Central Kentucky

Central Ky is one of the last  hunt test  of the season in the midwest. We left  friday morning to meet up with training buddy, Nancy Pal in Paducah to shop and dine at a place called Patti’s. Before heading to Patti’s we drove around the hunt test grounds and found an area to let the dogs run after a 5 and 1/2 hour road trip. Keaton was a trooper as usual and enjoyed a chance to kick it up with Nancy’s golden Ryder and Susan’s Chili. All three are intact males and have no problems being out together. In fact, Keaton and Chili will even play tug and chase with each other. These boys are a testimony to the temperament of the retriever breed.

Patti’s in not only a family owned dining establishment, but has a variety of shops and  is always decorated for christmas. They are known for their famous homecooked comfort foods and pies. In fact, there was as many different types of pies as there were entrees. I had a chicken dish drenched in a special sauce that was so tender! Of course, dessert was a must and I had “sawdust pie”, a concoction of coconut, bananas and a pecan pie type filling. It was so rich that most of it was taken home.

The CKRC grounds are DNR land and the ponds contained pennisulas which can always provide for some interesting marking set-ups.

You will commonly hear that the further south you go the tougher the judges. This test was going to be just that. I have never seen so many “concepts” wrapped up into one test.

Our first series was a walk up besides a large mound for a single middle flyer. Then you were to no your dog off the flyer and send them to a long blind to the right of a large pond. You got it a POISON BIRD! The scent of the flyer was blowing right towards the dogs. There were lots of scalloping casts back toward the flyer due the strong winds. In addition, the dog had to cross a gravel road into a featureless field.

After running the blind, you received your dog on the mound which changed the dog’s perspective of the poison bird. Rather than sending your dog for the bird, then the gunners  were signaled for 2 more marks. The first(or second if you count the poison bird) went left to right angled toward the gunner station of poison bird. This is known as a hip pocket concept. Then the 3rd bird went right to left and landed in a strip of  vegetation.

The “go” bird(the last bird down) landed with a white wing tip up. These are called the million dollar birds since the dog can see the bird on the ground. He picked up the other two clean but did put on a hunt. By changing the location of the line and adding the factor of running off a mound, across a road and into a tall featureless field made marking tough for the dogs.

There was another land blind under the arc of the far left bird. Keaton lined it and was carried to the second series. He had no problems with the bird handling and I was relieved.

The second series was another challenging set up on  a beautiful pond with a peninsula . The first two gunner stations were on the peninsula with the first mark going right to left to land on the far side of the peninsula without a splash. The second mark came from the same holding blind going left to right on the peninsula. About 20 feet to the right of the second mark was a blind(not hot-which means there was no bird planted) Although there was no bird, there was scent and a strong wind! Depending on how far the second mark was thrown, it created a lot of problems if the dog didnt pick up the second mark quickly.

The test became even tougher when they added a THIRD  close mark to the left of the pond on land. Keaton line manners were good being quiet in the holding blind, steady and following the gun. After returning with the Go Bird, I lined him up and off he went in a nice line to the right bird. He overran it and put up a good hunt, but got into the blind scent which confused him. He caught scent of the first bird and started to run toward it. I had to handle which was not easy as I too was confused where the darn bird had landed. I got him there, but it wasnt as smooth as I wanted.

I lined him to the first bird, but had a difficult time reading him , but sent him. He swung left off a point and went out in a direction to the left of the island. I knew I could not handle a second time on one series as I helplessly saw him go “out to sea”. This was a BIG pond and the swim to the far left shore was at least 100 yards. Unfortunately, he was too far left to catch the scent and kept swimming. He did eventually “beach”, hunt and then started swimming back knowing he was not right. He then winded the bird and picked it up.

One of the judges told us that we were done as he was “out of the area”. We did not get a chance to run the blind. The blind was short, but challenging as they required to cross a point of a small peninsula and then stay in the water to pick up the bird which was in a small cove at the water’s edge. The other difficulties on this blind included its close proximity to the second bird, a cross wind blowing scent from the gun station on the large peninsula and a blind station  15-20 behind the blind. In addition, the sun was quickly setting and the judges were determined to get the series finished. The last dog was a yellow lab and you could not even tell if he had the blind bird in his mouth on the return.

I volunteered to run as test dog for the third series on Sunday and the judges were happy to let us participate. The third series was the water series on another large pond with several coves and a peninsula off the left side of the pond. It was a triple with an honor.

The  first mark was left to right arching over the peninsula and landing in the cove behind it. The middle mark also went left to right and landed in another cove about 90 degrees to the right of the first mark. The third mark was a short “punch” bird from the same side as the line. Depending on how the winger launched the bird it was either a “wiper” or a “in-line”. A wiper bird is when a short bird is thrown across the line to  a previous mark. In many cases, this interferes with the dog’s memory on that mark . An “in-line” is a mark that lands in line with the previous mark They may think that they have already picked up that mark or it may make them hunt short especially on land where the scent is still present from the last bird.

Keaton did take a nice line to the middle mark, but then lost his picture and hunted the shore before working back to the water and picking up the bird. He marked the bird over the peninsula well and his honor was solid.

I was overall very pleased with Keaton’s work. We have certainly improved since starting our master debut in June. It is not going to be an easy road nor have we failed our last test, but it has been a great learning experience for me. I met  many hunt test enthusiasts and have had some great dining experiences from backyard grills to hole –in- the- wall bars. We have had the opportunity to train on a variety of different training grounds and watch about every type of retriever recognized by the AKC work in the field.

We are hoping for a mild winter to train, train, train. !

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