Getting a 4 in duck search.

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Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby Densa44 » Wed Dec 14, 2016 9:08 am

I was speaking to a very distinguished breeder/trainer who told me he sent his dog away to a trainer because he was unable to train his dog to get a duck search 4.

As I read these posts, and they are very good. It has dawned on me that we are all not playing on the same field. When trainers on here say "get the dog on as many wild birds as possible" they mean upland birds. I'd be very embarrassed if I told you how long it took for that to dawn on me.

In a slow year (I had open heart surgery) I shoot over 100 ducks, in a full year many more. Our season is from Sept 1 until Dec 31, so there are lots of chances to hunt. We hunt every day.

By the very nature of duck hunting we get lots of cripples, that's as well as my friends shoot. It is not uncommon to get 5 ducks in 3 shots out of a large flock we jump off of a pond.

Teaching duck search, as you can imagine after a season like that is not very hard for the dog or trainer.

Our limit in Alberta is 8 per day and possession of 24. BTW I give them to my son in law who makes jerky out of them, its not bad.

I notice in some US states the season is short and I'm not sure of the limits but the fellows who post results the number of ducks they get is modest. I think that they work pretty hard for the ducks too.

Contrary to what my friend thinks, it is not so much my ability as a trainer at work here but the location in which I train.

For what it is worth here is what I'm doing: Get a friend with no dog, put him in passenger seat dogs in kennels in back of truck. Drive from my house along county roads, when they built the roads many years ago they took clay from beside the right of way to build up the road bed and left what the locals call "borrow pits" now they are sloughs and every year they are all full of ducks. I drive past the slough and it the shooter sees ducks I drive until the truck is out of sight of the ducks and then let him (sometimes 2 shooters) out. When I hear the shots I let the dogs out, they bring the ducks back to me. We repeat until we limit out.

The dogs love it. I now see why they are so good at duck searching, because that's how I hunt.

If you have some time, you don't need a guide, it won't cost you much either, the Canadian dollar is low compared to the USD. You can travel to any of the prairie provinces and give man's best friend a holiday he'll never forget. Y'all come.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby Deacon » Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:45 am

You are blessed with your location and the amount of waterfowl. I hunt far more than anybody I know and to shoot 100 ducks in a year, here, is a monumental, albeit not impossible, task.

When I started in NAVHDA people would say to me, if you want a duck search dog, take them duck hunting. In retrospect, the people saying that often were not duck hunters at all. Using their advice I saw my dogs be far less consistent in their NAVHDA duck searches than other dogs. These same dogs were fantastic real world hunting waterfowl dogs. I believe the reason is that in our style of hunting, the dogs would mark falls, and take direction to unseen birds. The NAVHDA duck search was so artificial that the dogs didn't correlate the exercise to duck hunting.

A few years ago I saw a couple members of our club, who really don't hunt waterfowl at all, put up UT prize 1 scores. They trained for the test. Since then I have done the same and my results have improved. That has come with a cost however. My younger UT dog is the strongest water dog I have hunted with. He went through two duck season before we ran the UT test. In training for the duck search he would initially start the search and then look back for a hand signal. We would have a stare off for a few minutes. No response on my part led to confusion on his part. When it finally dawned on him that, on this particular exercise, he wasn't going to receive any assistance, his search really took off. I now can't hunt him without electronics as he will search clear out of voice, or whistle range, and end up lost, a half mile, or more away.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby orhunter » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:10 pm

I think you two have some pretty valid observations.

Dogs go from a field situation where there is no handling as we expect our dogs to hunt, then turn around and start manipulating the search which has to confuse the dog. A water search should be the same as a land search.

Training in and of its self is so foreign to a dogs natural desire to find game it reflects on what GWP4Me said about training's effect on the final outcome over in the Gun Dog's Training Themselves thread. Training the hunt out of a dog.

I don't know what the balance is that must be met but it probably reflects on that old saying, "less is more."
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby 3drahthaars » Thu Dec 15, 2016 1:02 pm

orhunter wrote:I think you two have some pretty valid observations.

