Afternoon....scouted again and the number of geese on Legend Lake has double what was there this morning. With the high winds and colder temperatures, they are beginning to test their genetics.The plan is to continue scouting (morning and afternoon) until a pattern develops. While at Thorson Pond, the blind was inspected as high winds have been working at it all day (no issues). The cold, blustery wind out of the southwest suggested that any training session should be brief. Therefore, five Dokken mallards and the Dokken goose were planted for the 187 yard point blind. Pounce went first and chose (of course) the Goose Dokken. After her three fast runs, Gigi ran hers.
3 months ago before willows after willows
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Upon approaching the dam which contains Thorson Pond, it became more obvious that there were five culverts to deal with. As they lined up south to north, there was more than a foot difference in height with very little water flowing through the highest one. Each one was clogged at their entrance. The clogs were mostly a mixture of fist to football size limestone rocks welded together with mud and plant roots. With the boat wedged up on the steep face of the dam, my son was able to stand on the larger limestone blocks and remove the clogs. With water now flowing through all five pipes, the level of the pond will quickly drop more than a foot and be back at a level that seemed to not impact the pines. Those that are dead or dying will be a problem as several have fallen north into the bean field. The new goose blind will not be on that side of the pond and be more difficult to conceal on the southern shoreline. The plan is to build a low profile blind in the taller grass of the above photo. The tall weeds on the other side still has ankle deep water and is very muddy.
note: Gigi, Pounce and I had the day off from training.
Oct. 7 Wednesday - sunny with a high of 70°F....today's training was altered because my ten year old autistic granddaughter came along. She is slowly learning how to be a helper. Since she is not in school this is very good situation for a different kind of learning. Learn by doing is the theme. The setup was simple. Four wingers were divided into two pods. The first session was four separate walk-ups with Gigi. That went well and the wingers were soon reloaded. An HRC line was setup and after reloading the wingers, Pounce did an HRC line double. The wingers were reloaded for the third time and Gigi then did her HRC double. The emphasis was on focus and control. Lylah's part in each time she comes along displays that she is having fun and learning how to follow directions. It has been a winning theme every day.
Oct 20 - already - Tuesday high in the 50's...scouted pond and no geese are moving...worked on the blind closing off small openings where cold wind can blow in. Also, the front of the blind was moved
back about a foot to alter the inside configuration (more head room). The weather does not look good in that there may be ice by early November. Over the last several years, goose hunting has simply not been about numbers. A few years were spectacular. However, the goal for this year is to have Pounce retrieve a few and provide Gigi with that first surprising big bird. The first hunt this year, provided a hint (or two) that I will need to keep the hunts brief and well spaced. If it weren't for the UTV and Gigi, I might NOT have built a blind or hunted the pond. A convincing justification was necessary. Trained both dogs in the yard this afternoon. The first session was an extended heeling practice with Gigi. Precise heeling practice will be a daily event for quite some time....like all winter. After Gigi's heeling, we did a challenging, six bumper lining drill. There were six Dokkens on the right and six large, white bumpers on the left. Each line was alternated and then repeated a second time. Pounce was up next and did the same drill. When she was finished with that, we did kind of a fun "can you count to four" session. The leaves in the front yard are ready for another removal and Dokkens were not easily visible. However, Pounce had no problem in picking them up. They were tossed five different times and not picked up in order. I was impressed and she was excited with the fun session.
Oct 21 Wednesday - scouted geese at 9 am. No geese on Legend Lake. A large flock was circling the picked corn field to the north. The cold weather is forcing them to move and feed more often. No geese were on Thorson Pond and freezing weather will soon be an issue. I am not handling the cold very well, but November ice may solve the pond hunting issue. The weather was pleasant and some much needed wind proofing on the blind was completed. After the blind repairs, Gigi and Pounce each ran the 187 yard point blind three times.....for exercise and fun.
note: Starting Monday, the night time temperatures will be 30°F (or less) five days in a row.
