Shooters at the test

North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association Tests

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Shooters at the test

Postby Densa44 » Wed Oct 05, 2016 8:43 am

I'd like to know what other clubs have done to address the problem of poor shooting at a licenced test.
For years we used club members who have volunteered but were terrible shots and it hurt some dog's scores. I'm not talking about birds that fly into the gallery or an occasional miss, I mean miss them all, so that after 4 points the judges still haven't seen a retrieve.

As it happens we now have the best shot (shooter) I've ever seen (Stubblejumper) and all the dogs did better in our last test, he doesn't miss.

Have other clubs had this problem and what have you done about it?
Pine Ridges Ginnieve NA 112 UT pz 1 200
Camridge's Sienna NA 112 UT pz 1 204
Foothill Joce NA 112
Czarina Vom Oberland VJP 70 NA pz 112
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby orhunter » Wed Oct 05, 2016 9:13 am

I was a shooter at a test once and never fired a shot. Unfamiliar gun, safety wouldn't go off when lower barrel was selected for first shot. Luckily my partner took up the slack.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby Deacon » Wed Oct 05, 2016 9:58 am

Wow, I am sure the judges would have noted that in their test evaluation. That is awful for the handlers. I would be surprised if our chapter averaged one missed bird per year (4 testing days) over the last decade or so. In 6 Utility tests I have never had a gunner miss a bird for my dogs.

The solution is obviously to get better shooters. If this is a pervasive problem a club should make a motion to change the rules to allow the handler to shoot their own birds, if he/she so chooses.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby ryanr » Wed Oct 05, 2016 10:48 am

Deacon wrote:Wow, I am sure the judges would have noted that in their test evaluation. That is awful for the handlers. I would be surprised if our chapter averaged one missed bird per year (4 testing days) over the last decade or so. In 6 Utility tests I have never had a gunner miss a bird for my dogs.

The solution is obviously to get better shooters. If this is a pervasive problem a club should make a motion to change the rules to allow the handler to shoot their own birds, if he/she so chooses.


Exactly, my first thought was "and they allowed your chapter to still hold tests?" For the past 2yrs I've been an approved gunner in our chapter for chapter training events and I certainly do an above average job (I pretty consistently kill 7 out of 10 birds shot but it might take me 2 shots on 3 to 4 of those 7 birds) but I know I am not at the level required of a test gunner. It's uncommon if one of our approved test gunners has to take 2 shots to kill a bird and definitely an off day if one completely misses a bird. And only once in 4yrs have I ever seen a bird that was completely missed by both.) They're that good and we're blessed. If you're not truly an excellent gunner you really shouldn't be in the field for a test.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby Deuce » Wed Oct 05, 2016 11:46 am

Couple things.

If you have bad gunners, the chapter could host/sponsor a shotgunning course at a local range. Some chapters actually require their chapter gunners to complete such a course and then "apprentice" as gunners in a test setting or at training days before being allowed to gun a test. The solutions take effort, but the problem can be addressed. Shooting is a learned activity that requires practice. Chapter leadership should recognize this area is deficient and do something to remedy it.

Second, while missing all birds for a UT dog isn't the best scenario, an obedient and maximum scoring dog should stand until released. Yes it presents a judging problem that the judges will address. They will tell the gunners to step up and start hitting or they will be replaced. Having unshot birds doesn't affect the scores, what a dog does or doesn't do after missed birds does. If you're not working in missed birds to your training your training is incomplete. I will actively tell gunners I'm going to flush this bird, miss. Or I'm going to flush this bird, kill it, but fire three shots. I've seen dogs be dead broke on 1 shot kills but come unglued at more than 1 shot.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby Duckdon » Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:21 am

Deuce wrote:Couple things.

If you have bad gunners, the chapter could host/sponsor a shotgunning course at a local range. Some chapters actually require their chapter gunners to complete such a course and then "apprentice" as gunners in a test setting or at training days before being allowed to gun a test. The solutions take effort, but the problem can be addressed. Shooting is a learned activity that requires practice. Chapter leadership should recognize this area is deficient and do something to remedy it.

Second, while missing all birds for a UT dog isn't the best scenario, an obedient and maximum scoring dog should stand until released. Yes it presents a judging problem that the judges will address. They will tell the gunners to step up and start hitting or they will be replaced. Having unshot birds doesn't affect the scores, what a dog does or doesn't do after missed birds does. If you're not working in missed birds to your training your training is incomplete. I will actively tell gunners I'm going to flush this bird, miss. Or I'm going to flush this bird, kill it, but fire three shots. I've seen dogs be dead broke on 1 shot kills but come unglued at more than 1 shot.



