Oct 26 This morning was the coldest of the season. I went early hoping a few mallards would drop in (didn't happen). Around 8:30 am the geese began moving and they all seemed to want the corn first. They all flew to the far end of the field in the photo above. However, two small groups found the water setup in front of my blind tempting. The first hunt (two days ago}, I brought 2 1/2 in steel 4's.....resulting in two cripples .....which Pounce liked. This morning the 3" 2's where much more effective. This afternoon I had a phone call which resulted in a discovery that the Illinois goose limit was increased to three. For me to bag three would educate at least 30% more every time Pounce and I hunt. She seems to be quite happy with keeping the same routine.....me, too. Also, at my age, it is important to have enough energy in reserve to train Gigi and do a bunch of other things. Winter will soon be here.
            note: Gigi is making huge strides in her stand alone singles and is  beginning to realize going
                      back to the line results in another exciting retrieve. Also, during the recent sessions, her
                      on the move whistle sit demonstrates the foundation of a condition response.

Oct 17 Thursday......sunny, high in the middle 50's....trained Gigi....not Pounce 
Oct 18-19 went into full blown slacker mode......and the urge to hunt geese has all but disappeared. It use to be absolutely necessary.....not so much anymore. The mud around the pond and corn field not picked yet has shut things down. The indoor swimming pool has been used every day. Recently, I began running a trap line. Field field mice have found an easy entry into the kitchen. They like peanut butter......briefly.
Oct 20 Scouted for geese again....and about twenty geese were loafing on the pond.  Each time I scout my 
autistic granddaughter rides shotgun and we make a side-trip to Burger King. On the way back, the pond was checked....again.....and the geese were gone. Glancing back into the standing corn, a large "picker" was the reason. FINALLY, the geese have a reason to be there. They won't be back until the picking is finished which means I have a two day window to complete the blind installation. Rain tomorrow???

Oct 21 rain most of the day - it will take a few days for the geese to establish a pattern (in and out, quick, precise hunts are best)....and they usually do not come all in at once (early in the season)
Oct 22-4 Gigi continues to work on her up close mouth issues and progress is being made. The geese have
begun to show up in numbers after the corn was picked. Since the blind is over two hundred yards from a place to park the van, a small, plastic sled was used to walk in with the gun and gear. In addition, two geese are much easier to haul out (if necessary). Two days of scouting, revealed that setting up before 7:30 am should be about right. We could have been in and out a lot sooner. The first group came in low over the corn field, right out of the sun and silently. They never circled and landed about fifty yards away.....not good. So I remained hidden (blind closed). After a few minutes, they began to swim slowly toward my decoys up on the shore. Two were especially curious. No other geese showed up (which was good) and eventually they stopped about twenty yards away. It was time. The dugout door was flipped open. They all jumped and I dropped one and fanned twice on another. The first was only winged and was soon headed south toward the shoreline. Two slicing shots had no impact as he headed for the corn field. Pounce was ready and I sent her. After a few  casts, she located the goose. It was a wrestling match back into the water and then to the blind.

Soon after, another noisy group sailed right in. I was consistent...another broken wing. This one stayed in the water and went into "snake mode". I had to handle Pounce until she picked up the scent. She  finally saw it low in the water. It did not come back easy, but Pounce was persistent (again). We did not have not much time "to get out of Dodge" before more small, noisy groups began sailing right in......none the wiser.
      note: Two days after this hunt , I found out from a friend that the Illinois goose limit is three.                 
The two cripples provided proof that hunting with a trained retriever (especially since I am  79 years old) is a very good idea. Pounce was excited and effective plus good company. Even though a few geese observed her retrieves, we moved quickly afterwards with the sled. More geese kept coming in......for another day. The wait (for the corn to be picked) was a good choice.
     note: The Transit Van has had bothersome issues with traction. It has been pulled out mud several  
               times (a couple times by tow trucks that were not cheap). Two days ago, the rear tires were  
               seriously upgraded. However, this morning there was no attempt to get close to the blind in
               order to drop stuff off (rained some last night & grassy area in was wet).

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You Tube video link:

Oct 3 trained around noon....The Riverside Park DTA was not beside the river......flooded and closed. So we trained at the Kelly Meyer Fields DTA again. Pounce ran eight, fast "stand alone/send back" singles.....good exercise. Gigi continued her work on skills at the line (see yesterday's session). There was a great deal of improvement, but much more to do. In today's session, she was taking short casts back to the platform with "bumper in mouth". In addition, four short retrieves went well.
                  note: The next week will be mostly dry and cool (highs around 60°F).