Oct 22 Thursday - It will be warm with thunderstorms ending around noon. There will be a few days before it to becomes miserable. During this brief interlude, Gigi will be working in two specific skill sets. The first will be precise heeling. The second will be mastering a drill - The KRD. The "key relationship drill" is designed to teach five different blind concepts which are "wide of the fall",
"thru the fall", "under the arc", "tight behind the gun" and "wide of the gun". In the process of running this drill, the focus will be on lining, whistle sits and casting. Responsiveness is the key to success and the setup will be taught in gradual stages by varying the closeness of the handler. Moving up increases responsiveness which promotes understanding the expectations of the moment....in theory.
note: The distance is 85 yards for two reasons - more control and less walking.
Initially, the mark will be thrown and picked up by Gigi (toss and walk back to the line
mode) followed by walking out a bit to run each "blind" (left to right/less distance).
note: Gigi has already seen the mechanics of this drill (September 2020). Therefore, today's
training will focus on practice and precise repetitions.
note: There is quite a bit of walking to set up this session. Therefore, Gigi will be walking
with me practicing her heeling and OB skills while setting things up. That went well.
Each of the five blinds were run right to left by walking up about half way and then
moving in an arc. Gigi lined the first and handled without any confusion on the other
four. Whistle sits are not prompt. Therefore, we need to work on that......again.
note: When planning this setup, the amount of walking was not going to make its easy.
However, since Pounce would need a different setup, it suddenly became easier.
When Gigi was finished, Pounce ran five "stand alone/send back" singles from the
positions of each black blind stake used during Gigi's setup. It was simple to throw
five very good singles for Pounce and pick up all five black stakes in the process.
There was some time left for the afternoon, therefore Pounce and Gigi ran the 197 yard point blind that they have both run before. Pounce became distracted by the light colored playground "stuff" in the background and she had to be handled. She has run this blind many times in the last three years. However, this is the first year that Gigi has run it. She was very fast and accurate.
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Oct. 8 Thursday - sunny with a high of 69°F - day off for Pounce & Gigi...Today is perfect for building the goose blind. The plan is to rough in the shoreline platform. The metal, folding frame that was designed several years ago is still in good shape and will be mounted on the platform. The "camo" covering will be a new design made from raffia panels with an insulated backing made for my duck boat. There is way more than enough to cover this one man, shore blind. With the entire framework temporarily erected in the front yard, the "camo" panels will be fitted tomorrow day and wood frame will be roughed out. Today the new food for Gigi arrived. She has continued to have bile issues and I decided to switch her to the ProPlan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice.
Oct 16 Decide which decoys will work best for this setup. In and out must be a quick operation.
Since this year's crop adjacent to the pond is beans, the pond will be more of a loafing area. It is
necessary to scout regularly and hunt at well spaced intervals. "Getting out of dodge" quickly is done with the UTV. Any geese that end up there on opening day will have been scattered by hunters west of the area and closer to the Rock River.....and already "spooked". Therefore, opening day will be nothing more than drive-by scouting. It is best to pick mid-week times when late morning loafers show up. Being patient is the key to success. Early on, larger groups are given a pass (not shot at). Later on when close to freezing over it is "takem" when you can.
In the afternoon, a quick drive up into Wisconsin was done just to be proactive. Gigi had two months of training with a Pro in March and April. In addition, we have done many HRC line setps with a shotgun using primer loads. I found an old, half full box of Days End Popper loads that are very loud. Also, there were several steel trap loads for more noise. Starting at 100 yards, Gigi was running "stand alone/send back" singles with me throwing and shooting. There were no issues except she broke on the first three.....which was OK. As I got closer, she was a bit more focused and steady. The trap loads were loud. Gigi is "good to go" and wanting more. Checking this out again was important because she will be in the goose blind right next to me....very soon.
