Going in blind
Howard takes a tongue-in-cheek look at three blind retrievel scenarios
A blind retrieve is something that all well trained gundogs should be trained to do. A blind retrieve is where the dog is sent to collect a retrieve that he has not seen shot or fall -basically he has no idea whereit is! So there are three ways that he might successfully find and complete this retrieve.
Blind retrieves usually come about following on from a somewhat vague but very precise conversation with one of the guns: "I say, Picker-Up, would you be so kind as to send your dog to retrieve my cock bird? It's just at the top of this bank up there by that tree, the green one can you see the one I mean? It's definitely dead." "No problem at all, Sir," you foolishly reply... It would have been better if you had confirmed just which one of the thirty three green trees the gentleman meant!
Method oneYou tell the dog "Fetch", at which point it randomly sets off and starts to hunt, charging around covering every nook, cranny, fence line and piece of cover between you and Timbuktu. Whilst doing this he will flush every living, breathing creature, but sooner or later, with a bit of luck and a following wind (we'll discuss how to best manage wind later) the dog will hunt out and find the shot bird.
On reflectionWell, you'll get the bird, so that's very successful. You might get lucky and find the bird straight away but it's just as likely that without any help the dog might be hunting for ages. With this style of dog handling you're very much in the hands of the Gods - if the dog finds the bird straight away then this is a very effective way to retrieve a bird. It's more likely that in its unrestrained efforts to find the bird he hunts large areas of cover and disturbs game that might have produced a shot on a later drive. Neither you nor your dog will be popular for this over-enthusiastic retrieve; lunchtime will be a difficult and lonely affair.
Gamekeeper's Satisfaction Rating:"It would be great to see you next time, but leave your dog at home."
Method twoYou call the dog to heel and appear out of the wood, centre stage, looking like a Greek God (at least that's how you see it) with your immaculately trained beast locked to your side. Your grand entrance has attracted the attention of the Guns so the stage is now set. You carefully line the dog up. "Back." The dog sets off like a heat-seeking missile, but you feel he's not taken the right line so unfortunately here comes the first of many ‘first class' sits to the whistle. You blast on the whistle and Troy sits and looks at you. Your hand gestures to the left and Troy takes off so quickly that he over-runs your intended line and it's time for another whistle blast. To cut a long story and twenty five ear-bending blasts of the whistle short, you finally manipulate a now bewildered Troy into the area. "Perfect! Now the Guns are going to get the masterclass they so richly deserve." So, once again your ‘Hi-Lossst', ‘hunt there' whistle starts to trumpet across the county. Troy starts to hunt but by now he's quite obviously lost the will to live and even you can see by his demeanour that his confidence has gone. Another blast on the whistle stops him, another arm wave gesture this time causes Troy to lie down. Oh dear, the masterclass in blind retrieving has just gone boobs-up!
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On reflectionYou started well but you're overhandling your dog. You're going to have to do the ‘walk of shame' and pick the bird by hand. Far worse, Troy has lost his confidence and thrown in the towel. You're going to have to spend some real quality time with him now before you get the best out of him again. Lunchtime will be a difficult andlonely affair.
Gamekeeper's Satisfaction Rating:"Pillock," or worse.
Method threeFollowing on from months of careful training and ensuring that you have extracted a precise idea as to where the bird actually fell, you quietly set the dog up alongside you and cast him out. He takes a straight and accurate line to the base of the green tree where he hears the familiar sound of your ‘hunt there' whistle. As the dog drops his nose and starts to hunt the whistle falls quiet. Holding the area and methodically hunting, the dog soon locates the bird, picks it and comes flying back to you. You gently take the bird, inspect it for damage and ask the Gun if he would like the bird. It's a nice feeling, carrying your trophy back to the game cart, and you need all the space possible in your game bag. You politely acknowledge the thanks from the Gun. "Not at all Sir, my pleasure," and then proceed, head up and shoulders back, on to the next Gun in need of your services.
On reflectionExcellent! That's how it should be done; efficiently, quietly, with minimal disturbance of game and wildlife. Troy continues to grow in experience and confidence and the pair of you are now man and dog in perfect harmony. Lunchtime will be a difficult and lonely affair; nobody likes a smartarse.
Gamekeeper's Satisfaction Rating:"Hmmmn, nice to watch but bet he couldn't do that again."
Thanks to Dick Oldfield for drawing the cartoons for this piece. Next month we'll go into the details of teaching your dog how to successfully retrieve blinds.