Duck Search

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Duck Search

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Mar 06, 2018 9:58 am

So it is commonly said/repeated that Duck Search has little or no applicability to actual Duck Hunting. My take on it is that persons saying it equate Duck Search with having no control over where the dog goes to perform its search, including most critical, at the initial send. I absolutely agree that a dog going the opposite direction of where the Duck went down is not at all what we need when hunting.

With that in mind I purposefully build my dogs' Duck Search skills using an approach which conditions a blind retrieve lining skill with an expanding independent search skills that when combined are very useful to our Waterfowl hunts.

I start with the standard conditioning of the dog to line to a pile of bumpers and or dead birds on land, using a 5 gallon white bucket as a visual aid. Then I move to conditioning the dog to cross open water swimming towards the same white bucket placed on the opposite bank. I will have placed a dead duck on the upwind side of the dogs straight line path towards the bucket. The duck will be in a somewhat distinct feature such as willow clump, clump of floating vegetation, mound but in the water and not on the bank, as I do not want to condition the dog to hunt the bank unless of course its nose tells it to.

Repetitions allow me to lengthen the distance. And repetitions then allow me to remove the white bucket. The first time I send the dog without the bucket will be at the same location we have done successful drills in prior training. The dog may or may not be a little more hesitant but they most commonly jump right in and swim towards the terrain feature where they found a duck previously.

Once I have that in place, I start dragging a dead duck behind the kayak from the terrain feature I send the dog towards to a different terrain feature. The dog will swim a straight line to the initial terrain feature it previously found a duck, hit the scent and follow it to the duck. Then I move to lining the dog up on a terrain feature where there is no duck, and sending it. The dog will be eager to find a duck and not encountering any scent when it arrives but having been conditioned that the various terrain features in the lake, pond, marsh are the places to look, they go to the nearest one to see if there is a duck. I get to a point where I have seeded a spread out area with multiple dead ducks at the various terrain features but I always line the dog up on one and send it towards it.

Prior to all of the above I will have introduced live ducks to the dog letting it chase one around in a smaller body of water and eventually shoot the duck if need be. So after building the behavior I walked through above, I then go back to some sessions with live ducks, and will set them at the prominent terrain feature I intend to send the dog towards but then chase them away from it, so the dog hits scent at the location I sent it towards and then the dog has to work the scent to locate the duck.

The Wife filmed a training session with Spud this summer. We were at the phase where Spud was taking a clean line across open water expecting to find a duck and if he did not find one at the place he initially swam to, he knew to expand to other features using his nose as he went. Keep in mind it is not the finished product and pardon my overdone cheering leading. The pup really thrives on my praise so when he does good I give it. We had more cleanup to do on getting and maintaining a proper grip on game and those ducks were really water logged. Both times he drops the duck I gave him low level stimulation immediately and released it when he got the duck back in his mouth. Please pardon my whistle as well. I was taking a stab at seeing if I could get Spud to swim back to me with the duck vs hitting the much closer bank and running it in. He was committed to using the shorter faster route and that was not at all the right time for me to work on it. Not sure I ever will as a dog getting back to the handler ASAP is my preference when hunting.

Here is the first video on the first of two sends in this training session. I had two dead ducks out each in floating clumps of vegetation on the far side of the open water. Note the mud in the water where Spud entered and where he is swimming on the far side. It is a pretty nice clean line for a young Vdog.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrtLntUxOfM

Here is the second send with the camera zoomed in. You can see Spud swam a very clean line towards that clump of floating vegetation expecting/hoping to find a duck and then quickly moving to the next one when he does not. I laugh when he takes a nip at the flowering plant as he goes by it. And it is very obvious when he hits scent and his nose takes over.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IvkQqTIhZA

Hope some find some value in this post. I created it with the hope that those training for a UT might find the approach useful in not only that objective, but for laying some foundation for lining and handling skills related to their waterfowl hunts.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby booger » Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:01 pm

I'll be building the foundation for duck search this way on my next dog. The blind retrieves and crossing water are very helpful.

