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Archive for the ‘hunting / hunt training’ Category

As I left the master upland course on Day 1, a member of the gallery stepped up to whisper in my ear. “The rules require you to aim the gun. Don’t forget.”

And all of a sudden I realized that I had not aimed the gun the day before. When a dog flushes a bird, the handler in a master upland test is supposed to follow the flight of the bird with the muzzle of an unloaded gun and pretend to shoot the bird. The official gunners do the actual shooting, but the handler must create the most realistic picture possible for the dog to test his steadiness to flush and shot. And I forgot.

And then I realized that the nice lady reminding me of the rules was also one of the judges for the Day 2 test. I had darn well better remember. I could lose points for forgetting, especially after that reminder.

The flushing portion of 2nd test put on the by the Cascade English Cocker Spaniel Fanciers was pretty much the same as the first day. It was hot, perhaps even a touch hotter. The course was a long horseshoe shape. The breeze was squirreley and inconsistent. Carlin ran 4th.

He found birds much more quickly on this course. His first flush was a flyaway, a chukar that could not be shot because it flew over the following gallery of observers. I remembered to aim the gun, though. Carlin was steady out in the field, and then returned to me when I called. I gave him a drink of water, and sent him off for the next bird.

His second chukar was a trap. He tried to flush it. It hopped about a foot away. He tried to flush it again, but the bird wasn’t flying. So he grabbed it up and brought it to me.

So at this point, the judges had seen a couple bird-findings, one flush, and one steady to flush. They’d seen him deliver a bird to my hand. But they hadn’t seen him be steady to a shot and dropped bird. The could have had Carlin go out and find a third bird, and hope that it would flush into a position where it could be safely shot. But the morning was wearing on and getting hotter, and the light breeze was likely to push a flushed bird out over the gallery again. So they decided not to risk it.

The judges had me get Carlin into place next to me, facing off the course. One of the judges walked about 35 yards off the course and threw a live bird into the air. I reminded Carlin to sit, aimed my unloaded gun, and the judge threw the bird. The gunner shot the bird, and it fell. And Carlin sat.

Finally after seeing that Carlin was steady to shot and fall, the judge tapped my shoulder, and I sent Carlin on the retrieve.

He took a line to the bird, but went out too far. So I whistled him in a bit, and he winded it. That chukar he delivered to hand, too.

So we were done with the flushing part of the test. On to the hunt dead.

This hunt dead was tougher than the previous day’s — it took Carlin 3 minutes and 40 seconds to find and return the bird. I sent him a few degrees downwind of where I thought the bird was located, but he decided to hook a left, go downwind even farther, and then go a bit too far out. I handled him back to an area more directly between me and the bird, and told him to go back, but then he went out too far again. I called him in a little bit, and he came too close to me. Argh!

I stopped him, took a breath, and then sent him back. Finally this time he caught wind of the chukar and found it. Later I was advised that perhaps it would have been better to do less handling and more waiting for him to find it on his own, but this was the first time in a long time that I’d seen him take so long to find a dead bird. Oh well. We passed the hunt dead, so it was on to the water.

Carlin’s water test was much less dramatic than the previous day’s. No running down the bank to find Russ, for one thing. When I sent him on the blind retrieve, he got right into the water, but then swam across the creek to where the previous day’s bird had been. Fortunately, he happily took my handle over to where this test’s bird was located. Again, he thought he had to get up onto the land to grab the bird just at the water’s edge, but that was OK.

His marked retrieve was excellent. I aimed the gun, the bird went up and splashed down, and Carlin was steady. The judge tapped me, I sent Carlin, and when I released him, he flew into the water. Mere moments later, the bird was in my hand. Carlin shook the water off his coat, and we left the area with a nice round of applause.

Carlin, Cascade English Cocker Spaniel Fanciers, May 27, 2017

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Russ had completed Carlin’s Master Hunter Upland title in Montana, so we decided that I would be the one to handle him (we hope) to his Master Hunter Upland Advanced title. It would make a nice ending bookend, with my having started him out by putting his Junior Hunter Upland title on him back about 1-3/4 years ago.

