July 21 - Thursday...With a high in the upper 80's, there will be no Thursday afternoon group training session. Therefore, Pounce and Gigi will train in the early morning. The forecast for Pounce's Saturday HRC hunt test in Iowa is the upper 90's. The silver sun blankets will be a game changer.

                             next six day schedule  & weather...every morning = cool temperatures
July 13..Wednesday - day off for Pounce and Gigi...I worked on constructing a PVC frame for draping reflective, silver mesh blankets. They create the similar cooler effects of parking in the shade. July and August can be very difficult to keep a retriever comfortable in the afternoon heat. Pounce's next several HRC hunt tests will be easier. Gigi (along for the ride) and Pounce will have a one gallon milk carton of ice in their crates to snuggle with.
July 14...Thursday - up early to train at the Stoughton DTA. Pounce and Gigi practiced the seven bumper lining drill on the northwest pond. The shoreline had an ideal structure and they both did well. This drill
accomplishes several concepts when done correctly. They are 1) taking a line into water, 2) carrying that line, 3) when reaching land it is necessary to "to get back in in the water". The last component tends to crease the issue of cheating water returns (with a lot  practice and habit forming "reps"

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This afternoon, Pounce attended a group training session with Pro Corey Zandoanai at the Harrison Road DTA. I arrived early (which is out of character for me) and found a good place to park in the shade. A short nap seemed reasonable. The next thing I found out was about twenty dogs were already on the order list. Pounce eventually ran a triple with two blinds (with another gunner...Corey...shooting at the HRC line). Pounce was steady and not phased by extra the action. The recent rigorous practices have strengthened her composure. Two blinds were planted in the shadows of large trees and practicing with my golf range finder made seeing and relocating them much easier. Continuous, correct practice is paying off.
July 27...Wednesday...cool with a chance for rain in the morning...it did not...Therefore, Pounce and Gigi trained in the Thorson Pond DTA eastern grassy area. The first setup was another HRC line practice. Both did the "shoot the blinds" triple...twice and are very in tune with the expectations at the line. Easy morning regular practice is a good thing. This afternoon is the well attended (many retrievers) - monthly, training session sponsored by the Madison Retriever Club at the W-Property and run by Pro Corey Zandonai.  Pounce and I are just too tired to do three straight days of group training.

July 28...Thursday...This morning we will be taking some much needed time off that normally would be spent training. The afternoon group training session at Harrison Road will have decent weather for a change. Pounce ran the triple with a blind. There was some question about her not seeing the middle mark. Just in case that mark was then selected to be last. After lining her up she took of at full speed and line it. Then again, she will take any initial line I put her on. However, the mark was so clean it was difficult to say she did not see it. Gigi attempted to run later. Her walk to the starting line on lead was out of control. I thought we had made headway on this issue. After being sent, she ran "helter skelter" and did not want to be picked up. It was kind of a surprise...then again maybe not. Her memory when marking is usually right on. Once she did not find the first one, she lost all focus, control and responsiveness. In hindsight, when Gigi "lost it" at the line, I should have picked her up immediately.  
July 29.....Friday....perfect weather for training. However, the day was better served with some down time. Gigi will begin doing several days (maybe weeks) back in the yard. Pounce will continue to train for HRC tests with the next one in about two weeks. 
July 30...Saturday...another good day for training...around noon we took the hour drive north to train in the Stoughton property. No one was there and soon found a large shady area to park in. From this cool place, land and water setups could be presented. The first setup was an HRC line triple and Pounce ran it cleanly (good girl). Gigi was up next and did not mark the land setup well at all. The marks were run as singles and for some reason her marking has suddenly  (in the last week) become a scatter brain, wild issue (not sure why). Since she will not be running any tests until next year, the present plan is to give her some time off and run this sudden change in character by my Vet. Unfortunately, there was an expensive issue with my Original Gunners up winger. I did not notice the winger was on a slight, downhill spot. When launched, it tipped over and shattered the plastic container of my Dogtra Remote Receiver. Hopefully, a new plastic

case with screws can be purchased separately. After the land setup, both dogs ran a set of three, fairly long water singles. These were done in the "stand alone/send back" format and both did well.