Nice post.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby LongHammer » Tue Mar 06, 2018 2:11 pm

I like the cheer leading. Otto likes encouragement during the search. For him reinforces we are a team and that there is downed game and I will not be shooting anything else till we recover it. Otto's problem he will see something that looks like a floating shot duck and he will swim after it. My problem is I don't see well enough to know it's not a duck to call him off of it.:D It is a good way to collect some of the trash out of the river.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:14 pm

booger, Glad to hear you find it helpful.

LongHammer wrote: It is a good way to collect some of the trash out of the river.
LH, that's funny, man. Was spending the night in hotel last summer in Laramie WY and the Wife and took Spud on a walk along the Laramie River. Improvised with a piece of styrofoam trash to get Spud some retrieves in the river.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby ryanr » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:05 am

Good post AG, thanks.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby LongHammer » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:26 pm

AverageGuy wrote:booger, Glad to hear you find it helpful.

LongHammer wrote: It is a good way to collect some of the trash out of the river.
LH, that's funny, man. Was spending the night in hotel last summer in Laramie WY and the Wife and took Spud on a walk along the Laramie River. Improvised with a piece of styrofoam trash to get Spud some retrieves in the river.


I got Otto trained to put water bottles and what not in the BMW when we are packing up. So. I will send him after plastic bottles when I see them floating around. The truly versatile dog leaves his hunting grounds cleaner than when he found them. If I could only convince him shotgun hulls are fun to retrieve.....
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Re: Duck Search

Postby J D Patrick » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:41 pm

LongHammer wrote:I got Otto trained to put water bottles and what not in the BMW when we are packing up. So. I will send him after plastic bottles when I see them floating around. The truly versatile dog leaves his hunting grounds cleaner than when he found them. If I could only convince him shotgun hulls are fun to retrieve.....




glad I'm not alone,,,didn't have to train Aggie,,,,she took to picking up any plastic bottle or aluminum can she finds and totes it while she hunts till I call her over,,,,She makes a great "police call" dog (to harken back to my young Army days),,,,,
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Re: Duck Search

Postby AverageGuy » Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:10 pm

LH, Good on you and Otto for picking up Trash. Same to you J.D.

Ryan, Thank you.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby JONOV » Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:04 pm

Great post about conditioning them to punch out, expand...

I will add, that taking the dog duck hunting helps. How much it helps them develop the skill is debatable, but you will at least instill the concept that there is a duck out there to be found.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby jlw034 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:20 pm

Makes sense to my simple mind.

Lena was having trouble crossing 100+ yards of water, so I started using white orange juice containers as a visual aid. She was used to white 5 gallon buckets, so the transition was easy. I'd just push the gallon jug back and back until she got used to crossing long water. I always kept a 5 gallon bucket on the other side for reference.

I'm guessing she has regressed, and assume I will have to revisit this technique when our water opens back up.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby Kiger2 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:37 pm

AG,
Nice work! Thanks for posting the videos.

There are some things to learn from here. You've had quite a few views which is good.

Since your initial sentence was likely directed towards someone like me, I feel its not stealing the post. Please everyone lets look at my comments as just trying to point things out so we can learn from them. He's on the right track so lets give him kudos for that. Most of this is for the other followers.

Lets talk whistles. I dont know what commands he has trained with the whistle, but here is a general consideration. First, good for using it! Second, think about the sequence of the whistle blasts. (can I just use the term blasts?). Imagine pup is thrashing through running water or running through heavy brush or 300 yards out breathing hard. Will the dog hear the short blast long blast distinctly or will it only hear it as a single blast? Dont know what signals he's using, but we normally use a long or longer single blast to signal sit/whoa. Then multiple for recall.

On encouragement in general. Its OK to encourage pup during the search. Where you need to be cautious is after the bird is in the mouth. Ive warned of this before. Saying "good dog" releases pup from his task and he may do things that you would rather he didn't, like break for the bank Im not saying thats why AG's dog did. Its just a possible outcome. Heres a really simple example that will illustrate the concept. Our dogs are inside dogs so we have a little kids pool for them to rinse their feet before the come in. The command is Kennel. I say kennel and pup gets two feet in, if I say "good dog", she will not get the other two feet wet. This afternoon i watched and as soon as she was about to put the fourth foot down I said good girl. She hopped trying to keep that last foot out of the water. The jobs is not done until the bird is in hand.