Before the test started, I was nervous. I hadn’t handled him successfully in anything since his Rally Novice title last November. But I’d seen how well he’d done in Montana with finding birds, being steady, and retrieving to hand. So I hoped that if one of the team weren’t that experienced, the other member might be able to carry us through.

It was was hot at the Scatter Creek Wildlife Recreation Area. In May, it’s supposed to be at least somewhat cool, but not this year. It was forecast to get up to 86 degrees F, and Carlin is a hot dog. He got so hot in the 65 degree weather in Montana that we kept him mostly soaked the whole time he was running. And this test, put on by the Cascade English Cocker Spaniel Fanciers, was no different. Fortunately, the club supplied tubs of water at the beginning of the course that handlers could use to cool their dogs.

You can see the start flags and the two judges in the photo above. Carlin and I were first in the running order. We walked to the start line, and chatted briefly with the judges. And then came the news that we would have to wait. Somehow, the judges hadn’t gotten their scoring books, and we had to wait while the club secretary quickly put them together.

Finally, after about 10 minutes, the judges had their books. They handed me the gun, and told me to send Carlin when I was ready. So I did, and he was off.

Carlin quartered the course beautifully. I whistled him a few times to turn or to come closer to me, but mostly he went back and forth across the course several times on his own. But he wasn’t finding any birds. That’s very odd. He usually finds birds as soon as there is one to find. It was only then that some in the following gallery realized that while we were waiting for the judges books to be put together, the planted chukars must have began to wake up to their surroundings and walk off the course.

Finally, about a quarter of the way down the very long, horse-shoe-shaped course, Carlin found and flushed his first bird.

I shouldn’t have been, but I was so busy goggling at Carlin flushing a bird that I forgot to whistle him to sit on the flush. Fortunately, like I said earlier, one-half the team had it together, and Carlin sat on his own. And he kept sitting while the chukar flew away over gallery, preventing a safe shot.

Carlin’s next bird (like most of the birds that morning) was a trap. It wouldn’t fly, so Carlin just grabbed it up on the run, kept going a few paces, and then turned and brought the bird to me.

Having seen Carlin find birds, flush one, be steady to wing and shot, and deliver two birds to hand, the judges told me that they had seen enough. So we were done with the flushing part of the test. On to the hunt dead.

I don’t have any pictures of the rest of the test, unfortunately. But the hunt dead went well. Like all the other dogs, he went out and found the bird steward’s bag of birds first, so I had to give him an “Over” command to send him downwind a bit to catch the scent of the bird I wanted. But even with that, it took him all of 30 seconds to run out the 65 yards and bring back my dead bird.

The next portion was the water test. For master dogs, there are two parts to this. One is the blind water retrieve. In this case, a dead bird was hidden at the edge of the other side of the swollen creek, and Carlin was supposed to go get it.

This was nerve-wracking. Unbeknownst to me, about 15 yards upwind and down the shore on our side of the creek, Russ was helping out, hidden with a basket of birds, waiting to launch them out into the pond for the marked water retrieve. So what did Carlin do? Instead of jumping into the creek to go over to the other side to retrieve the hidden bird, he ran straight down shore to Russ. That’s not totally unreasonable, as there were hidden birds there. But it’s not the direction I sent him.

I whistled him back to me, but I had to be careful not to do anything even remotely resembling getting him back to my side. If I did that, and sent him again to the bird hidden across the creek, that would be a double send and we’d fail the test.

So when Carlin came back to me, I jumped sideways about 5 feet and told Carlin to go “Over” without waiting for him to stop. This is called a handle. A handle happens after a send at some distance from the dog, so it’s not a re-send. Fortunately, he decided to jump into the creek and swim over to other side.

He found the bird over there. Eventually. He could have found it right away if he’d just looked for it at the edge of the creek, where it was hidden in some tall grassy stuff. But no, he had to climb up onto the shore, clamber among the broken tree limbs and branches, and splash around in the flooded areas. I gave him another handle, he went to where I indicated, and found his by-now soggy chukar. Which, thankfully, he brought right back to me.

photo by Dan Rotter

So now it was onto that last bird. Would he break, or would he be steady for the launch of the bird, the shot, and the splash in the water? The bird went up, the gun went off, and bird landed, and Carlin, bless him, sat while I waited for the judge to tap me.

