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Portland Labrador

Porter's Master Hunter Tests

Oregon Hunting Retriever Club - May 2009 Test #2

Okay, finally!  We're coming into this test after having passed our first Master test yesterday.  Now we can relax and try to have some fun (well...I can at least try).  In the Friday/Saturday test, we ran as dog #8.  Now, in the Sunday/Monday test, we're at the opposite end and are running as dog #49 (out of 54).  The nice thing about that is that I can sleep in.  If we run before noon I'll be surprised, so I can show up around 10.  :)

The first series is a land triple with a shot flyer and a walk-up, with a blind.  The first bird, thrown left to right, is the middle bird.  The holding blind is on the side of a levee (square to the line) so the dog sees it against the sky and then it drops down to the base of the levee (which is in a swale and cannot be seen from the line.  Also, there is a small piece of water at the base of the levee that the dog must drive through.  The second bird, thrown right to left, is on the left side, about thirty yards down the level to the right and is in a small pocket clearing.  The third bird down is on the right 90 degrees from the center mark.  It's a shot flyer, going right to left, and landing in a field with low cover and lots of room to run.
The blind is between the middle and left marks, along the levee at the end of a group of trees.
Porter came to the line, watched the first bird drop, then swung to the left to watch the second bird.  I stepped around to the right to draw him around as the flyer station called, threw, and shot.  Porter was running full out when he passed the bird about five or ten yards to his left.   He hit the brakes as he passed the bird and swung around to pick it up.
We lined up for the second bird.  He put on a hunt short of the bird, but worked it out and worked his way back to the bird without making me think too much about if I should handle.  He brought it back to line and swung around lining up on the third mark.
Porter was locked on the third mark, I sent him, and he took off on a line.  He dropped down the hill out of sight and was followed shortly by a loud splash.  "That's a good sign", one of the judges commented.  He came out of the water, took two steps up the bank and nailed the memory bird.  Yes!

He came back, delivered the bird cleanly, and we lined up for the blind.  The dog drops down out of sight about halfway toward the blind, and I had noticed handlers were able to move up the line.  Since I hadn't seen the test dog or had a chance to ask questions, I asked the judges how far I could move up.  I was able to move up about 15 yards to the next mound, but only after the dog passed the halfway point. 
We lined up, it felt like he was locked in, and I sent him.  Porter took a great line and held it all the way.  He was drifting slightly right, and about ten yards short of the blind I hit the sit whistle, gave a left-angle back, and he picked up the bird.  "Why did you need to move up?" asked the judge, with a smile.
On to the next series.

The second series was a land/water triple with an honor.  It was also an in-your-face breaking test for both the working dog and the honor dog.
The first bird down was on the far left of the line, in a pocket down the shore with a line of trees along the water's edge. (the holding blind in the left side of the picture was throwing left to right)
The second mark and third marks are right at the shoreline, at 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock.  The left is a pop and throw, left to right, back into the water and the right is a shot flyer, right to left, back into the water.  Both holding blinds are about thirty yards from the line.

(this is the second mark, coming from the holding blind at the water's edge)

This is the third bird down, the shot flyer.
(These pictures are taken from well behind the line, which is in front of the duck rack)

