Saturday, October 3, 2009

Training with Birds

Today we did some fun training with birds. I bought four chukar and brought them to a neighbor's field that has longer grass than ours. When we first arrived, morning fog was just lifting and I was lucky enough to capture this great image of Winnie in her 'work clothes.' (She wears the vest this time of year as she is deer-colored!)

The main purpose of today's training was to use the 'Whoa' work we've been doing to see if, once she found and pointed a bird, she could hold that point until I could walk around and get in front of her, then flush the bird myself.

This was the setup. I left Winnie in the car as I planted the first bird. I walked along the road on the left and then circled around and placed the bird so as we went through the field she wouldn't be picking up my track.

I had seen 'kick baskets' or 'step baskets' online before and decided to make one myself. This was made from a basket found at Home Depot's shelving department, and a simple bracket attached to the side with cable ties. Put the bird down, the basket over the bird, some grass on top of the basket and then if the dog runs right up on the bird, you don't watch fifteen bucks fly away before you get to train with it.

So I tried this with the first bird. Winnie got the scent of the bird and started working toward it, but then she saw the basket and just went right up to it. I gave her the Whoa command but she was literally already on top of the basket so there wasn't much point. I flushed the bird and she took off after it, thirty feet of check cord behind her. She got to the treeline and stopped, and I called her back. So, while the basket was a good theory on paper, I didn't like the results. I brought Winnie back to the car and decided to dizzy and plant two more birds in the grass without the basket.

So with three birds in the cage, I planted one, then about fifty yards away I planted the other. At this point, the fourth and last bird escaped. The escapee, combined with a less than productive first bird, put a little pressure on the thirty bucks of bird currently in the grass.

For all the overthinking and planning and preparation I do for something as simple as a Saturday morning training session, you'd think that I would charge the batteries in my camera. But, no. So on this next bird, when Winnie pointed and I gave her the Whoa command, she held the point long enough for me to curse my exhausted camera batteries and take out my cell phone to capture these very poor images.

I grabbed the end of the check cord this time and flushed the bird. She chased it for approximately 30.00 feet. (I credit my overplanning in this case for remembering to wear gloves when attempting this step!)

The point? Well, less than stylish, I admit. But I was very pleased with how long she was holding them. In fact, when she found and pointed the last bird we were about fifteen feet from the gravel drive as a pickup drove by. She maintained focus on the point until I walked around to get the bird between Winnie and I. (She was only about two feet away from the bird.)

I picked up the end of the check cord and flushed the bird. This time, Winnie took about three steps after it and stopped! Very impressive, productive and fun morning in the field.

This post is already too long, so I'm going to make some conclusions and lay out the next training steps in another entry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow Ed, Winnie is doing a great job (and so R U !!). You make it sound so easy...pretty soon you'll be raising your own quail and pheasant in that nice barn of yours!!! Winnie looks pretty snappy in her work clothes...great idea BTW...can't trust everyone taking that second look before they take the first shot...