But there was no tap. I could see out of the corner of my eye that the judge was too far away to tap me, so I gambled that by then, Carlin had demonstrated his steadiness, and I sent him.

photo by Dan Rotter

Carlin threw himself into the water with a dramatic leap, grabbed up the bird, and brought it back to me.

photo by Dan Rotter

And we were done. I knew we’d passed the test. Now the only question was: were his scores high enough to qualify toward a Master Hunter Upland Advanced title? To earn that, he has to pass 5 master tests, each with an average of 8 out of 10 poimts overall in 5 categories being judged: hunting, bird finding, bird flushing, trained abilities, and retrieving.

Master Hunter Upland pass, Cascade English Cocker Spaniel Fanciers, May 26, 2017

Later, after all the scores were tabulated, we found that yes, Carlin had averaged just over 9 out of 10 for this test. So we were happy and tired, celebrated a bit with some other competitors from Idaho, and then crawled off the hotel room for a shower and bed.

We’d need our sleep if were were going to do the whole thing over the next day.

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We have kept this blog up for more than 10 years. I know that there are others who enjoy reading it. But we also use it as a kind of diary, to help us remember what happened to which dogs when.

So as I have with Carlin’s other hunt test passes (Junior and Senior), I thought I’d create a post that lists Carlin’s scores for the Master Hunter Upland spaniel tests he took and passed, earning his MHU title. Each test is represented in a table, and each table includes the scores given by the two judges for each category.

Master Hunter Upland pass 1Northwest English Springer Spaniel Club – August 20, 2016

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt   Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 9 | 9 N/A 8 | 8 6 | 6 7.67 | 7.67
Bird finding 9 | 10 8 | 9 8 | 8 6 | 7 7.75 | 8.5
Flushing 8 | 8 N/A N/A N/A 8.0  | 8.0
Trained 8 | 8 8 | 9 8 | 7 6 | 6 7.5  | 7.25
Retrieving 9 | 8 9 | 8 8 | 8 7 | 8 8.25 | 8.0
Overall average 7.83 | 7.88

 

Master Hunter Upland pass 2Northwest English Springer Spaniel Club – August 21, 2016

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt   Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 8 | 9 N/A 9 | 9 8 | 10 8.33 | 9.33
Bird finding 9 | 9 10 | 9 10 | 9 10 | 10 9.75 | 9.25
Flushing 8 | 9 N/A  N/A  N/A 8.0  | 9.0
Trained 6 | 6 10 | 8 7 | 9 6 | 6 7.25 | 7.25
Retrieving 9 | 9 10 | 9 10 | 10 6 | 8 8.75 | 9.0
Overall average 8.41 | 8.77

 

Master Hunter Upland pass 3Mount Rainier Sporting Spaniel Club – September 2, 2016

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt  Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 10 | 8 N/A 8 | 7 10 | 7 9.33 | 7.33
Bird finding 10 | 7 8 | 9 7 | 7 10 | 7 8.75 | 7.5
Flushing 10 | 9 N/A N/A N/A 10.0 | 9.00
Trained 10 | 10 6 | 7 7 | 7 8 | 6 7.75 | 7.50
Retrieving 10 | 10 10 | 7 8 | 8 7 | 6 8.75 | 7.75
Overall average 8.92 | 7.82

 

Master Hunter Upland pass 4 – Puget Sound English Springer Spaniel Club – September 3, 2016

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt   Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 9 | 9 N/A 10 | 10 8 | 8 9.0  | 9.0
Bird finding 9 | 9 10 | 10 10 | 10 8 | 8 9.7  | 9.25
Flushing 10 | 9 N/A N/A N/A 10.0 | 9.0
Trained 9 | 8 8 | 10 10 | 10 8 | 8 8.7  | 9.0
Retrieving 10 | 8 9 | 10 10 | 10 9 | 9 9.0  | 9.25
Overall average 9.2  | 9.1

 

Master Hunter Upland pass ? – Clumber Spaniel Club of America – September 4, 2016
We don’t have any records of passing this test. But when I called the American Kennel Club in early this month to straighten out some other mistakes on Carlin’s AKC Points and Awards page, the AKC said they show a pass at this test for Carlin.