Oct 17 Well, it was the "Opener". Illinois duck & goose season opened this morning. In addition, the goose blind on Thorson Pond was ready. However, experience gained by systematic scouting has resulted in sleeping in. About a mile east of Thorson Pond is Legend Lake. Until they show up there, the use of Thorson Pond is relegated to nothing more than scenic views and/or retriever training. The geese tend to spend the summer working up and down the Rock River which is several miles west. When the new crop of young geese get their flight wings prepared, they start moving farther from the river. They are now only a short flight to the goose pond blind. Scouting will let me know when to setup. Until then.....we will simply train (and scout).
note: The following photo is from a scouting trip last season....too many.
Oct 24 Saturday cold, 32°F at sunrise. No geese as expected from yesterday's scouting. Therefore,
we will train and forget about geese. (colder Sunday & Monday with freezing conditions lurking). At
2 pm there was very little wind, sunny and in the middle 40's. Gigi repeated the Thursday KRD with
each blind run at about 1/2 the total distance. Moving up made the blinds seem farther apart with less distractions. After Gigi's session, Pounce ran six "stand alone/send back" singles from the orange
stakes. Using the setup in this manner made is less work for my 80 year old knees. Then we moved to
the soccer field. Gigi did a fast paced lining and whistle sit drill (good practice session).
note: While setting up the KRD, Gigi walked at heel the entire time. This winter doing a
lot of heeling will be a regular routine and better use of my time.
Oct. 10-11 Saturday & Sunday - Saturday, I organized the new blind materials and loaded everything into the van. Sunday, it was soon obvious that moving the blind to a different spot on the pond was more challenging than it looked. To make on site fabrication easier, a battery operated saw was purchased. Since I already had two batteries for a Black & Decker drill, the saw was not expensive.
On Sunday, Lylah (autistic granddaughter) went along to observe. While she sat in the shade of the van, several 2X4's were measured and cut. Many screws later, the difficult part of the construction was completed (main platform). It will be covered with plywood and carpeted. I decided enough was enough (out of gas) and the five minute trip home was a good thing. It is supposed to rain in the morning which will give me more time to recuperate. Loosing about thirty pounds could make a difference. Both dogs had a couple of days off and Gigi's food conversion is proceeding without any issues.
Oct 13 another cool, pleasant day......The work was challenging....gotta loose some weight. Did some labor in the morning and afternoon. Carpet was installed on the permanently "planted" platform and mounting the metal blind frame was almost finished. The front of the blind has to be re-designed and will be completed tomorrow. That will not take long and then the "camo"
cover will be installed. The plan is to finish it tomorrow.....if my legs don't say "No!".
Oct 1 Thursday - around noon...high in the middle 50's...NW wind 12 mph...trained at the Riverside Park DTA
Introduced a slight variation of the Kwick Pivot Casting Drill to Gigi. Next up was a set of blinds at the Harrison Road DTA. The plan was to get a read on Gigi's blind skills. It was quick conclusion that her memory skills are a problem. The six blinds that were setup ran to the north. The point blind that she crushed weeks ago was on the same general direction (north) and keeping her on line with different blinds proved almost futile. Her performance was influenced by a drive to go where she had been before. I did not "handle" the situation very well. However, I did decide to not run Pounce on any blinds. Then a quick drive to the Four Lakes DTA had Pounce and Gigi running some "stand alone/send back", inline singles in heavy cover. Pounce was very good and Gigi was even better. Her visual acuity and excellent memory suggests that each setup in any sequence should be in areas we have NOT run any blinds before. The plan includes reviewing Danny Farmer's Approach to Blinds. In addition, Gigi will soon be running very simple KRD's regularly with no visual "targets".
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Oct 31 Saturday - The forecast was much colder and very windy. It was a good day to sleep in. There is a huge warm up beginning in a few days. Scouting revealed plenty of new movement with two very close corn fields just picked. The mild weather streak will continue well into November and delay any freezing of the goose pond. This afternoon, Gigi will have another session of goose retrieving. The focus will be on proper, controlled fun (responsiveness). It will not include head shaking, thrashing, feather pulling or body slams......theoretically. In order to enhance the retrieve, reducing the moving parts of a large goose being shaken (wings, head/neck and legs) must be done. By fastening "everything" tightly to a large goose's body with black Vet Wrap, the flopping body extremities that tend to amp her excitement level will no longer be a nuisance. Gigi does not need much to push her over the top and "loose it". We will work on this until Gigi can competently perform walking and swimming fetches of a "calm bodied", dead goose. She will not be in my goose blind until this is down pat. This is why I have two retrievers. Being fully prepared is cool!