Good answer. We do the same sort of thing. I can't imagine any judge docking a dog, score for gunner missed birds. I would have no problem asking for a more competent gunner but I would ask before the test starts.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby linderhof » Sun Oct 09, 2016 7:23 am

The tests up here tend to use 2 gunners so one of them usually connects.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby Addicted2fowl » Tue Oct 11, 2016 12:47 pm

Well it's not a matter of lowering the score on a dog more than it is the judges needing to atleast see one bird shot to judge for fall and retrieve of shot bird. In that instance a judge is allowed to step in and shoot a bird...
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby Mn John » Tue Oct 11, 2016 2:09 pm

Finding competent gunners for a test is not as easy as it sounds. Many "good shots" will decline the invitation when asked to help out the chapter and gun for a test because they don't want the hassle. Once you do find good gunners that are willing to shoot for a test it not as easy as a training day. Most Utility dogs are steady but throw in a couple Utility Prep Dogs, that aren't testing utility BECAUSE they are not steady, and gunning becomes more complicated. Number 1 rule of gunning for a test, Don't shoot the dog, Number 2 rule, kill the bird. Add a handler that doesn't know how to flush a bird in the right direction and/or a Senior judge that wants to provide extra direction on where to stand, when to shoot, and who should shoot when and many people who are normally great shots might miss a few.

A steady dog is one that doesn't come un-glued after a miss or two. Gunners want to give the dogs the best chance possible to show their stuff in the best light. Clean shots, at a reasonable distance that provides easy marks and retrieves.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby JONOV » Wed Oct 12, 2016 8:03 am

orhunter wrote:I was a shooter at a test once and never fired a shot. Unfamiliar gun, safety wouldn't go off when lower barrel was selected for first shot. Luckily my partner took up the slack.

Did you not bring your normal gun? Were your required to use one provided to you? I would think a test would be the last place to try something new...
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby blue04 » Wed Oct 12, 2016 9:21 am

My understanding is that the only requirement for guns at NAVHDA tests is that they be the break-open type (O/U, S/S, or Single Shot). As long as you meet that requirement, I presume you can use any gun you want.

I've also seen several people at NAVHDA events that had a designated "training" gun, which seemed to universally be the roughest looking single shot gun you can imagine. I can see value in having a "beater" gun that you train with all the time so you don't care if it gets dropped in the mud, scratched up, etc.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby ryanr » Wed Oct 12, 2016 2:37 pm

Doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a test gunner to borrow an unfamiliar gun, probably a rare occurrence. In preparation for an upcoming UT, a handler will often carry a cheap single shot since during the test the handler has to swing (unloaded) on the flushed bird but the gunners will shoot it.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby gwp4me2 » Fri Dec 09, 2016 1:27 pm

How many dogs that test UT are absolutely 100%, bomb-proof, dead-broke no matter what steady? Our chapter has only 1 UT test a year some years and you might not be able to find another one within 4-500 miles for another year so you test when the test is. I tested a young dog UT once and it was raining lightly. I don't think the gunners hit 3 birds all day. I saw what was happening and asked a guy I knew to shoot for my run. He kills a bunch of wild chukars every year. Between the birds that couldn't fly 30 yards and the bad shooting my dog came undone. The get the retrieve score judges planted a bird and begged the gunners to please hit it. We didn't score well. Yes, I knew we weren't 100% but the circumstances also contributed. The same dog got his 204 the next year. I think part of the problem the local chapter has is that it is fairly weak. That creates the challenge of getting somebody for all the positions that need to be covered, especially on a weekday. Then you are also trying to recruit new members without much experience... Come to the test and you'll get to shoot(at) a bunch of birds! Now you have newbies who probably are NOT shooting their own gun (most peoples first gun is a pump or auto)

Bottom line is enjoy the big, healthy chapters. They make test days much easier and more successful for everyone.
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Re: Shooters at the test

Postby slistoe » Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:15 am

Densa44 wrote:I'd like to know what other clubs have done to address the problem of poor shooting at a licenced test.
For years we used club members who have volunteered but were terrible shots and it hurt some dog's scores. I'm not talking about birds that fly into the gallery or an occasional miss, I mean miss them all, so that after 4 points the judges still haven't seen a retrieve.

As it happens we now have the best shot (shooter) I've ever seen (Stubblejumper) and all the dogs did better in our last test, he doesn't miss.

Have other clubs had this problem and what have you done about it?


Talk to the guys at the Stettler trap club. You may find someone willing to waste some of your ammo for a night in the hotel and free supper.
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