Video Insight:In HRC tests, the handler is required to shoulder the shotgun. In the video this was not done for two reasons 1) the left hand/arm is running a remote and 2) both shoulders are not "healthy" (complete rotator cuff repair on the left and severe arthritis issues in the right). When actually shooting at something (both arms), there is not much of a problem...yet.
Being seventy-eight years old requires a few compromises.
Sept 10 Pounce has trained six days in a row......day off
Sept 11 Tuesday - late morning, upper 60's, sunny with a good breeze...Trained in the grassy area east of Thorson Pond. Used four wingers in a large pod (two smaller Gunners Up/two larger "Originals"). Pounce did four "HRC Line" singles first (each repeating the holding blind routine). The wingers were re-loaded again and four HRC "walk-ups" were done (with each repeating the holding blind to the line "skills"). Pounce was then "put up" again. The wingers were re-loaded
and two doubles with diversions were run. The focus was on precise "reps" and line practice to establish reliable conditioned responses in "distraction laced" sessions while developing a high level of responsiveness ("cool under fire").
The "HRC Line" consists of a Lab sitting beside the handler on a bucket near a shotgun in a
gun stand with primer loads near by. The dog and handler "arrive there" by walking from a
holding blind. It is where a responsive partnership is developed.
Sept 8 With mild weather and firm east winds, geese are not using Thorson Pond. However, we trained at the Harrison Road DTA with something easy to setup...three sets of three-peat blinds.
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Sept 12 Wednesday - mallards at the Thorson Pond DTA....The duckweed was wind blown to the west leaving a large area "open" for training. Two sets of two wingers were placed to run four different mallards singles using an HRC line format. The two pods (of two wingers) were reloaded
and "threw" two "different" mallard doubles. The off the van, into a holding blind and to the line "routine" was "practiced" six times. A "flash back" to concepts taught by an "old school trainer"
surfaced today. There are several different "cues" that mean sit....the verbal "sit", a "bird in the air", a gunshot and a single whistle. A great deal of precise "practice at the line" enhances the sit "connections" to a gunshot and "bird in the air". A few "walk-ups" (once in awhile) will NOT "connect the dots" for a conditioned response to the "gunshot" and/or "bird in the air". In other "words", reliable conditioned responses are produced by hundreds of precise practice sessions (correct repetitions) ala Bill Hillmann's training approach. And then there is maintenance.
note: The "old school trainer" was Butch Goodwin.
Sept 1 It rained all day. No training and it is Early Illinois Goose Season. Many geese will quickly move
off the Rock River after opening day. During last year's early season, they "showed up" September 6th and our first hunt of the year was the 9th.
Sept 2 Sunday....With all the recent rain, the only place to train was the Four Lakes DTA (stayed on the gravel road). The first setup was MORE "walk-up" practice....two sets of three from a "pod of wingers". The next setup was an HRC Seasoned "exercise"......a water double with a diversion and blind. Daisy received a few water fun bumpers. However, the last one proved interesting. Her hearing and sight are "weak". The pond has a lot of weeds and she "got lost". Trying to handler her was useless. However,
her nose is still in great form. She "eventually" swam into the scent cone of that "invisible" Dokken.
note: Geese were "moving" today. Having previous years journal references is useful.
Sept 22, 23 - two Fox River Valley HRC Seasoned tests...weather was fantastic...but still "got wet"
on Sunday......HRC title "bath". Pounce passed both HRC Seasoned Tests and earned the Hunting Retriever (HR) title. Her new pedigree name is HR KwickLabs Fountain of Youth SH.
The Sunday water was probably the most realistic HRC Seasoned "Hunting" Hunt Test setup of any that all my KwickLabs have run.
note: (total of 15 HRC Seasoned tests with five different dogs - MPR HRCH UH Taffey MH,
HR Kooly SH, HR Daisy SH, HR Gunny SH and HR Pounce SH)
note: There will be no more testing until next year.
Sept 20 Thursday - cool morning & warm afternoon...Pounce trained early at the Four Lakes DTA. Yesterday's rain raised the level of the technical pond (again) to the best it has been for quite some time. The first setup was three HRC "walk-ups" down the gravel road with mallards in three of the smaller Gunners Up Wingers. Two "Original" Gunners Up (bigger) plus one Son-of a Gun were used to run a double with a diversion and blind from an HRC line on the east side of the technical pond. Pounce was "cool and sharp".......definitely ready.