“Really?” I asked, “I don’t think so. Are you sure?” And the nice lady there replied, yes, she’s sure. They even had it down as Carlin’s 5th qualifying score for his MHU title. She was a bit embarrassed that the certificate hadn’t been sent out yet, and was glad I’d called her so she could make sure to get it sent.

About 5 days later, an MHU certificate arrived, dated September 4, 2016. We just didn’t get it until May 8, 2017. We could have stopped there and accepted the title, but it didn’t feel right. So we entered him in more tests to make sure Carlin could really do the work.

 

Master Hunter Upland pass 5Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club – May 20, 2017

Ability Land Water Retrieve Hunt   Dead Water Blind Average
Hunting 9 | 8 N/A 10 | 8 9 | 8 9.33 | 8.0
Bird finding 9 | 8 9 | 9 10 | 9 9 | 8 9.25 | 8.5
Flushing 9 | 6 N/A N/A N/A 9.00 | 6.0
Trained 9 | 8 9 | 9 10 | 9 9 | 8 9.25 | 8.5
Retrieving 9 | 7 9 | 10 10 | 8 9 | 9 9.25 | 9.0
Overall average 9.2  | 8.0

 

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Sunday’s master spaniel test was tough. The Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club did a fine job putting on a test with the conditions presented to them. But still it was tough, particularly on the Juniors and Masters.

There was very little breeze. It was hot. In fact, we drenched Carlin with water every 10 minutes or so, just to keep him relatively cool.

Juniors went first — only 1 dog passed. Seniors went next — they had 4 qualifiers. Masters went next, and they were hard hit, with only 2 dogs qualifying.

Carlin was 4th in the Master running order, and as we walked the course, we watched the other dogs fail one by one. Some dogs just couldn’t find any birds. Other dogs found birds, but then weren’t steady and broke before being sent for the retrieve. One dog flushed a bird, but then couldn’t find it after it had been shot. One dog read Tooey’s playbook, and ran off the course after a flyaway. But Carlin, an Irish Water Spaniel, and Dennis, a cross-eyed, 9-year-old yellow Labrador, did well enough to get their hunt deads and then go to the water.

It took quite a while for the first three dogs to fail. And by the time Carlin was called up, we were nervous, he was amped, and it was getting hotter and hotter.

But when it was Carlin’s turn, it took him less than 5 minutes to find, flush, be steady, and retrieve two chukars, and then nail a 65-yard blind retrieve (no ducks this time).

Carlin returning with his 2nd chukar

So, it was on to the water. As in Saturday’s test, the Master water blind was held first. And because Carlin was the first of two Master dogs to go on to the water test, he was the first Master dog to do the water blind.

This blind was at a 45 degree angle to the slough’s edge. If Carlin were to go straight to the bird, he’d cross the first channel, just touch the tip of a small island, and then cross the 2nd channel to the slough’s edge on the other side. What he did was to swim to the tip of the island, get out just there, and stop to look back to Russ for directions. Russ gave him a left-hand back cast. Carlin crossed the 2nd channel and climbed half way up the bank to retrieve the pheasant. Which he picked up and delivered directly to hand.

Then, Russ and Carlin went back aways from the water to wait while the Junior and Senior dogs did their marked water retrieves. Carlin tried to get a better look, but it wouldn’t have done him any good. The Master water retrieve was in a slightly different place and angle than the Senior marks.

And again, that tense moment. Would Carlin break at his water mark, and blow the whole test? The gallery was rooting silently for him. There was actually no talking while Carlin did this mark.

The bird landed in some pheasant-colored reeds on the far bank of the slough. Carlin swam right by it, got up on the bank, and thought for a moment about going over to where the blind retrieve had been. He changed his mind, though, and turned around, saw the bird at the water’s edge, picked it up, swam it back, and delivered it to hand.