Oct 23 Friday....more rain until noon and colder....not going goose hunting.....scouted and saw zero geese??? It is 43°F and feels like 25°F with 16 mph winds out of the NNW.....not!! going to train
outdoors. However, the indoor swimming pool area is heated with a deck around it that is wide enough to practice heeling. Gigi will be doing heeling "in her sleep" by the time springs shows up. .
Oct 14 Wednesday...With weather in the 60's, it was a pleasant day to finish off the blind.
Gigi and Pounce came along to keep me company. The plan was to work on an issue that
lately has become a problem for Gigi. When we arrive "anywhere", Gigi will become noisy because she loves the action. Well, there will be regular instances where she won't be doing anything....like today. Right in front of her, she can only watch the old man work. Within five minutes, she had settled into a quiet time and made no sounds (nothing for the next two plus hours). The blind was completed in solitude. In addition, there was enough time left to exercise Pounce and Gigi. The place they seem to get the most fun exercise is rapid fire, take turn retrieves from the fast current on a bend in the Rock River. Today was no exception. The resulting photos always seem to capture a few entertaining moments. Today it was Gigi's moving area of the fall.
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Oct 30 Friday...These first two geese served to aid in teaching Gigi to retrieve a large bird. She had
no trouble with the Dokken Goose, but it has no feathers and is very firm. Open wide is about all it taught. During the mallard portion of the force fetch process with Gigi, she was very, very aggressive. Ducks are no longer an issue. However, assuming that a real`goose would not be a problem would have been naive. Therefore, yesterday's two BIG geese were used to work through this probable issue with Gigi. The first phase was best described by rip, shred, shake, toss and spit out feathers. Being prepared and expecting just that made for an interesting session. The planned wearing of a pinch collar was the equalizer (just barely). After scattering lots of feathers in the front yard and wearing me out, she began to realize (somewhat) the expectations. It was not a brief session. Finally, she held, heeled and sat well enough to prove it with a photo. However, her body language suggests this issue is not over.
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I purchased my Illinois Super Senior Sportsman Combo Hunt and Fish License this week - $2.
And the Super Senior Habitat, State Waterfowl Stamp and HIP Certification were free.
Oct. 9 Friday - warmer...The plan is to haul all the parts for the Thorson Pond Goose blind into the front yard and make a few modifications. Tomorrow it will be moved to the south bank for the soon to open Illinois goose season. The weather this week is perfect for the move...not so much for goose movement.
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Oct 25 Sunday scouted for geese (morning)....nope...day off - slight amount of snow in the morning and lawn needed mowing plus there were a lot of leaves dragged to the woods
Oct 26 Monday scouted - no geese (again) day off for all...except Gigi continues to work on her heeling
Oct 27 Tuesday warmer & no geese on scouting trip...the next 12 day forecasts are outstanding with 40's and 50's for highs...Gigi did her daily heeling sessions (three)
Oct 28 Wednesday - morning...scouted for geese...In the afternoon, there was a change in plans. Gigi did a very rigorous, three pile lining and handling drill in the grassy DTA of Thorson Pond. The focus was on whistle sits and taking correct casts (backs vs. angle backs). Pounce ran a point blind that she had done a few years ago.....like it was yesterday. Mostly, it ended up being exercise.
Oct 29 Thursday - After yesterday's excellent scouting information, Pounce and I went goose hunting this morning. The weather has been too nice plus the bean field has not been inviting. The geese have been satisfied with the warm weather and grass. In addition, the nearby corn fields were not picked. So it has been mostly scouting and waiting. It got a bit cooler and suddenly the bean field must have been more important. Yesterday's scouting revealed that two groups of geese were interested.