Sept 18 Tuesday - "rainy" day.......no training.......good timing
Sept 19 Wednesday- cool, cloudy morning and the duckweed on Thorson Pond was blown to the west. Wingers were set up in two pods. From these five wingers, three setups were run. The first setup was a double with a blind. The second was a different double with a blind and diversion. Each setup was run by repeating the "off the van, to the holding blind, to the line routine". When the two marking setups were completed, three wingers were reloaded and Pounce ran three individual HRC "walk-ups".
Sept 21 Friday - mostly cloudy, cool with stiff breeze...finally decided to train at the RockCut State Park DTA. First up was to run a new point blind with the HRC gun "shooting" at each of seven different blinds. Pounce's ability/skill to look long for a "target" has been a strong suit of hers from very early on. She one whistled the first "go" and lined the next six. I have become use to this "skill set" so much so that I just assume this will be a fast, fun easy "thing" to do. Her body language seems to display that. Three things are the result. "Back" is always a fun word to hear, momentum is always strong and happy and she run blinds really well (very responsive team player). After the point blind, we moved farther east and did three individual "from the van to the gun stand" HRC "Walk-Ups" with retrieves running through five large goose shells...more practice. With the wind blustering out of the west, the Dokken was carrying especially long which made each "fly" (with big bounces) very exciting.
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Sept 13 Pounce trained at the Four Lakes DTA mid-morning in a session similar to Sept 11th.
Five wingers were set in a long pod (three smaller Gunners Up/two larger "Originals"). Pounce did five "HRC Line" singles first (each repeating the holding blind "routine"). The wingers were re-loaded again and five HRC "walk-ups" were done (again repeating the holding blind to the line "routine"). Pounce was then "put up" (2nd time). The wingers were re-loaded and two doubles with a diversion (on the 2nd) were run (note: holding blind "visited" before every segment).
At 4 pm, Pounce trained in the Thursday Afternoon Group Session. Using the HRC line format, Pounce did a walk-up first (and not very well). Went to the bucket and ran a double with a diversion and a blind (good). Later, Pounce was brought back out to run another "walk-up".
note: Pounce's two afternoon "walk-ups" revealed some improvement...not perfect...yet.
Sept 14 The water level in the small technical pond at the county Four Lakes DTA is about the best it has been for quite awhile. We arrived there mid-morning and no one was using it. The
setup was five wingers (in a linear pod). Again the two different sizes makes for a large pattern of five AOFs. The first session was five singles each beginning with the holding blind routine. After the first single, Pounce was off lead with no collar. Those next four singles/holding blind routines were done well (precise "reps"). Pounce was "put up" and the five wingers reloaded. The 2nd set
was five, individual singles done as "walk-ups" from a holding blind (off lead/no collar). The last set (re-loaded wingers) was two individual doubles with a diversion on the last retrieve.
note: The setups include an HRC "line" with a primer loaded shotgun. With all the
practice Pounce is receiving, her trainer is becoming more adept at doing several
"things" in a precise sequence.....blowing a duck call, manipulating the Dogtra
remote and firing the gun (properly and safely) while working Pounce through the
note: This was a challenging session......close, "in your face", splashing marks and shots
at the line. She was very much "in the game" at the line (especially responsive and
note: Yesterday, Pounce trained quite a bit (morning and afternoon). The extra work (more
than usual) seemed to take some of the "edge off". That's a good thing to know.
note: When training harness racing horses, some would be pushed (short, fast work) the
day before a race (to take the "edge off") and others might spend that day relaxing in
note: This evening when Daisy and Pounce were let out to "air", Pounce began her
aggressively "mounting" Daisy. This begins about a month before her heat cycle.
Sept 15 trained mid-morning at the Thorson Pond in the east side, " grassy area"...did an easy, fun and brief practice session (close by with Dokkens - "fake ducks", goose decoys). Pounce "slices and dices" with zest on "stuff" like this. It is fun! Today's session was enhanced by adding Dogtra remote "sounds" in the field, goose decoys and some HRC "gun line" action. The skills set consisted of "lining", square/fast whistle sits (positioning), handling and deliveries without any collar. The five factors of a balanced retriever were "tested" - focus, control, responsiveness, retrieving and "birdiness".
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Got to the last Thursday afternoon training session about 4:30 pm and promptly got stuck in the mud (should have known better). With a four wheel truck and tow strap "on site", I was pulled out at the end of the session. Pounce did an HRC "walk-up", double and a blind that was OK (still stewing about the stuck van). Then an extra, last single was not done well by the handler (slow to locate and even slower to shoot) which had Pounce not seeing the mark. My not knowing where it fell screwed up running it as a blind. Pounce finally stumbled on to it and I "slinked" back to the van trying to forget the moment. This will serve as a "what not do" training session.