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The plan for the rest of the day was the Thursday evening training group. Got there early (which I can't do most of the time). No one showed (cancelled or another place ?). Therefore, Pounce and Gigi did a setup of four blinds. In addition, I needed practice using my "golf range finder". I can't see the blind markers with one eye (other eye is all but useless). Now I can locate the small, orange ribbons used for blinds. Pounce ran first and did really well. Gigi was up next and does not have near the experience that Pounce has. However, she takes strong initial lines and carries them which results in fewer handles to finish. Near the end she tends to drift into self-hunting. More practice will clean that up. The large "training log" provided a leap to start all four blinds. It did not seem to bother them (they have seen it before). The van was kept parked in the shade. It was a good day training alone. The only issues are mileage and gas expense (150 miles seems about right for today and 100 miles yesterday).   

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July 22...Friday.....in the 80's with a good breeze...trained late morning at the Harrison Road DTA. Pounce was first and ran three long blinds so that I could practice with the Range Finder. That went well. Then we moved to the shade. Pounce and Gigi each did two HRC walk-ups. A good breeze (in the shade) is very cool. The rest of the day was spent cleaning out the van and getting ready for tomorrow's hunt test in Iowa.
July 23...Saturday...It was dark asI left at 3 am in the morning and soon was engaged with several different storm cells. I spent about thirty minutes under a bridge to avoid the obvious and drove slowly quite a bit. After that, the next stop was supposed to be Mcausland, Iowa. A detour was not easy to work around, but happened to notice a small white sign that said "Finished A". That was us! We parked and then was asked if we had checked in at headquarters. Since I did not....that issue was eventually settled via the phone. Then it began to warm up with no shade park in and I am "sweating bullets". Two battery powered fans help.....some.

Fast forward a few hours and finally Pounce goes to the line. We spent a lot of time on this one issue and sat really well. Last test it was really bad. So, suddenly, I am feeling very confidant. On the other side of a small, maybe sixty yards long pot hole that is maybe of twenty yards wide, three mallards are winger launched and shot....close. Then a blind is planted maybe 40 yard away on the other side of the shallow pond.

The marks are picked up and Pounce is sent for the blind....probably with too much emphasis on "Back!  She disappeared in the tall cover as the whistles received very little response. Much of the time she was out of sight and just hunting. So of course, we are dropped from the test, but the good news(?) we could run the land later (someone said).


Did I mention it is hot and I am nearly into the early stages of a heat stroke? The answer was clear. At my age, heat issues should not be ignored. The two+ hour drive home was OK because the air-conditioner worked overtime. One real cool, side issue from the night before was that my wife had asked, "Why don't you leave Gigi at home?" I thought, she is black and will not be doing anything but laying in a crate getting hot for no reason at all. 
 

Later today, I called a Pro friend and asked him, "How long does it take before you stop making mistakes
in a test?" His answer was not exactly reassuring. So.... the plan (before running the next test) will be to look more for what could go wrong (here or there) and ways to avoid an issue (or two)? "A wing and a prayer" does not seem to be working. Or probably more apt...."The harder I work...the more behinder I get." One way to avoid mistakes is to not do anything.     note: 21 days until the next test.
July 24 - Sunday..high for today was 77°F..."There will be no rest for the wicked." (the except for today).  Training will take the edge off yesterday....starting on Monday. There are a few issues to correct with my hunt test blind skills. Most of all, I need to practice running Pounce in blinds where there is more cover. Distance is not an issue with most HRC blinds.....the disappearing dog is. Yesterday was mostly about needing to blow whistles before she was out of sight. She was not very responsive to the whistles provided (they were more like background noise). The hunting "on her own" was frustrating. I needed to slow down and let her settle after each sit whistle. The mistake was giving a literal cast up close and getting a fast back which carried her beyond the short blind. If the first cast had been an over, she would have been downwind of the scent cone and home free. There was no "looking or waiting" for the next casts after that. The good news is she is a quick learner and there are three weeks before the next test to make sure this does not happen again.  More cover, less distance and better skill sets (for both of us) will be what each training session will build upon. Obviously, the three factors of responsiveness, focus and control were simply not in balance with heavy cover...yet. In the previous training session with Pro Corey Zandonai, he pointed out that my arm positions for casts were "sloppy" (not his exact words, but probably more accurately blunt). Tomorrow, we will train. Today, I went looking for the type of cover required. The best place was only a ten minute drive. I will be able to watch, stop and cast her from up on a small rise. We will need to be able to see each other and have a better focus in the yard.....first. For more work, Bong Recreational Area is about an hour drive and has large sections of differing cover to train in. Tomorrow, the high will be in the middle 70's....perfect. Yard work will be first and we will not rush into the tall grass sessions. In addition, I need to focus on arm positions when casting (go back to my mirror and observe). This week there will be regular HRC line setups (training alone) and maybe two evening group sessions.  The next two months will require a lot of "heavy lifting".
July 25 - Monday - in the 60's....perfect....trained Pounce in the morning. The first setup was a lining and casting drill. She seemed bored and did not train well....so we quit. Moving to an area with tall cover, she ran two blinds and did both without any issues. Later in the morning, Gigi did the HRC shoot the triples setup left to right and right to left. Using dark fence posts, she had no problem seeing then and was very fast and accurate. In addition, Gigi's line manners continue to improve. This drill is more about being under control, focusedand quiet.  It was a very good session for us. This week will be a challenge. Tuesday afternoon will be a group training session with Pro Corey Zandonai at the Harrison Road DTA.  Wednesday. there is a late afternoon/early evening training session sponsored by the Madison Retriever Club (again run by Pro Corey Zandonai) at the W-Property. Lastly, there is the Thursday afternoon training group (maybe). I am fairly certain we will not train on Friday. 