The Rest of the Story
Pounce and I were up early this morning to greet them. The UTV has been loaded and ready. It was important to arrive early and be ready. We were set up and in the blind by 7:30 am. The complication of today's hunt was prominent. It would be the first time that I would be shooting left-handed. My 80 year old right shoulder is "fried". So, I have been practicing mounting and even shot a few times. It was just about enough to make me wonder. So....there was plenty of time to further analyze the position of the gun relative to dug-out, flip door in my blind. By having the shotgun already balanced on the top rail, the gun was almost in a shooting position. The scary part was that the first shot was going to be an experiment. However, it felt right and the brief practice seemed to make it doable and I relaxed a bit.
Suddenly, about ten geese splashed down right front of the decoys. They made no noise....not one call. Surprisingly, my gun was pointed exactly in their direction. As I pushed the shooting door open, they jumped and I shot. Dang!!!! One fell...so I picked out another and promptly fanned. I did not care about missing the second. Pounce had a goose and I had discovered that being 80 years old and shooting in an unfamiliar manner no longer seemed impossible.
After that first round, there was some time to settle my nerves some. Frankly, I was a bit more relaxed about the idea after doing all the work on a blind and actually being able to use it seemed too easy. It was not long before the second group (that I saw when scouting the day before) dropped right down in directly in front of me......again without making any noise.
I sat and watched them for a bit and ran the gun mounting routine (that worked before) over in my mind. They jumped when the door flipped open and one was dropped after hanging briefly to decide which way to go. Adrenaline has a tendency to make you rush the second shot and I had a lot of time to pick out another goose. I rushed it! Pounce had a second goose to retrieve. The daily goose limit in Illinois is three. However, we loaded up the UTV and went home.
A single and another small bunch wanted in, but we were finished. Getting "Out of Dodge" is an excellent technique to avoid educating the next groups. Scouting will be on the agenda for the next couple of days. Lefty needs a break.
It is about a ten minute drive to the Rockton Road DTA (refer to September 13th, 15th &16th journal entries). This is large area which means plenty of space to run different setups. Pounce ran six inline singles using the "stand alone/send back" mode. Gigi then did her set of six in a line farther to the north and longer so as to not have any old falls from Pounce's set to deal with. Both were sharp, marked well and will sleep soundly tonight.
note: Six inline singles are thrown alternating sides of the line.
Oct 4 Sunday high in the 50's with Monday-Friday to be warmer. Around noon, Gigi did a repeat of the Kwick Pivot Casting Drill drill previously run on Oct. 1st (more precise practice) and then repeated the Farmer blind intro in a different area of the Riverside Park DTA. Both sessions went well. The blind setup was only three blinds this time. Gigi had no problem sitting and taking casts as I followed her (just a bit). After a short drive to the Thorson Pond DTA, the pond was not going to be used for training. There were about a dozen geese loafing on the pond and I decided to leave them alone. It is a five minute drive to the Rockton Road DTA and a steep hillside was used to teach Gigi how to deal with lining at an angle up a slope. Most dogs tend to square the incline and this throws them offline. Gigi must be the exception because she was lining on every even send as the distance was stretched. Pounce ran the line several times and stretched the distance.
When finished, a quick pass by Thorson Pond revealed the area had been mowed which flushed off the geese. Therefore, Gigi did several extended sets of two short marks using remote wingers off an HRC line with a lot of waiting while goose calling was done. Primer loads were fired (wingers and a shotgun) and Gigi had to remain in a dog hide as the "long wait" technique was applied. She does not like to wait.....so we sat and did nothing really well. Persistence is useful and eventually the idea that she was not going to do anything unless it was on my terms began to sink in. I went into "sloth mode" and stayed there to the very end. The question became "How slow can you go?". The answer was, "I have all afternoon." Conditioning a fast dog slowly is easier when you are training alone.