The crowd clapped and cheered. The judge said to Russ, “You can breathe now.” And so it was done. Another Master qualifying score: average 9.33 out of 10!

Good job, boys! May 21, 2017

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Tooey is her own kind of bird dog. She knows how to get birds. She doesn’t need no stinking tests to prove that. She doesn’t need validation from the AKC (though she has it). She’s gotten birds in multiple states, including Montana, plus a Canadian province. And this recent trip to Montana just proved her out.

To keep her entertained on this trip, we entered Tooey at the Senior level at the two tests put on by the Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club. It’s just not fair to have to wait in the car the whole time while Carlin’s having all the fun.

So on Saturday, Russ took her out to the course set up for senior and master dogs. While the judges were giving instructions to Russ, Tooey was ignoring their comments and plotting out her own strategy. There are birds out there. They must be gotten, no matter what.

Tooey quartered methodically between the gunners, stopping and seriously inspecting every suspicious area where the wiley chukars might be hiding. She flushed her first chukar, which was out walking around in the low grass. That proved to be an easy shot and an easy retrieve. Pretty quickly, she got herself into some good cover.

And dove in to flush another bird.

Which was promptly shot at. It flew off, though, so Tooey needed to do a long retrieve. She needed no prompting, and off she went. And kept going. And kept going some more. She was gone so long that I thought the judge was going to call a “no bird”, but then we could all see Tooey in the distance, coming back in with a bird.

She handed the bird over to Russ, and the judges conferred a bit. Judges conferring is rarely a good thing, but they came to the conclusion that Tooey could keep going with the test. Apparently she came back just soon enough to not throw her out for not being under control.

And it was on to the hunt dead, which we seldom practice with Tooey. But she’s watched us work with Carlin, and she knew what to do. After all, it’s only about 45 yards away. Easy for a hunter like Tooey. She took the correct line, picked up the correct bird, and delivered it to hand.

So far, so good. Only one simple water retrieve left for her to do to get another Senior pass.

Well, at this point, her desire to play by the rules was waning. After all, rules can get in the way of efficient hunting and retrieving. Russ lined Tooey up on the bank of the slough, called for the bird. As soon as the bird hit the water, so did Tooey. Test over. Fail. Unfortunately, the rules require that a Senior dog stay steady at the water until sent. Tooey obviously thinks that this is a stupid rule. But she got her bird, and I don’t think it had even been in the water long enough to get very soggy.

The next day, I ran her. We didn’t think it could get too much worse. I guess, though, it depends on how you define “worse”.

She quartered very nicely, responding to my whistles quickly. She found and flushed her first bird, a chukar, in short order.

It flew, but the gunner missed. As the chuckar flew out of gun range, Tooey must have figured that if the gunner couldn’t do his job, she’d better go get that bird.

She ran off the course, and at some point, the judge told me “no bird”, so I attempted to whistle her back in. And I kept whistling as she disappeared hundreds of yards away and behind some trees. When she finally reappeared, she was carrying a chukar, which she delivered to hand.

I think at that point, the judges decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps being impressed by her long retrieve. So they gave us another chance at another bird.

Within just moments, she found and flushed a rooster pheasant. The same gunner who missed the chukar was unable to get a safe shot of the pheasant as it disappeared over the northeast horizon. The problem was that Tooey also disappeared over the northeast horizon in pursuit of the second get-away bird.

Again, another “no bird”. Again, Tooey did not respond to my whistles. We waited, but eventally, the judge politely excused me to go retrieve my dog so that they could continue the test for the next Senior dog.

I hiked north towards Canada, whistling for my missing dog. About 400 yards out, she reappeared, holding the live pheasant gently in her mouth. She delivered it to me, panting, with a few loose pheasant feathers hanging from her tongue. The pheasant seemed unfazed as I carried it back to the judges. When I handed it to the judge, I said, “I know there’s no ribbons, but here’s your bird.” The gunner came up and apologized for missing both birds.

But you know, I wasn’t mad. Tooey got her birds. She’s a good hunter. If you ever really need to get your bird, Tooey’s your girl.