After completing the three marks, there is an honor, about twenty feet to the right of the working dog, which puts the honor dog looking directly at the flyer.
This series started mid to late afternoon.  Since Porter was so late in the order I didn't really expect to run until the next morning; however, after watching the test dog and a couple of dogs run, the marshall was having trouble rounding up dogs to run.  I asked if they wanted me to run and she said sure.  My thoughts were that Porter had been running well, we might as well hit it, as it could be a different test in the morning light (and I could sleep in on Monday).
Porter came to the line and did a good job of focusing on each mark and not head swinging to the next.  The meat of the test was steadiness, with the second and third marks right in his face, with a splash to boot.  Porter stayed solid while the birds were dropping.
He got the right hand mark, shot flyer, and middle mark without too much ado. Then came the memory bird.  It was a bit meatier than it appeared at first (to me at least).  The line to the bird went right through a patch of blackberry bushes, so dogs were getting pushed right, along the shore and getting hung up in the trees, or pushing left and backsiding the blind and hunting wide.
Porter did me proud and drove a line, straight through the center of the blackberries, and to the bird!  And he brought back all three birds and held them nicely.  He seemed to be getting better as the four days passed.
After the three marks, we moved over to honor.  Porter was climbing out of his skin and I was getting a bit concerned.  The first bird went down, and he never even looked over there.  His eyes were locked on the flyer station and his legs were shaking with excitement.  The second blind had just had a new person rotate in and when the second bird was signaled for, the winger malfunctioned, which I think was a lucky break for us.  After the judges released us momentarily while they fixed it, I heeled him off the line and got him sitting, looking in the other direction.  Then, when we were back to the honor position, I brought him about five feet forward of the position while we waited for the working dog.  As the working dog came to the line, I moved Porter backwards to the honor position.  I figured this would get his momentum moving back.  Whether it was this, or that he just had a minute to collect himself, he did fine on the honor and I quickly heeled him out of there and put the lead on him.  We were clean, moving on to the third series.
The third series certainly got people talking.  It was a land/water double with a double blind (at least, as I draw it up, that's how I remember it. I thought I recalled it as a triple, but I think it was a double).
I thought I was clear on this one, but as I write this up the only thing I'm sure of is there was a LONG memory mark and a long blind.  I can't recall if we got the first mark, then the blinds, then the second mark; or if we picked up the marks and then the blinds.  I think it was the latter. 
The first bird down was from a holding blind 170 yards out (someone put a rangefinder on it) and went right to left.  Then the holding blind on the spit of land, short and to the right of the first mark did a pop and throw right to left.  Then a Bubba gunner farther down the spit of land fired a diversion shot, with no throw.  Then it was pick up the marks, pick up the blinds (again, not clear on the order).
Porter and I came to the line after watching a lot of dogs run the test.  I was very glad that I had a handle to burn if I needed it, coming into this series clean.  I have to credit Steve Elliot with giving me some invaluable advice.  He ran his dog in Master B, which ran this the day before as their first series (with some variations, but I won't get into that).  I asked what to be concerned about and he advised me to be very aware of the dog sucking back into the old fall on its way to the long mark.  He said the dogs would pick up the short mark, come back, line up and think they had gotten one to the right (due to the Bubba gunner sitting in the open) and had a tendency to suck back into the short bird, thinking of it as a "middle bird".  Once they started to do that, they were one slipped whistle away from being back in the old fall and were done (that's it...so sorry...thank you for your donation).  I had thought the water would push them left, and they'd run wide of the long mark, but it turns out Steve had it nailed.
Porter watched the long mark fall, then turned on the short mark as the call, shot, and throw for it went next.  Then he turned to the diversion shot.  He did a good job on picking up the short mark and took an honest line.  On the long bird, sure enough, he started drifting back toward the old fall (probably aided by the pull from the shoreline as well).  I was ready for it and hit the sit whistle at the first sign of drift (thinking kind thoughts about Steve), and gave a left back-cast with a strong verbal "back".  Porter took the cast and drove long to the area of the fall.  With a couple more whistles to get dialed in, he had the bird. 
Now he's got to pick up the blinds.
The first blind is just a short pop to the shoreline.  I heard that it tripped up some people by concerning them it was so short.  They sent their dogs on a very soft "back", and the dog no-go'd.  Since the judge heard "back", he had to assume the dog did, and they were done.  I sent Porter on a normal "back", but was ready on the whistle.  He took a good line and when he was still ten yards from the bird I was on the whistle.  He stopped close enough to wind it or spot it, get it and come back. 
The second blind is interesting in that we just were asking the dogs to run to the edge of the water, short, and stop.  Now we're asking (okay, telling) them to drive land-water-land-water-land.  Going to the long blind, I was telling myself to not be a hero.  Stop Porter on top of the spit of land and give him a cast with a verbal "back" to drive him into the water.  The risk of not doing that would be for him to drive over the land, but then slide along the shore, and have trouble getting him back on line.
I sent him, and he took an excellent line, drove into the water, up the land, and was crossing the land with good momentum.  I REALLY wanted to let him continue, but a lot of bad things and only one good thing could have happened, so I hit the sit whistle, paused, and gave the cast with a verbal back.  He drove into the water and carried a good line out.  He was a little wide right (which beats scalloping down the shore), and after a couple left angle backs, he was there!  He picked it up and came back strong.

There was no doubt in my mind that we had passed this time.  Porter just got better and better through the whole weekend.  A double ribbon weekend!  After going 0-fer in the first four tests, this was sweet.

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