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Portland Labrador

Porter's Master Hunter Tests

Umpqua Valley Retriever Club - June 2009 Test

Coming off our double pass a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling pretty good going into the Umpqua test.  The grounds are top notch and the club puts on a great test and with excellent hospitality.  I was a little apprehensive in spending the money for a road trip, but then again, a road trip is always fun.

The first series was a land/water triple with an honor.  The birds fell right to left.  The first bird down was on the right, a pop and throw right to left (but mostly back) between 1 o'clock and 2 o'clock from the line.  The second bird down was a pop and throw, right to left, landing about 12 o'clock from the line, into a small pocket clearing in some berry cover.  The third bird down was a shot flyer at 9 o'clock from the line, left to right, landing on a hillside across a small pond.  The honor was to the left of the line, with the dog having a clear view of the flyer and the working dog running across his line on the way to the bird.
Porter ended up seeing 12 birds in the first series.  Yes, that's right.  Twelve!
I brought him to the line, the first bird went, second bird went, and then the flyer was up and was dropped on the hillside where the others had been falling.  After waiting for the judges to release us (always an important point), I sent Porter for the flyer.  He took a good line, hit the water, and started swimming for the bird.  Unfortunately, about this time, the shot flyer got up and started walking away.  No problem, a Master dog should be expected to be able to hunt up a crippled bird; however, in the time it was taking Porter to make his swim, the bird was picking up speed, moved wide to the right, and started to drop down into a gulley.  At that point, the judge said, "well, this isn't going to work.  Go ahead and call him back".  Porter was a few yards from the far shore.  I hit the sit whistle, and then the recall, and brought him back to the line.  While there's always that part of the handler that wants their dog to be the "hero", I appreciate that the judges viewed that Porter was not running the same test as the other dogs and called a "no bird".  We went back a few dogs in the line, ready to try it again.
We came back to the line to try again.  The birds dropped, first pop and throw, second pop and throw, and last was the shot flyer.  As soon as the shot flyer hit the ground, the honor dog took off for it!  Porter held firm, but once the honor dog was back (and on lead), we went back to the end of the line to let Porter "unwind".  I took a few minutes and just walked him away from the holding blinds.  It was a good idea not to reload into a holding blind right away.  He needed a minute to relax before heading back to the line (actually, we both did).  After that, it was back to the line.
Back to the line for the third time, we watched the birds dropping (the 7th, 8th, and 9th birds we'd seen on this series).  This time, the flyer hooked to the right for the gunners and they dropped it in the reeds at the edge of the pond.  The judges released us and off Porter went.  He drove a good line across the pond, veered off course just a bit and the end, and missed the bird at the edge of the water.  Instead, he went up the hillside to where he had seen the first two flyers land.  He hunted that area hard, and then drifted back, instead of short, so I hit a sit whistle, and handled him to the flyer.  He got it and came back in.  After that, he smacked the second and third marks.  Maybe it's just me, but I figured after he had seen those marks three times he had BETTER smack 'em. :)
Then we moved over to honor.  Porter watched the 10th, 11th, and 12th bird of the first series, held firm, and we were on to the second series.
The second series was another triple, in a large field on a hillside.  The first bird down was straight out at 12 o'clock, right to left (I think) and out about 80-90 yards.  It was in the open with a lot of open ground behind it.  The second bird was a pop and throw, right to left, at about 10 o'clock and 60 yards out (at most).  The third bird was a pop and throw at 9 o'clock, left to right, that landed on the backside of a small mound about 40 yards out.  I watched a lot of dogs (since we were 41 of 44) and the majority of handles were on the long memory bird.  Dogs were getting pushed offline by patches of blackberries and then running deep.
(to be continued)

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