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July 31...Sunday...a good day to rest...Pounce's next HRC Finished test is Saturday, August 13th.

Harrison Road DTA

July 7...Thursday...Pounce - trained mid-morning at Stoughton. Pounce ran six singles and a blind across the southeast pond. The singles were done as "stand alone/send backs" using the UTV to avoid walking. That went well. After driving home (about 50 miles), a call was made to see if by chance the Thursday, late afternoon training group might be meeting. The recent warm weather and/or rain has cancelled several sessions.....not today's. Therefore, Pounce went and ran three HTC singles with a diversion (all mallards) and two blinds (bumpers). The singles were run by coming to the line three different times. Once again I was reminded that I need to take my time to locate the blind placement with binoculars from now on. I think I know where it is and that is proving to be not good enough. One eye works just fine. The other is clueless. Gigi sat near the line for quite awhile watching (while wearing a pinch collar). Doing nothing once-in-awhile tends to created a different perspective. Eventually, she relaxed and found out having no choices (but one) means just that. Then she began to relax and finally  observe. The following photos are from Pounce's morning UTV singles session at Stoughton. Without the UTV, these training alone sessions do not happen.

It has been almost a year since Pounce had cancer surgery. There was a small, black scab like "thing" on the back of her neck. It was just a hint of the problem. After the Vet surgically removed about a six inch "string" of malignant "stuff", she was fairly confident that everything had been excised. So far it looks great. Her next HRC Finished test is July 23rd.

July 17...Sunday- Pounce ran an HRC line triple at the Harrison Road DTA with black & white bumpers. There are now three wingers in the van (forgot two yesterday). Then after running it, the order of the marks was reversed. The purpose of the training session was to practice the HRCH line skill set (pump shotgun action and movements plus being steady). Late in the afternoon, Gigi ran the Kwick Lining & Handling Drill
(see diagram/photo in the July 15th journal entry). 

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Pounce, Gigi and I left the driveway at about 5 am. The sun was not up enough to make driving difficult.  We stopped to make sure there was gas for the UTV and filled up. The gate to the Stoughton training area
was locked. That is a good thing. First one to be there picks where to train. No one showed up. Parking in the shade makes summer training easier and there was a perfect spot for that. By the time the HRC running line was set up along with three wingers in the field it was 6:30 am.  Three mallards were soon loaded into wingers and three "longish" blinds would be planted later. Pounce ran the triple marking setup first. Gigi then ran three singles. Ponce ran the triple a second time reversing the order and then ran three blinds. The last session was to have Gigi make attempts at running the three blinds. The water blinds were longer than any she had run before. However, the difficulty was reduced by using white stakes. The parking spot was shady all morning and that made loading much cooler. We were back home about 11:30 am and it was getting hotter by the minute. It is now 5 pm and neither dog has moved since we got back home. I expect in the next half hour or so both will be "asking" for diner. It should noted that there is no way I could have trained both dogs today without my UTV. The exercise evidently makes being old not such a big deal. Up early tomorrow with a much shorter drive.

similar setup

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July 3...Sunday...high in the 80's...day off from training (Pounce & Gigi)

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July 26...Tuesday....cool morning and in the 70's...Gigi practiced the HRC line drill three times and this included "from the van" heeling. Shotgun primers and  "locating" each target is becoming a solid routine. She is more into it now and definitely not as "over the top" excited as she use to be. Gun movement was left to right, reversed then changed the third time. The third was left to far right and then back to the middle. She has the paying attention to the gunner skill "down pat" (no longer overwhelmed).