As a parting "shot" and mental health solution to the continual CNN & FOX news
barrage, the following photo may describe the only remedy.
Sept 7 The original plan was to give Pounce a day off after the "shots" at the vets. Then
she was just ready to roll this morning. First, we scouted the goose pond and hunting
will be next...some there. After more rain yesterday, the best place to train was at the
Four Lakes DTA with parking on gravel. Five wingers in a "long pod" produced singles
twice. The first go was with no gun at the HRC "bucket line". The last five singles were
with the gun. A single blind with a surprise was run to finish off the morning. Pounce is
"down" to a little "shimmy" at the line and improving every week.
note: The cover was very good and the marks were ideal for short, "pin-point"
marking practice. On one she did not "step on it" and went into a "wild"
hunt. The penalty for this is "frustration" and finally "digging it out" with
more focus on the next. This approach is effective with a dog that will not
"give up" and/or has not been "helped" too much.
Sept 16 Sunday.....day off from training
Sept 17 Monday...Pounce trained with mallards at the Four Lakes DTA with a focus on the HRC "line". Two Original Gunners Up wingers plus a Son-of-a-Gun provided three different
walk-ups with Pounce off lead. The three wingers were reloaded on the east side and five singles were run with an HRC "line". Pounce was "put up" and all five wingers were reloaded with the two bigger wingers on the west side (the walk-up wingers) "turned" to throw water marks. The last "set" was two doubles with a diversion followed by an HRC "shot" blind.
Sept 24-30 Pounce will have several days off. I will work on the duck boats, begin the annual "yard leaves" marathon, trim more shoreline cover around Thorson Pond and prepare for the Oct 20 start
of the Illinois Waterfowl Season (shoreline goose/duck blind installed).
Sept 27 Thursday morning was spent shooting pheasant flyers for a friend at the Bong Rec Area in Wisconsin. His five dogs will be running a test soon where the birds will be pheasants and they had never been trained with pheasants. The shooting went really well and all of his dogs had a great time with their new "game". My Zinger "Uplander" was much more user friendly than any winger especially with just an old gunner (me) at the "station".
Sept 29 Saturday morning will be in the middle 30's and we will be warm...in the house no training.
Sept 30....the end of a much needed doing nothing "change of pace"
Sept 9 The Rock River is way above flood stage and creating too many "safe" loafing and feeding areas for the large resident goose population. The "early season" appears to be a
total bust in terms of numbers and any normal pattern. Pounce trained at the Harrison Road DTA. An HRC triple with a blind and diversion (primer shots from a shotgun) was "schooled" by running it left to right and then right to left. The diversion and blind were only run once.
Sept 3 rained all day......serious flooding.....no training....worked in the garage
note: Water flow into Thorson Pond "flushed" almost all the heavy Duckweed
issue. In addition, the flooding has water a foot deep up on the north bank
which is more than ever before. It was too obvious that early goose
season had begun. Legend Lake in a nearby subdivision had three geese
belly up floating on the surface. They were wounded somewhere else and
managed to just make it to the lake.
Sept 4 early morning...the first "to do" was more weeds along the south shore of Thorson
Pond. After "burning" one tank of gas, we cooled off at home. Then it was back to the grassy area south of the pond to run four HRC "walk-ups", two doubles and a blind. Today was the last Tuesday "summer group" training day at the Harrison Property. In the late afternoon, Pounce did two HRC "walk-ups" and a blind.
note: The early geese are not "patterning" yet.
Sept 5 trained early.....more rain....finished just in time......Pounce ran five HRC remote winger singles with the "shotgun at the line" plus two blinds (Harrison Road DTA).
Sept 6 vet appointment at 10 am for "shot" updates...Pounce had her 3 year Rabies shot and a Lepto-Lyme.....Since the W Property DTA is 20 minutes from the vets, Pounce trained. The setup required walking the five wingers in because it was too wet to drive. The van stayed on a gravel road. Five wingers provided singles and two blinds through the old fall areas which
provided some challenging work. The setup was a repeat practice of yesterday's session, but much more difficult. The pond level was up and "everything" required running through some lunging water. Cover was heavier, too. The line was again an HRC....bucket and shotgun. The trip home was "round-about" because Pounce was due for her Rabies tag from the county. Unfortunately, we arrived at the facility when they were closed for lunch. Almost immediately, a grassy section of "terrain" suggested, "Why not? Pounce ran the "seven bumper lining drill" twice. Once "angling up" and then again "angling down".......very fast and in "zoom mode". Then the office doors opened and the county got their $40.