the front section will be rotated up about 18"
Oct 18 Sunday...9 am...windy with rain in the low 40's...scout geese around noon and watch football
Oct 19 Monday - scouting report was positive....left about 30 minutes later than planned....one small
group had already splashed. Then another wanted in before Pounce and I were ready. After our late arrival, we sat there for two more hours. The cold northeast wind was relentless. The blind, UTV and equipment worked well. My timing left a lot to be desired. However, this first hunt was more of a trial run and not much needs changing. The UTV/trailer combination was almost perfect. In and back out was efficient. The best idea of today was my decision to wear chest high, breathable waders. They were very warm and comfortable. Last spring, the Janesville, Wisconsin Farm & Fleet served as an outlet store and sold a large quantity of hunting clothes. Most of it was 75% off. I have enough to last me the rest of my life. note: The view from the blind was cool.
Oct 15 Thursday - day off for Pounce & Gigi....A suggestion from the Goose Forum resulted in adding more cover to the blind so that it did not look like a box. Several willows were cut to make it more natural and the darker shaded raffia "camo" was spray painted to blend in better. The position for the blind was selected in July when the tall, shoreline weeds were "whacked".
note: The willows were planted in 12" holes made by driving a
round post into the ground with a small sledge hammer.
Oct 12 Monday...With rain in the morning, driving to the blind sight may not be possible. With that side of the pond mowed regularly cutting up a lawn like shoreline would be the result. The UTV may prove to be necessary because the blind must be ready by Saturday. On hunting days, the UTV will be used. With a radar window in the afternoon, Gigi and Pounce did some lining drills in the yard. Gigi went first and did an outstanding job on the Split Casting/Handling Drill. Pounce worked a Seven Bumper Lining Drill once to the right and then the left. The equipment needed to finish the goose blind is in the van.
Oct 13 Tuesday - high of 69°F...late morning, pleasant weather - worked on the blind platform...It is finished and I am finding out that 80 year old bodies need frequent breaks between brief efforts...back this afternoon to install the carpet and at least mount the blind frame. Pounce and Gigj were in the training van and had a good view of the work. The van door was open and Gigi could see everything.
By design, this was a training session. She has a tendency be noisy. With nothing happening, It began
to sink in that nothing WAS going to happen. This is now the "Do Nothing Drill." After the construction site was tidied up a bit, Gigi and Pounce were quickly taken to the line of the long Thorson Pond pattern blind. Gigi went first and picked up the Dokken goose....then Pounce picked up the Dokken mallard.
Oct 2 cool and windy with some rain - day off after Gigi was physically pushed yesterday
Oct 3 around noon there was a "radar window" - After a short drive to Riverside Park, Gigi ran a set of cold blinds using Farmer's initial approach to running blinds (not a lot of cover,
follow the dog out and take the time to settle before the each cast). On the first one, she took an initial line to one of the blinds. I did not care which one it was. We got there without much of a problem. She responded well to the whistle and sat for the each cast. I had not planned on running all four, but did so because she was responding well. Good start!
note: When following her out I ended up about half-way to the first blind and did
not need to go that far as we progressed.
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Oct. 5 Monday and warmer......in fact the next several days are exceptional training weather
Trained in the afternoon - Gigi did another session of blinds in a freshly picked bean field. This session did not go as well as the first two in grassy areas. Moving up closer made a difference, but not much. There was a 20+ mph gusty wind factor that may have been some of the issue. The other factor I failed to recognize was this bean field had a great deal of fresh goose poop and feathers (duh). After, the transition session, an HRC line setup with two wingers was attempted. She was wired from the blind session and after slowing way down.....with not much improvement, I decided to just call it one of those days. She was definitely out of character. My second thought was she has not had a heat cycle and will be two years old December 2nd.
Oct. 6 Tuesday...The high will be in the low 70's. This was a perfect weather day to work on a very important project. The overflow pipes on Thorson Pond are clogged which has raised the level of Thorson Pond to the point of flooding the north shoreline. The result of the higher water table is that about one-third of the tall, mature pine trees on the that side are dead and/or dying. The owner has given permission to see if my son and I can clean out the debris to reduce the water level. Using an aluminum boat....today will prove interesting.
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