Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Be Aware Of Poor Visibility

Picture taken by Louis A D'Aria

Picture taken by Louis A D’Aria

Whether it be in the misty morning of the duck hunting marsh, in the shadows of flooded timber, the sun setting on your marking test, or dusk in the abyss of the Great Lakes visibility for your retriever can be challenging in a matter of seconds. Dog’s are best at what they do most. If your retriever has had a lot of practice marking birds in these conditions one would think their retriever would have no problems, but things can change in an instant.

As my husband gears up for his morning adventure of duck hunting with his new gundog Cal; I am reminded of our many friends (canine too) who have joined us on our hunting and training trips. One particular frightful hunting story comes to mind. A few years back, a friend of mine from Nebraska came to hunt the marshes of Lake Huron. He and his retriever were avid hunters; in fact celebrated and famous for some of their accomplishments as a retriever team. They had driven many miles and arrived anxious to get out on the lake to hunt ducks. Arriving in the mid-afternoon the team had time to gear up the boat and get set for an evening hunt on the lake.

The retriever team’s expeditious efforts paid off, they were having a fantastic time with the ducks flying and shooting accurate. As the sun began to set with only a few precious minutes of shooting time allowed before the evening hunt was to end my friend wounded a duck. It was a close fallen cripple just landing outside of the decoy spread, my friend sent his retriever for the crippled duck. With eyes locked on his dog he watched as his retriever made a b-line for the cripple. The retriever grabbed for the duck only to have the duck quickly dive and disappear; moments later reappearing about 10 yards further than the duck’s original fall area. My friend believing the duck was wounded enough for his retriever to make a rapid retrieve he allowed the dog to go after the cripple. As visibility became poor in seconds, he watched as his retriever disappeared into the abyss, shouting out his name and whistling his retriever, no dog showed up at the boat. A big knot welled up in his throat and a sense of panic came over him. A feeling no avid hunter or retriever enthusiast ever wants to experience.

One minute it was the hunt of a life-time in the next a plan of action to find and save his retriever’s life. My friend picked up his decoys staying put hoping his retriever’s GPS would relocate him from where ever he had traveled back to the boat. By this time night had fallen and still no dog. My friend began his search; hours of riding in the boat shouting and whistling with no luck. My friend had to exit the water with a heavy heart and leave his best friend behind. The next couple of hours were agonizing, filled with grief and worry, but there is a happy ending to this story.

At about 10:30 P.M. my friend received a call from a Walleye fisherman who had found his dog! My friend shed tears of joy that his faithful hunting buddy had been found. The fisherman explained they were returning to the boat launch shinning spot lights to find buoys and saw the twinkle of the dogs eyes moving a top of the water. Wondering what this odd sight was the fishermen went to inspect it, there they found his retriever swimming 3 miles from the shore of Lake Huron with the crippled duck still in his mouth! The fishermen pulled the weary dog from the water, took the duck from his mouth, and tried to dry the shivering retriever off. The fisherman told my friend his dog seemed relieved to see someone coming for him. My friend was very grateful to the fisherman and they were happy to find this amazing retriever’s owner.Once again the retriever team was reunited, but a valuable lesson learned. No matter how experienced you and your retriever are things can change in an instant.

In our training environments we can control most variables. However, lighting conditions are NOT one of them, a higher power has the master plan there. I understand that we all don’t have the amount of time we wished we did to train or hunt. Most of us have to take advantage of every second of day light we can. Marking your retrievers in these conditions can be beneficial. It will teach them to pick out obscure objects in the air and teach them how to better use their eyes. Such as life all things need balance, seek balance with all lighting conditions and be aware of poor visibility so that when things go south you can help your retriever to the bird and back to your side.

Happy Hunting and Training!

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