Dogs go from a field situation where there is no handling as we expect our dogs to hunt, then turn around and start manipulating the search which has to confuse the dog. A water search should be the same as a land search.

Training in and of its self is so foreign to a dogs natural desire to find game it reflects on what GWP4Me said about training's effect on the final outcome over in the Gun Dog's Training Themselves thread. Training the hunt out of a dog.

I don't know what the balance is that must be met but it probably reflects on that old saying, "less is more."


And, a dog should execute a water search and open up for the same reasons it learns to on land...

When you cut your dog loose as you walk out of an impoundment and end up in the parking lot with more ducks than you shot... you know the reason for the duck search.

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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby ryanr » Thu Dec 15, 2016 2:41 pm

I'm a rookie at the duck search, my dog has basically done them for fun and experience. But I've helped out with several good trainers on duck searches for their dogs. These are guys who consistently get 4s in it with their dogs (I'm blessed to train with these guys in large part because I'll get wet and muddy all day to help out and try to soak up some of their knowledge.) These guys ha e dogs that all seem to LOVE duck searches. It's fun for the dogs and it shows but make no mistake those dogs are determined to find a duck when sent.) However none of these guys ever seem to overdo it with their dogs, you know, training over and over for that perfect search. Then I consistently see another group of guys in our chapter that continually send the dog search after search looking for perfection and ain't a one of them ever gotten a 4 in it and I've seen some of their dogs go from doing pretty good searches to having no desire to ever do one again. And their handlers can't understand why.

For example, this summer several of them took up the bog we train at for most of the day trying to get better and better searches in preparation for an upcoming test. My friends were testing too and late in the day they finally got to use the bog. We had 3 dogs each done with their individual searches in about 45 minutes and that included the time to set up each search in between. Then as we were cleaning up we decided to cut two 8 month old pups loose we had along for the ride. Neither pup had ever seen this bog or swam in anything except a local pond or two. We also cut my 4yr old male and the pup's 5yr old mom loose. Our bog is big and filled with logs, stumps, lily pads, marsh grass and even a beaver lodge and dam. After cleaning up and getting the trucks loaded we walked back down to collect the dogs. None of the dogs were remotely near each other, and the pups were 400 yards in the opposition direction from each other exploring the cover on their own and each one had clearly picked up the scent of ducks. What's more, they both had covered more water and explored more cover than the guys whose UT level dogs had spent the last couple hours doing searches. We actually got dirty looks and grumbling under the breathe from a couple of those guys, lol.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Dec 15, 2016 4:04 pm

I have never seen the value in a duck search, the way they test for it, so I won't test. To me, a duck search, per se, is a waste of mine and the dog's time. I'd prefer to send him on a line then a quick whistle of two to get him to the bird and get him back. None of this relentless searching and some of it, or a lot of it, not really in the area. On this one, I think the retriever guys have it right.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Dec 15, 2016 5:31 pm

The public marshes I hunt are choked with tall heavy flooded cover. Either flooded standing corn or smartweed. The open water areas to setout decoy spreads are small so the ducks very commonly fall into the tall cover where neither dog nor handler can see each other. So I have found a lot of value in the duck search training. Of course some basic handling skills to send the dog in the right direction if it got no mark is essential but once the dog enters the cover it needs to be self motivated to search for the downed bird vs looking for direction from an handler it cannot see. So I think the value depends on the cover a person hunts. I have a training objective to have both independent search and basic blind retrieve handling skills on my current puppy before next season rolls around.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Dec 15, 2016 6:24 pm

Yes, I can see it in that instance Ag. Good point.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby Coveyrise64 » Thu Dec 15, 2016 6:43 pm

I don't think you can train for the things a UT dog is judged on during the duck search. It is a test and only that since the dog isn't required to find the duck to pass.

