled him. I think it was the first time he walked next to a spaniel that hunted, and at first he looked a little at that dog, but then he ignored it and focused entirely on his new favorite: the shooter 😉 because he wanted to know if there was something to retrieve.
After lunch, we went to hunt partridges in very long field that had been cultivated for the birds in the middle of the field. Two spaniels took turns to hunt, and on each side of the spaniel and that handler there were either one or two shooters and retrievers. This time Kat hunted the grounds, which she did very well. I thought that this was the best hunt during the day – it was very exciting to see how the spaniels and the shooters worked, and it was nice to talk to everyone. In addition, there were great opportunities to do a lot of heelwork, and let the dog retrieve as a reward for both steadiness and heelwork – and just walk past some birds lying there if the heelwork wasn’t so good, and then turn around and send the dog to retrieve it.
Now we are going to train even more semi-blind retrieves so that we can start on tests like mock trials and walked up field trials – both Keen and I thought that this was great! 🙂 It was also very fun to work with Lena and her spaniels, and this was exactly how a hunt for both spaniels and retrievers should be.