Oct 1 Tuesday - radar window at noon....Pounce and Gigi trained at the Roscoe Riverside Park DTA. The lunging water area was a bit deeper than any of the training days before. However, today was a quick, fun and wet exercise for Pounce. Gigi worked on building the "place" command on and off a platform (place training). The focus was go there - "place", "sit", "fetch", "hold", "out" commands plus "here" with a few retrieves (land and water). This was fast paced, fun and rewarding. The goal is to have Gigi comfortable doing "stand alone/send back" singles. Rain began just as we finished.

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note: This afternoon, Gigi began a training session dedicated to practicing several skills in concert
with a continuation of the whistle" sit". The session featured "heel", "sit" (in combination with heeling), "here" to side sits (both sides) and "front" sits. In addition, casting to a placeboard is now at about five yards (and gradually increasing). Gigi is comfortable with remote sits on a placeboard and "here" with intermittent sits en route. By doing the above, Gigi's mouth habits have been gradually modified to NOT growling when seizing bumpers. Once the bumper is in her mouth, there are several alternatives involving me...1) here, 2) sit or 3) place. There is no correction for growling....only an immediate alternative requiring
refocused responsiveness.  

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Oct 4 Friday - 47°F at 9 am.,..time to reprogram the thermostat.....Northern Illinois Waterfowl Season
begins Oct 19th. That means there are only two weeks to place the goose blind on Thorson Pond. With 60 acres of corn nearby this year should be a winner (compared to beans). Just like clockwork, the first cold morning in October a flock of geese visited Thorson Pond to see if anything was harvested...yet.
This year it is eighty acres of corn which is much better than beans.

note: The last photo reveals a large flock exiting the southeast corner of the corn  
           field just as we arrived back at the parked van (good timing). The pond is in
           the northwest corner.

Oct 5
spent most of the day doing nothing......well
Oct 6
Sunday - day off for both dogs....Bear's game and had to repair a banister

Oct 7 Both dogs trained in the south, grassy area of the Thorson Pond DTA. Gigi watched Pounce do eight "stand alone/send back" singles. Gigi then did a very good session of the foundation of the "send back" singles. It was fast paced and exciting with the focus of being responsive. There are  several individual skills being practiced in this lesson. The most important is the extended sit before being sent (with a silent count of ten being the final part of the sequence). The one area that has taken some time to modify is her penchant to attack a bumper and "savage it". This means she tends to grab, thrash and growl every time after diving on her prey (bumper). The approach in dealing with this involves engaging (distracting) her immediately with an e-collar reinforced, refocusing "here" command (no not that .....HERE!). Her return is to the placeboard where "hold" and "out" are practiced with "specific, precise" praise. Distinguishing between "no not that......this" is now more clearly identified by keeping her engaged (emphasizing "us"). Basically, it is about being less of a wild, possessive wolf vs. being more like a responsive, focused retriever. Two important training behaviors are now being practiced. She is taking casts to the placeboard from about ten yards and  understands that "If I bring a bumper back to the placeboard, sit, hold and deliver, I will receive praise and probably do it  again."  For obvious reasons, Gigi's transition to birds will begin up close and very gradual. The use of distance to maintain responsiveness, focus and control will be extremely important. Eventually, teaching Remote Drop will be part of the process.  The first step in that process will begin soon. Right now the release command of a retrieve is "out".....taking the bumper from her. The "drop" command begins by taking a hold of a bumper rope and having the dog release the bumper...on command.....open mouth...drop....and bumper swings down freely. The concept is "the bumper is mine". The skill of willingly giving up a bird is absolutely necessary for a retriever that has a very high, manic prey drive and Gigi's is off the chart.   

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Pounce - Riverside Park DTA - Lunging Water Point Blind

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Thorson Pond - today

Oct 8 Pounce and Gigi repeated the work they did yesterday. Pounce's focus was on exercise and Gigi continued to practice her "up close" retrieving skills.
Oct 9 day off for Pounce.....more retrieving skills practice with Gigi
Oct 10-14 A great deal of rain shut things down plus the van was stuck at Thorson Pond for two days. A  major tree removal and landscaping job was completed on the home property. Ten years of neglected yard work was corrected by a landscaping crew of five. The goose hunting is on hold as the fall floods have made the Rock River bottom land corn fields a vast feeding trough, The corn around Thorson Pond is usually a target for small family groups.....but not this year.  Two of the following photos are just a fraction of all the geese feeding in low farm areas of last year's riverside corn field. High water is now moving up into corn planted this spring (up on higher ground, easy pickings and no hunters). The first three photos are the "flood geese" ......the last is the "tree machine" (edited/added later). 