This is a test of the dog’s ability to locate wounded waterfowl. It tests use of nose, cooperation, desire,
perseverance, and stamina.
Of significance is the fact that it places the dog in an environment where the handler often cannot physically follow the dog or even see the actual situation, thus requiring the animal to rely on its own initiative and intelligence in going about the task independently. A dog that must depend entirely on signals from the handler to locate the game is unsatisfactory.

Along with the Duck Search.....in order to earn a Prz I your dog must receive 4's in these categories, none of which are trainable.
~
Desire
Nose
Pointing

I was told a long time ago that if your 4's are in the right places the rest is training.

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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby ryanr » Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:47 pm

GONEHUNTIN' wrote:I have never seen the value in a duck search, the way they test for it, so I won't test. To me, a duck search, per se, is a waste of mine and the dog's time. I'd prefer to send him on a line then a quick whistle of two to get him to the bird and get him back. None of this relentless searching and some of it, or a lot of it, not really in the area. On this one, I think the retriever guys have it right.


Isn't the main purpose or objective of the duck search to test the dog's willingness or ability to work independently of the handler without additional commands? It's testing the dog's independence rather than a practical element of a typical duck hunt.


Oh, good post CR, didn't read that before I originally posted my reply to GH. I like that about "if your 4s are in the right places..."
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Dec 16, 2016 4:49 pm

Image

Note the height and density of the flooded smartweed behind my pup. Independent search is essential for a dog to succeed in that marsh.

Image

Looks warm in the photo but there was up to an inch of ice in spots when I dropped a not dead Canada Goose well back into that standing corn. Another instance of the exact behavior tested for in the Duck Search making the difference in recovering the goose vs not.

I had dogs with very high prey drive, but the dog on the layout boat was the first one I trained for the Duck Search part of the NAVHDA tests. I have found it to be an excellent to the point of essential skill set when hunting where my Dogs and I hunt. Those are both public marshes which see 1000s of hunters through the course of a season, who would all presumably have similar needs/benefits from a dog trained to work independently out of sight of their handlers.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:53 pm

ryanr wrote:
Isn't the main purpwose or objective of the duck search to test the dog's willingness or ability to work independently of the handler without additional commands? It's testing the dog's independence rather than a practical element of a typical duck hunt


I guess where I'm coming from on this is that ANY good retriever will put up a good duck search with little training. It's the nature of the beast. I think it's far more important to have a good handling dog because they will do a non stop duck search naturally. The good dogs do.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:34 pm

I think training for both skill sets makes for the best prepared dog and handler - hence why the upper level tests include both. All my pups have had the NA to turn in a 4 in Duck Search but some training/exposure is very beneficial, and sets the dog up to succeed when it needs to search independently while hunting.

The notion the Duck Search is an artificial element of test which has little application in actual duck hunting is completely contrary to the reality demonstrated in the two marshes I posted.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby Coveyrise64 » Fri Dec 16, 2016 7:53 pm

AverageGuy wrote:.....The notion the Duck Search is an artificial element of test which has little application in actual duck hunting is completely contrary to the reality demonstrated in the two marshes I posted.

Didn't say it had little application to duck hunting and not the title of the thread. No mark, no splash, and no requirement to find the duck. Hardly duck hunting but a test designed so all dogs are judged under the same circumstances against the same criteria.

Will the exposure of duck search preparation for the test help in actual duck hunting? Absolutely! Does duck hunting guarantee a 4 in the Duck Search? No....!

Because of the exposure you've given Spud I doubt he would have any difficulty in earning a 4 in the Duck Search. All you have to do is sign up for a test. :wink:

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Last edited by Coveyrise64 on Fri Dec 16, 2016 9:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Dec 16, 2016 8:54 pm

CR, my comment was not prompted by your post.

Denza's OP shared that his dogs' vast experience with his style of jump shooting ducks sets them up for easy success in the Duck Search. I was sharing my experience in reverse, the training for Duck Search has excellent applicability to recovering ducks in those heavy cover marshes where handling a dog after it has been sent is not even an option.
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