Our first hunt test

10 Apr

It’s been a while since our last update. We’ve been busy with training and hunt tests among other things. I’m a little bummed that I haven’t been able to keep up with the blog because we have lots of exciting news to share. Rather than combine it all into one long post, I’ll split it into two to detail the adventures of the hunt tests we’ve been to recently.


Last month, we traveled to just south of Chicago for our first hunt test. Yes, there are a number of hunt tests in our area but we wanted to make sure Ilsa and Gumbo could complete junior hunter titles this spring – more to come on this in a future post. Plus, I think Susan was in it for the walk down Michigan Avenue ;-).

We decided to make the drive the morning of the hunt test, and although we knew that there were 3 master hunter braces and 3 senior hunters before us, we aimed to arrive close to the start so that we could follow in the gallery at least once. This meant leaving our house at 3:30 AM. Just as we were pulling out, some of our neighbors were pulling in. They asked if we were just getting home too. Not exactly 😉 the Vs have certainly changed our lives!

We were met by an extremely friendly group of people when we arrived at the test and opted to follow the first brace to stretch our legs after letting the dogs out to potty. The course was extremely wet, but we got a good look at what the back field looked like. We were able to see the bird field from the parking lot, so we spent the rest of the morning meeting people/talking.

Gumbo’s run on the first day started off well. He had no interest in his bracemate and was clearly working/hunting for birds. But on our entry into the bird field, things started to go downhill – for both of us. There was a lot excitement being in this new environment, and Gumbo bumped into a bird and it flushed without him pointing. He found one more bird, and he flash pointed (or at least I would call it a flash point). We worked the rest of the field until the judges called time. Almost immediately, the gunners/bird planters came out to offer me some advice. It turns out I never fired my gun because I thought Gumbo never really went on point. They told me to have my gun out and fire on any flush. Lesson learned – gotta play the game. The judges also offered some advice to get him to hold and were otherwise very complimentary.

On day two, Gumbo and I faired much better. He was more familiar with the territory and better understood what we were set out to do. He had two decent points. He didn’t hold them for more than a few seconds before busting the birds, and you better believe I fired this time ;-). It was enough to qualify earning Gumbo his first leg toward his junior hunter title!

The weekend really belonged to the girls though. Susan and Ilsa were fortunate enough to be braced with a very friendly/helpful handler who gave Susan advice periodically during the run. Ilsa did a wonderful job finding and holding point on 4 birds despite Susan trying to move her to the edge of the field to give her bracemate a better chance at finding birds.

Ilsa’s performance continued on the second day, again finding 4 birds. She was chased around by a 6 month old puppy that was far more interested in playing than hunting for a few minutes. Fortunately, the handler was gracious enough to pick up his dog rather than jeopardizing Ilsa’s run.

At the end of the weekend, Ilsa had picked up two legs toward her junior hunter with scores of 8 or above in every category! (The categories of hunting, bird finding ability, pointing, and trainability are judge on a 1-10 scale.)

Needless to say, we are very proud of both our Vs. As always seems to be our experience, the best way to learn something is to go out and do it. We definitely learned some tricks about hunt tests that can only be learned by doing it. And as obvious as it seems now, a bird on the ground is far more tempting than a bird in a bird release :-). Stay tuned for our most recent hunt test adventure.

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5 Responses to “Our first hunt test”

  1. 2browndawgs April 10, 2012 at 8:10 PM #

    Congratulations on your passes. I am glad that when we run retriever tests, we don’t have other dogs working in the field with our dogs. I could see that being an issue. My duck, no my duck….lol.

    • Ben April 11, 2012 at 10:39 AM #

      Two dogs in the field is a challenge – particularly for the younger dogs. Right now, we just try to keep them at a distance from the bracemate (not always possible). But working with another dog is a skill they must eventually acquire. Senior and master level tests require honoring and retrieving to the skills needed for juniors. From our limited experience, I’ve seen a number of dogs fail due to honoring, but it is a beautiful thing to watch when two dogs are working together.

      • 2browndawgs April 11, 2012 at 9:54 PM #

        Retriever Senior and Junior tests have honors too, but the dogs just have to sit and watch while the marks go off and the working dog is released. In Senior you can talk quietly to the dog, but in Master you cannot speak to the dog while it is honoring. Storm had no trouble with the honors in Senior, but they were a challenge for Thunder at times. He never broke it, but he thought about it…lol. I think it would be hard if the dogs were working near one another.

  2. Hawk (@browndogcbr) April 12, 2012 at 3:12 PM #

    Hi Y’all,

    Beautiful! Congratulations on earning your legs!

    Love watching dogs work, although I’ve spent more time working with retrievers. Have trained Hawk with a friend and his German Short Hairs though, and was fascinated watching them point.

    BrownDog’s Human

    • Ben April 13, 2012 at 11:36 AM #

      Thanks! It’s amazing to see dogs do what they were bred to do. I bet it was treat to watch GSPs work in the field. They leave our vizslas in the dust 😉

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