Today was our first official training morning. It involves meeting at the gate at 6:30 and driving into one of our training covers. The first brace broke away just before 7:00 this morning and included Little Thuddy braced with Wild Apple Jack. This is one of those situations where we feel a less experienced young dog can benefit from being run with a dog that knows his job. They both did their part. Jack had a find about 175 yards from the truck and as we got close Tony called Thuddy in and put him on a lead. Jack was standing in a fairly open spot where Tony was able to put Thuddy in good position to see Jack and watch as I flushed. And it took me quite awhile to get the woodcock in the air as it sat tight in some pretty dense cover. Thuddy got a good look at it. Jack’s next stand was a brood of grouse and Thuddy was once again brought in and was handled into a back. He got to see a few of the brood. Jack’s next find was another brood and he was in a good opening for Thuddy to back again. Both dogs stood and watched as one chick after another lifted from a small patch of cover in front of Jack as well as other spots more distant. What was really good was when we released the dogs Thuddy dove into the patch of cover and froze into a really nice point. When Tony stepped towards him a sleeper boiled out of the cover right in front of him.
Jack started running bigger and his next find was 180 yards away. He was standing in open spruces and I waited for Tony and Thuddy. On their way to me, Thuddy found his own grouse which he pointed before the single adult bird blew out in front of him. Tony stopped him with the bellyband and then brought him over for another back. There were at least two woodcock in front of Jack that had moved out of the thick alder cover to the relative coolness of the open spruce woods. The brace ended up lasting almost an hour and a half with Little Thuddy benefitting from the experience of Jack. He learned a couple of lessons today that will be reinforced over and over this summer as he gets worked. First on Jack’s find he got lessons about backing and where the birds are. All his yardwork on heel, here, and whoa was reinforced as Tony kept him in the pocket and brought him in for his backs. He also on a number of the finds got to see and or smell birds.
By the second brace it was already starting to get hot. LJ and Frankie were braced together and ran well. The bird work started with a stop to flush on a woodcock for Frankie. This was followed by LJ pointing and Frankie backing although I’m sure he had a nose full of grouse as there was a big brood in front of them. They broke on the flush and LJ went about ten feet and stopped again. I got to him this time and snapped a lead on him and Tony tried to flush. Just as he was coming back to us another chick flushed right over his head out of a small fir tree. Knowing that he had the lead on LJ remained steady for the flush. A little further on Frankie went on point and Tony couldn’t get anything up. Frankie relocated and still no birds. LJ came across about 20 yards in front of Frankie and disappeared into the cover. When I say disappeared, I really mean it. As I walked to where I thought he was I flushed some of the brood and then his bell started up right in front of me. I was standing in a chest high patch of raspberry canes and still couldn’t see the dog until he burst out into one of our trails. He went on a little bit and pointed the rest of the brood just as Frankie came in from the side and pointed as well.
After that find Frankie went forward to the right and LJ went to the left which took him into the alders down along the brook. He stopped again and I was able to get to him, snap the lead to him, and then flush our third brood of grouse during this brace. Then the Garmins buzzed and Frankie was on point 135 yards away. Fortunately we had two as Tony’s choose this moment to get a little cranky. It had the distance the same as mine but his arrow was pointing in the opposite direction. We knew Frankie was to our front and followed my arrow. His arrow kept pointing in the wrong direction but counted down the yardage accurately. When we found Frankie, I brought LJ in for a back and then Tony flushed a woodcock. Just before we got back to the truck both dogs pointed independently in a ditch between the truck and the brook. The bottom of the ditch has been weed-wacked but the rest of the cover around it is jungle-like. This is a place where we have had numerous non-productives over the years and then every once in a while some dog will pin the damn ditch bird. Today was not the day.
On the way out we saw a single grouse in the road and a doe with her spotted fawn. The doe jumped straight into the woods an disappeared while the fawn dig a hundred yard dash straight down the road as we sat in the truck and watched. When I got back home there was a grouse in the driveway less than 50 yards from the kennel – they’re everywhere!!! So, the official count for the two braces this morning was five broods of grouse, a single grouse, four woodcock on three finds, and two road grouse counting the one at the house. School tomorrow – Wednesday I’ll try to remember the camera.