Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reflections on our 2nd Master Hunter test

Gryff and I are in our 2nd Master Hunter test this weekend, put on a local club to which I belong, the Marshbanks Golden Retriever CLub. He did a fine job on the first series, which was a land triple with a blind under the arc of the left mark. His marks were superb - hardly any hunt on any of them, and compared to many teams, our blind was good.

The 2nd series was a water double, with the memory bird across the pond (ideally through some brush in the water), through cover on the far side, up a hill, across a road, and through another cover strip. Only a few dogs swam across and drove straight up the hill. Most swam across and hunted back and forth, gradually working their way up the hill, over the road and throw the last cover strip. Gryff took a somewhat unique approach by swimming more to the left than he should have, which meant going through MUCH more brush/bushes in the water and on the far side. I'm reasonably sure he drove up the hill. He had a very long hunt on the other side, but did come up with it. All 24 dogs who made it to the 2nd series will run tomorrow. Since I helped to set up for all 3 series, I knew ahead of time what Sunday would bring... and it wasn't easy! I'm very happy that we got to try.

Last summer, I learned a couple of phrases, "Zero to hero" and "Hero to zero". Unfortunately, we earned the "hero to zero" title today. We once again did not pass the 3rd series of the test. The series started with a land blind. The one the had planned on wouldn't work today because of the way the wind was blowing, so instead of going northwest, it went southwest, and was much more of a Senior level blind than a Master one (Senior blinds don't tend to have too many "factors", or things that would draw the dog off the line to the blind or cause the dog to want to avoid the line to the blind. Master blinds tend to have factors along the way, such as clumps or strips of taller cover, be closer to gun stations, have more variance in terrain, etc.). I think it was only about 40-50 yds, and there really wasn't much between the line and the bird. The bird was placed in front of what looked like a bush, but was really a very large thistle plant. I lined Gryff up for it, sent him off, and he made a bee-line for it and picked up the duck. That is called "lining the blind" and we've never done it in a test, and I'm pretty sure no other dog had done it before him (and he ran after at least 15 other dogs). So that was the hero part.

The next part of the test was a delayed triple in water. The center mark was thrown, than the left-hand one. I sent him to retrieve that one, which he did smartly with very little searching. On his return, we lined up for the right-hand bird, which was thrown. He retrieved that one smartly, too. Then it was time for the memory bird. The line to that one was across a 6-8 foot peninsula (which got weed-whacked yesterday so that we could see the dog from the line), with a large island to the right that has tall cover (3-4 ft high, I'd say). I did a poor job of being patient while lining him up for the memory bird (I did MUCH better being patient on the land triple yesterday that he did so well), and when I sent him, he was looking to the right. Sure enough, he went where he was looking. He crossed the peninsula and headed for the island. I decided to handle him at that point (something that is sometimes necessary, but not desirable on a mark). It didn't go well. I think he eventually winded the bird, because he suddenly jumped back in the water and swam right to it. We had to finish up with a water blind. The line to the blind was between where the middle mark had landed and the island. Danged if he didn't essentially repeat what he'd done on the mark - cross the peninsula too far to the right and go to the island. This in spite of quicker attempts to handle him back onto the line.

Given that the last weather report I looked at for the weekend was for 74 and partly cloudy, the misty rain that fell all morning was a huge annoyance. It was at least vastly better than the 90 or so degrees we had last weekend!

I was the Master test coordinator, which meant that I was there on Friday with the judges so that I would know what equipment they would need in order to put on the tests they wanted to run. It also meant I was in charge of training workers and keeping the test and equipment use moving along. I am so pleased to be able to say we didn't have a single goof up today from our group of workers - no equipment goofs, no missed cues. That is pretty unusual, and something to be proud of.

While I am of course somewhat disappointed, there was still a lot of parts that were very, very good. We now return to the training grounds for another 3-4 weeks before our next attempt.