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July 15...Friday - cool, low 70's with rain...good timing...day off from training and no driving. So as to polish Gigi's handling skills at a distance, the plan is to practice closer using the Mini-Handling Drill (three
times per week). Gradually, the angles will appear to be be "tightened" by increasing the vertical distance while moving the middle pile "back" beyond two side piles (gradually) and finally moving the running line back farther (more distance). Pounce will review this once a week. 

July 1...Friday...high of 83°F...day off for Gigi...The plan for her has changed. Since she will not be running any hunt tests until spring, Gigi will be practicing brief, low key skill exercises every other day this month (starting on Monday).  note: changed Gigi's feeding routine...for now....more food less work
Pounce did a fast paced lining, whistle sits and casting drill at the Thorson Pond DTA (grassy area north)

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July 2...Saturday (morning) - Gigi off...Pounce - group training with Pro Corey Zandonai at the Harrison Road DTA. This training area has a great deal of open terrain with plenty of shade. The running line and holding blinds were completely in the shade. The setup was an HRC line Finished "test" - triple mallards with two blinds. Corey's recent advice has been very helpful. Pounce has an HRC Finished on July 23. 

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July 18 - Monday...cool in the morning with a high of 88°F....things change...I had three mallards thawed out and a plan for this morning's training session. After mulling things over, taking a day off seemed like a reasonable choice. Pounce and Gigi trained well yesterday and the next two days will be more about two appointments. Monday - Doctor's at 1 pm.....Tuesday - Hearing Specialist at 1:30 pm....I did a Google Map search and using the "print screen" function to create a diagram/sketch indicating the placement of three wingers and flipping two HRC running lines. Setting up will be fast and easy because moving "things" will not take long (UTV). There is a lot of "stuff" crammed into this week (appointments, training with a Pro, a group training session and Pounce's HRC Finished test on Saturday}. note to self - clean van "clutter"

July 12 - Tuesday...left early in the morning for the W-Property....Pounce and Gigi worked on a water version of the "Seven Bumper Lining Drill". Pounce went first and did OK. It has been awhile and she wanted to run the bank on the way back. That was why we were working this drill. It took some time to refresh the skill sets. It was a good start. Gigi was next. She is very good at this drill on land. She has done an easier water version with not much of an angle across Thorson Pond. Today the angles and tightness of the small pond were simply too much. So after hacking our way through the process, I decided to back up some do a more gradual approach. We did take time to do the drill on land with tight angles a bit later and she was flashy perfect. However, with a larger pond there is more time to focus on the expectations. Therefore, we will go back and do a more gradual angle increase with fewer bumpers,  wider spacing and less of a temptation to take short cuts....cheat. The pond photo in the July 11th journal entry is ideal.  

Pounce's setup

July 11...Monday - The next session was to include water. The positions of all "retrieves" would remain the same, but there will be two running lines. The line locations was "flipped". This provided a set of land and then water retrieves. Pounce, Gigi and their handler will continue to focus on HRC line skills while "Out there will remain easy." After setting the "water triple blinds" up for running in both directions, the plan was to run the first set from the mound. Pounce went first and did just OK with it. She began to square the entries and exits. This was mostly due to the steeper bank created by the shallow than normal water level. After the  left to right setup, she repeated it right to left. With a third set of Dokkens still "out there", the decision was to run Gigi and call it a day. Gigi did not square the shoreline quite as much and since 1) it began to rain and 2) there were no more Dokkens "out there", everything was picked up quickly. As I was locking up the gate, the rain appeared to suddenly decrease as the storm moved off to the south. However, the focus of this drill was mostly about the HRC "action at the line" and both did fine with that. The following "Google" photo is a bit
different in that it is a few years older with shrub factors and tall weeds along the shoreline. However, the general shape is the same. note: Water is more difficult than land because of "squaring" angle exits and entries. Pounce needs more work on this than Gigi.