His method for extending distance is appropriate. It basically what we in the ret world would call a memory blind. We use it like AG does to help establish confidence, increase range .

So lets examine whats going in the context of just hunting.

So pup is crossing open water , extending range and hitting the likely spots and starting its search. What happens when the bird is 100 yards out and the first likely spot we have trained him to search is 20 yards out? And the next one is 30 yards out? And the next one is 30 yards to the right of the correct line? If we look at AG's pond (nice training pond!) and imagine decoys in front of us. We shoot some ducks and the land in the decoys. Pup does a nice of picking them up. More ducks come in and we drop a couple in the decks but is crippled and sails out to the far corner of the pond. Pup doesn't see it. Most would probably let pup pick up the ducks in the decoys . But either way, since the dog has been trained to to return to where has had success, where is he most likely to go when we send for the blind/search? Back to the decoys.

What happens if the bird is up on the bank and the wind is blowing away from pup? If we train pup that the bird are always on the water, we may have trouble getting him out.
Without a command in place to get pup out of the water that may be a lost bird. You have to understand that dogs see the world differently, they may see the bank as a barrier that holds no birds so why go there?

So next group of ducks come in. Again we get a couple down in the demes but this time we have two blinds. One back in the corner and one straight out beyond the demes. The one in the far corner we can see is swimming. We really want to get that one first. so we want pup to with on the dead birds in the demes and go get the cripple. So we line him in the "general" direction and send. How do you get him to leave the dead birds and go get the cripple? How will you get him him to swim through the decoys to get the duck that landed out further?? Remember, he's been trained to search the likely locations and places he's had success

A little history lesson. Handling skills were developed in the US by retriever trainers. The Europeans never developed the art.

Before handling how do you think the ret folks got their birds. Likely by throwing rocks and sticks and teaching a "search". But since handling has been developed thousands and thousands of retrievers have been trained to handle and millions of ducks have been retrieved. But they are no longer "search" trained. A dog will naturally expand its search. So on a mark, the dog follows its eyes to the area of the fall and then start its search. If it cant locate any scent , it will expand the search. Hits scent and either picks up the bird or tracks it and gets it. On blinds. We send the dog where the bird went down. when it scents it, it is on its own to complete the hunt. We can efficiently send the nose where it needs to be.


AG and JW have a good start and realize the benefit of controlling the send. Why not take it to the next level?
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Re: Duck Search

Postby AverageGuy » Sun Mar 11, 2018 3:08 pm

Kiger2,

Thanks for the thoughts, always interested to learn from others. The conditioning I have in place currently is not just one site specific. Rather it has conditioned the dog to get a landmark visual and go towards it, so it is portable to other waters. And the independence to search when sent it as well. I trained it in that way and order because of the style of Duck Search in the NAVHDA UT we ran last summer and because I had higher priority items I was training on for upland hunting.

We are now working baseball drills training for some basic over left/right and Back hand signals. I can combine the three skill sets and get what I need for waterfowling.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:27 am

You'll find AG that V dog's hate to learn to handle (most of them). The key is not to bore them. Many get to hate the baseball diamond. Once you get them through the diamond move quickly to walking baseball. I have yet to see a dog that doesn't love it. I never run more than five lines on a wheel with them. You don't need more than five with a V dog. I have found that walking baseball is an absolute key to handling success with a V dog. I will NOT force a V dog to handle if they balk and don't want to.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby AverageGuy » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:09 am

GH, Appreciate it. Will do.
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Re: Duck Search

Postby Kiger2 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:55 am

AG,

Thanks for approaching with an open mind and its helpful to see your future goals.

I think you will find the things I pointed out will transfer to wherever you are hunting, not place specific at all. If you train pup to check out likely spots, thats what he will do. the handling skills you are working on will enable you to direct him past those spots.

Good luck.
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