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To get an AKC Master Hunter Upland title, a dog must pass 5 master-level spaniel tests. By the end of 2016, Carlin had passed 4. So we loaded up the car, and trekked 450 miles to the headwaters of the Missouri River in Three Forks, Montana to see if we could get that 5th pass at the test put on by the Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club on Saturday, May 20th.

The setting was the Missouri Headwaters State Park where Lewis and Clark camped in 1805, at the confluence of the Madison, Jefferson, and Gallatin Rivers. With all those rivers, the grounds were flat and lush, covered with still-green, calf-high grasses and dotted with native shrubs, some low at 1 foot, some reaching 10 feet tall. This all provided dense cover, challenging dogs to find birds and obscuring those dogs from the the vision of their handlers and judges from time to time. Often, you could see bushes rustling, but not actually see the dog making them move.

Russ and Carlin started 5th in the Master test, after the Juniors and Seniors had already run. Even though snow had fallen only three days prior, the weather was warming up fast by the time of his run. We wanted to make a good show of it, as Carlin was the first Irish Water Spaniel most of the folks had ever seen, much less watch one run in a spaniel test.

Russ sent him off with a “Hunt it up!” Carlin quartered the field easily, stopping to circle and investigate the many clusters of shrubs. In pretty short order, he flushed a rooster pheasant on the right side of the course, which the gunner knocked down about 40 yards away. Carlin was steady to flush and shot, and when the judge tapped Russ’ shoulder, Russ said, “Take it!” Carlin ran to where he’d seen the bird fall, but the bird wasn’t there. We in the gallery saw the bird flutter another 10 yards away, with Carlin on its tail. He grabbed it up and delivered the live bird to hand.

One bird down, 4 to go.

The next bird was a chukar, which Carlin flushed up on the left. Once again, Carlin was steady to wing and shot. The gunner knocked that bird down into heavy cover, which proved no trouble for Carlin. He delivered that one to hand, too.

Two down, 3 to go.

This club decided to hold the hunt dead test immediately after a dog qualified in the flushing part of the test. So Russ and Carlin hid behind one of the shrubs while one of the judges placed the dead bird about 65 yards off the course in a patch of low bushy cover.

Russ lined Carlin up in the direction where the judges indicated that there was a hidden dead bird. Carlin started off in that direction, but then veered 30 degrees off to the left of the line into another area of dense cover, and started to hunt. Before Russ could whistle-sit Carlin in order to handle him back to the area where the dead bird had been hidden, Carlin flushed a duck out of the cover where he was hunting. Without even thinking, Russ blasted the whistle and Carlin slammed his butt to the ground. Every one watched the duck fly temptingly low over the hunt test course, while Carlin kept his butt on the ground. Every one was stunned. No one knew there was a duck there, except Carlin.

So then, Russ called him in about 15 yards, did another whistle-sit, and then with a right-hand back, spun Carlin around in the direction to the original dead bird. He picked the chukar up and promptly delivered it to hand.

With that done, the gallery broke into amazed applause. Flushing ducks is not usually part of the hunt dead. Three birds down, 2 to go.

For the water series, the test moved over to a slough near the Madison River, about a mile away from the land work. Working in the river might have been nice in the Fall, but this is Spring, and cold water was rushing too fast in the river.

The Master water blind retrieve went first. Only 4 dogs made it to that point. The 50-yard retrieve started on the bank of the slough, went across some water, across an island in the slough, across another channel, and up a steep rocky bank.

Russ lined Carlin up again and sent him. Carlin did a flashy launch into the water, swam to the island, and began to search the island for birds. Russ handled Carlin back over to the spot where he had first gotten onto the island, had him do a whistle-sit, and then a back. Whereupon, Carlin turned around, launched himself into the second channel, and swam straight to the spot just below the rooster pheasant. After picking up the rooster, he made the return trip in a straight line, and handed it over. Very clean. We are very grateful for our friend’s help and access to the quarry pond that we practiced in last week — the two scenarios turned out to be almost exactly the same (except the quarry pond blind retrieve was longer.)

Four birds down, 1 to go.