Oct 25 Gigi has become antsy (keeps wanting to go outside (may be her first heat cycle?) This afternoon,
Gigi began working on extending the distance of casting to a placeboard. in addition, she will remain steady
on a placeboard line while I walk away, toss a single and return to the line to release her. Pounce had the day
off after yesterday's goose hunt. The plan is another goose hunt in the morning. (scouting photo)

note: worked on the blind early this afternoon, went back and finished during the Bears half-time

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Thorson Pond Goose Blind Photos - 2018

Oct 27 It rained again last night. Since we are not hunting Thorson Pond every day, it is perfect timing. Pounce has the day off. Gigi did  another training session (a repeat of yesterday, more practice).
                 note: The weather forecast indicates Thorson Pond may freeze up in a few weeks.
Oct 28 Pounce and I went for geese this morning because yesterday's scouting looked promising. We were setup by 7:30 am and watched geese fly high to the east and back to the roost around 11 am. There were several separate groups similar to the last photo from yesterday. After looking at the weather forecast, I went back and put a camo tarp over the blind....3" of snow would not be good.
Oct 29 All the snow melted on the driveway (about 2"). The pond will freeze over soon. Pounce had the day off. Gigi trained at the Thorson Pond DTA grassy area in the afternoon after the snow had melted. Again, the session was focused on her "stand alone/send back" skills. Each day the process reveals measurable improvement. Her steadiness at the line is very solid. Returning to the line has finally reached an understanding in terms of footwork and consistency. The sit whistle results have become very good. However, the issue that has not  changed is Gigi's brief, guttural growl when snatching a bumper off the ground. It is a bit unnerving and I am not sure of how (or whether) to deal with this.
Oct 30 The weather is not good....snow and below freezing temperatures. The pond may get hard soon.
A large box containing a Toro Snowblower was sitting in the garage. It was assembled and did a brief start up. Gigi was trained at the Thorson "Grassy" area and continued practicing the routines done on the 29th. Pounce ran eight "stand alone/send back" singles for exercise. There were geese on the pond
late in the morning. 

Oct 31 snow until noon and at least 3"...day off for Pounce...Gigi trained indoors on the pool deck and began learning the basics of pile work using a placeboard at the line and two bumpers. It was not very pretty, but a point of reference was established.

Oct 2  With an "iffy" rain forecast, a plan to squeeze in training nearby turned out to be a good choice. The Kelly Meyer Sport Complex is a ten minute drive. In a very slight mist, Pounce ran six singles in the "stand alone/send back" mode using the platform Gigi trained on yesterday. The van was parked so that Gigi could observe Pounce's work. Yesterday was the first time Gigi used this new, taller and heavier platform (see yesterday's photos). Today, she ran five short singles with returns to a sit, hold, and deliver (out) up on the platform. The improvement from the first to last was very noticeable. She was focused and responsive. The best description for these last two sessions is "the light came on".
Up until the last week or so Gigi's high and manic prey drive rendered her incapable of noticing or needing any praise. Suddenly, she likes it.
             note: Gigi's "placeboard" work is more than preparation for doing "stand alone/send back" 
                       singles. The position (on it) promotes responsiveness. Gigi is closer for better eye
                       contact and isolated in one spot (off the ground). The final nudge to using this approach
                       was the result of a YouTube video of Pat Nolan working with a younger retriever.

Oct 16 The geese never moved off Legend Lake. Gigi did another session of refocusing and improvement
was quite obvious. There were two facets to this session 1) Gigi is did many, very short retrieves (right out 
of my hand and 2) the fast paced, rewarded alternatives were done to reduceing the distractions of growling

and head shaking (no chase to amp up the event). Thse two unwanted, instinctive behaviors are not given
enough time to become self-rewarding. The premise becomes a rapidly engaged, rewarding alternative is
more effective than a distracting correction
.  Gigi's focus will be modified more effectively based on the
premise that distance erodes control. This issue must be solved before beginning pile work and running
marks. In addition, real birds will most likely be a problem (based Gigi's early puppy intros).

Oct 15 This  morning was spent filing in and repairing the ruts made by my van along the edge of the corn field just south of Thorson Pond (more to do). A larger flock of geese were loafing along the south
shoreline. Usually, by this time of the fall, the corn has been picked....not this year. Planting was delayed and now mud is holding up the harvest (goose hunting on the pond is on hold) . The plan for tomorrow is to scout first for some sort of predictable pattern. Eventually, the plan will be a sneak early and  hide in

tall corn near the shoreline.

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"this morning's setup in front of the blind"