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Posts Tagged ‘Missouri Headwaters Gun Dog Club’

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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