 July 4...Monday...high 80's - could not train until late morning...However, it was cloudy with a good breeze making it seem rather comfortable. As I pulled off the road to drive in and around to the area where we were going to train, two cranes were loafing in the grassy area. I parked, did a sneak and managed to snap a few quick "shots" with my I-Phone. They left rather quickly and it did not take long to set things up. Pounce ran the HRC line "shoot the triple blind piles" left to right then back to the van. Gigi then came out to practice going to the line and doing OB with a Dokken in mouth. Once she was at the line, Dokkens were tossed right in front of her practicing sit, fetch, deliver and drop on command. Once the standards were clarified, repeated and practiced, Gigi went back to the van. Pounce then came back out to run the same HRC setup again (shoot the three blinds) while reversing the swing of the gun direction (right to left). A diversion was thrown/"shot" as Pounce returned with the third and last "blind". 
          note: The ongoing drought has baked the soil to a hard crust. The only way to easily stick stakes
                    or a "fat" gun stand into the ground is to punch pilot holes using a battery powered drill with
                    a masonry bit.

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July 5...Tuesday...very hot day in the 90's with severe storms late...no training, did cleaning and sorting
July 6...Wednesday - The chance to train on some excellent water was tempting. However, it was a 
about a 200+ mile round trip and I am too old to do "stuff" like that anymore. The weather at Bong (in
Wisconsin...closer) was cloudy and cool. After an hour drive, I had "pick of the litter' for water training
(the "Runway", "Gravel" or "Stick" ponds). Pounce ran six "stand alone/send back" singles and a blind
on the "Stick Pond". The water was very low and made for a pond we had never quite seen before. It was fun! A WISILL HRC group spent quite a bit of time cleaning out dead wood and whacking weeds. When
we finished there, Pounce ran three blinds across the Gravel Pond.....home by 4 pm. 

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July 8...Friday - cool, cloudy, rain in the afternoon...day off for everyone. The best, recent development has been changing Gigi's daily feeding routine and backing off a bit in training. She has gained some weight and the diarrhea issues seem to have disappeared. Also, having her spade made a difference (she never had a heat cycle). With all of that going on, running tests with Gigi has been put on hold. Meanwhile, the focus is on training Pounce for an HRCH title.
July 9...Saturday - The extended weather forecasts (July) predict cool, dry mornings. Training for today was
delayed a bit which was a good thing because there was time to prioritize based on needs. Pounce needs to continue on working HRC "stuff". Gigi has not done much lately and it was important to make it useful an not physically challenging. My needs were clear. The last few training sessions with Pounce's blinds and in a recent HRC test plus a group training day, it became obvious that I needed to do something about my vision problems. Seeing clearly with one eye (the right) and having practically none with the right, reduces my depth perception and visibility to the point of not seeing where the blinds are. Even when an orange ribbon is placed properly, I just can't see or find it. Therefore, today I took my Bushnell Yardage Pro 1000 to "see" if it might make a difference. It needs only one eye to work so there is no fumbling to mount it. I should have done this long ago. Locating the "spot" easily while handing Pounce was fairly simple. It was like night and day. Today's session provided a big boost to my confidence.

Recently, the focus has been on running Pounce in HRC Finished tests. With a UTV and several very good places to train, I can setup many different training sessions - remote wingers, ducks, shotgun with primer and holding blinds, etc. When it comes right down to it, there is still quite a bit of work to setup a test like session. Therefore, I have recently isolated some of the "actions" and thus focus on key skills. For example,
Pounce is a very good marker with excellent memory skills. Her weakest area has been being calm and steady at the line. The HRC line is very busy because the handler is moving and shooting blanks at the line. It is the "busy part" (of the handler) that can add to the excitement and distract a dog. The idea was to reduce the excitement in a manner which would allow more focus (for awhile) on the line issues. Therefore,

marking and ducks in the air were removed from the equation. This shifts the focus to what needs to be improved. The gunner's movement at the line, duck calling and shooting becomes the focus. What is out in the field are markers (white stakes) showing where the retrieves are to be made. The training setups are simplified. Once this becomes a comfortable and important skill, the dog can then focus on ducks in the air,
shooting and marking. Now if one were to compare the handler's actions at the line in AKC vs. HRC tests, they are very, very different. The retriever must be in sync with a "busy" HRC handler. "Shooting three blinds" makes it possible to Isolate and practice the "busy" when HRC training alone.  
                note: In an HRC Finished test the handler is provided with one blank to "shoot" the blind .