For the final test, a marked water retrieve, we moved farther down the slough. Juniors and then Seniors went first, which left us as the second-to-last dog to run. So many tests have been failed at this point, where the dog has done everything beautifully up to this point, but then breaks, going after the bird before being sent. And Carlin and all the Master dogs were getting amped. They couldn’t see anything, but they could hear the shots, splashes, and whistles.

When it was Carlin’s turn, he was definitely dancing at the bank, waiting to go get his bird. The judges said, “When your dog is ready, give us the signal, and we’ll call for the bird.” Russ took the leash off. Carlin parked his butt. Russ raised his gun, and signaled the judges that they were ready. The whole gallery at this point is thinking, “Sit! Sit! Sit!” No one wanted to see Carlin break.

The bird was thrown, the gun shot went off, and still Carlin sat. The just tapped Russ’s shoulder, and still Carlin sat. Russ waited three beats, and still Carlin sat.

Finally, finally, Russ said, “Take it!” and Carlin leapt into the water in true IWS style. He went straight out and straight back, and delivered the soggy chukar to hand.

Five birds down. Five Master qualifying passes. Realta’s Carlin O’Whistlestop RN MHU CA. With this pass, he’s the 4th and youngest IWS to earn this title.

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It was sunny when we got there, but threatening hail as we packed up to go. But in the hour and a half that we were at the quarry pond, after a somewhat rocky start, Carlin did his best to make us proud.

We started off with a 80-yard water mark that landed just up the bank in the dirt. Carlin leapt into the water from the pond shoreline, swam over there, went up on the land, and brought the bird right back toward Russ, only to drop it several times on the shore. Once at the shoreline. Once again behind Russ’s feet, and again at his side. Eventually he picked it up and delivered it, though.

Then as Russ and Carlin walked back off the line, our friend planted another bird very near where the mark had been. Russ lined Carlin up and sent him, and halleluia! Carlin went straight out. No veering off to the right as he has been prone to do. (We’ve been working on it in the yard, so maybe those drills clicked in today.)

Our friend then planted another blind, as Russ and Carlin again turned to walk away again. This one a touch farther away, on the shore of a different nook of the pond, 85-ish yards away, and only about 30 degrees off from the first blind.

Russ lined him up, waited till Carlin’s nose was pointed the right way, and then sent him. And Yay! for Carlin, he went straight again. No veering off this time either. No returning to the site of the first blind. And this time, he delivered the bird to hand with no goofing off. Such a nice job. Cheering was heard from both sides of the pond.

Then we put Carlin up while we threw a series of double marks for our friend’s dog and a couple of single marks for Tooey. (Tooey was in a mood to goof off, although she did finally retrieve the bumper both times.)

We’d gotten what we wanted and were packing up the car and chatting. We were up on a ridge, looking at another section of the pond when Russ said something like, “You know, that patch of cattails looks pretty interesting over there. Why don’t we try a long mark for Carlin.”

Now, I can be a worrier. Carlin had done such a nice job on his water blinds. I wanted to end on a success. I looked at that 150-yard distance out to the cattails, and worried that Carlin would fail. Friend said, “You’ll never know unless you try.”

So she waded out there (at one point, getting soaked up to mid-thigh), and got ready to throw a long mark for Carlin. You can kind of see her as a vertical black dot on an island in the upper right third of the photo below.

Russ signaled for the bird, it went up and then down for a splash in the water (and Carlin stayed at Russ’s side!). Russ sent him, and off Carlin went. He ran down the hill and across the flat, jumped into the water, crossed the channel, swam to the island where our friend was standing, and then located the bumper off the the right. That’s him just reaching the bumper in the photo below. You can see the wake he left on his way from the island to the bumper.

His going out was not perfectly straight to the bumper, but then, bless his heart, he came straight back. Water, land (you can see him coming back at the near edge of the peninsula in the photo below), water, land, up the hill…

…for a nice delivery to hand. More cheering was heard. Good boy!

We could see that the sky was getting darker and the storm was coming in fast. So we finished packing up quickly and left the quarry pond in a hurry. Just as we pulled out of the gate onto the highway, the rain and hail brought the clouds down and reminded us that it’s not summer yet.

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