July 10 - Sunday....upper 70's with a good breeze plus shade presented a cool combination for training. After about a 35 minute drive, Pounce, Gigi and I began another practice session working through the skill sets required at the HRC line (the dogs and handler). As usual with the Harrison Road DTA there are many different possibilities for setups. First was locating shade for the line that would last the entire session. Secondly, identify the positions of where the retrieves should occur. With regular sessions setup in this manner, each day looks different in terms of terrain and cover. It is an unusual training area with only a thirty minute drive. Today was a repeat of yesterday (with a different look). It was practice...."Just Practice".  Pounce "ran the triple" left to right. Gigi did the same. Pounce then back came out again to run it right to left. The skills we are working on are in a three yard circle at the line. This takes place after practicing the "off the van, airing, to the holding blind and finally the line" routine......every time.

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July 16...Saturday - in the 70's...was going to train at the Harrison Road DTA...That changed when I realized cleaning out the van yesterday I forgot to re-load two wingers back in the van. After a "half-donkey"
effort of setting something up, I changed my mind and headed home. On the way, the decision to make sure Pounce and Gigi trained, they both did the "HRC shoot the blinds" drill with mallards. They are both quite good at this so another complication was added (actually subtracted) in that there was nothing to mark where the three mallards were planted.  There had been a blind "spot" poles. I reasoned that not having any made the drill a bit more challenging (or so I thought). The shotgun was pointed and fired three times. Pounce and Gigi lined all three of their planted mallards. Pounce was very steady and composed at the line. Gigi was much better after realizing nothing was going to happen until she did the expected...sit, no noise, no moving and wait...for quite some time...before being released. This will require many reps.

note: The pond is about 100 yards long.

July 19 - Tuesday...upper 70's early....Pounce and Gigi trained at the Harrison Road DTA. The running line was in the shade and pleasant. The area needs  mowing as the lush, grass is over calf high in places. Three remote wingers with mallards were set out for an "in your face", "HRC line", mallard triple.  With a pump shot gun firing three times at close mallards in the air, the moment is electric. There is a skill set for
the handler to practice - blowing a duck call, keeping the dog engaged for what is next, shooting the shot gun and picking up three ducks efficiently is a multi-tasked skill set that must be practiced. Focus and control are the key factors that enhance responsiveness. "Birdiness" skills need practice. Pounce's two triples were done left to right and then right to left with Gigi's set run in between. To repeat, the main focus for Pounce and Gigi is "watch me" (be aware). Gigi's primary "project" is to be quiet. For the handler, it is take your time and be consistent. Going slowly requires a fast dog to embrace the function of patience.
                        note: This afternoon a new training tool was purchased....two human (trainer) hearing aids.
July 20 - Wednesday...by noon it was in the low 80's...Gigi ran the Kwick Handling Drill in the near-by Thorson Pond DTA grassy area around 8 am. When finished, the next stop was the Gallagher field trial grounds for an upland, training session (for several clients with a Pro). I observed pro Corey Zandonai work on the upland hunting skills with each client's retriever- locating and flushing with retrieves after shot. With very, very few misses, each session was consistently spectacular. I did not partake of the upland session.

note: When younger, I did a great deal of upland hunting and was a guide at Blonhaven Hunt Club in Wisconsin with my pointing Lab - MPR HRCH UH Kwick Taffey of JoeMac's MH.
(whelped 8/2/2000)

Once finished, a session of retrieving was soon begun on the large technical pond to the south. Each participant was provided with advice and "on the spot help" with their retrievers. I was once again reminded of my bad habit of going to the line without a whistle. However, the Pro (Corey) was behind me seamlessly providing whistles at the right time. I caught on quickly to that, but then was told that my subsequent casts were not very accurate. I may have to begin writing reminder notes on the back of both hands. The lessons were not free, but certainly well worth the "price of admission" (home by 2 pm).