Hon­ing the spaniel’s re­triev­ing skills and senses dur­ing an evening at the flight pond.

Shooting Gazette - - This Month - By Rod­er­ick Emery.


Venus is, I think, the Duck Star. It is the first star to ap­pear af­ter sunset and, as the say­ing goes, if you ain’t seen a duck by the time you see the Duck Star, the chances are you won’t get to see one at all. Hav­ing said that, if you do see a duck be­fore the Duck Star you may be in for a de­cent bit of sport be­fore the light fi­nally goes.

At this time of year an evening flight is of­ten lit­tle more than a mat­ter of min­utes. If you are not in po­si­tion by 3.30pm you’ll dis­place early birds when you ar­rive. And they won’t come back. Twenty or 30 min­utes shoot­ing per­haps and then home for tea.

We are ab­surdly lucky in that our flight pond is a 10-minute walk from the back door. I have been feed­ing it reg­u­larly with tail­ings from the dryer and rape­seed pulp from the oil-press, which the teal es­pe­cially seem to en­joy. I don’t shoot it rou­tinely but I am happy enough of an evening to sconce my­self in the wil­lows and watch the lit­tle ducks flit­ter in. And out.

Ac­cord­ingly this is just the sort of ex­er­cise where we can re­fine the spaniel’s peg and re­triev­ing tech­nique. Rig­or­ous self con­trol while I am shoot­ing. We do not need dogs splash­ing about the place while we are shoot­ing, af­ter all. And in the halflight, the dog will have to rely on sound as much as sight to mark the birds as they drop; and it will be a ques­tion of mem­ory when it is sent out on the re­trieve.

So, all as­pects of the train­ing man­ual over short ex­er­cise. We just have to hope that I shoot some­thing.

Old dog


What? Mmm! Are we go­ing out then? What time is it? Sup­per time? No. We’ve had a walk al­ready. It must be nearly dark. Is that a gun you’ve got there? What are you do­ing with that? Are you go­ing or have you been al­ready? You might have given us the heads up! We’d have come along for the fun, wouldn’t we? Eh, Span­ner? We’d have gone, wouldn’t we? Where’s the spaniel? It was here a mo­ment ago. It must be around some­where. Give it a whis­tle, why don't you? Tell you what, when you find it give me a shout and I’ll tag along. Or are you just train­ing? It could use the ex­er­cise. Been pulling my ears all day. You’d think they’d grow out it. See you in a bit then. Have fun. Is it tea time?

Young dog

So how’s this work then? We sit in the wil­lows. By the pond. Where’s every­one else? Beat­ers? WOSSAT? Cripes! Was that some­thing? Ba-bang! Thump! You got it, Boss. I have no idea what it was but you got it. It’s down what­ever it is. AN’AGAIN! Wal­lop! Hey, that was big­ger, I’ll tell you. This is crazy! Can you see? HERE’S AN­OTHER! Buzz! Buzz! Bang!... splash! That’s in the wa­ter. Over yon­der! Still mov­ing! In the reeds! Not mov­ing... much. Shall I go? I’ll go? Bang! Splash! Thump! Five! This is epic. Can’t you do this in light? Shall I go? Go? GO!

In the reeds then. Not mov­ing. Not mov­ing. MOV­ING! Three-two-one! Got­tim! Very small. Tiny, wee. Mis­take per­haps? Here you are any­way. Ooop! There’s an­other right here. Also very small. Are we sup­posed to be shoot­ing these? Well, if you’re sure. This one much larger. Large thing! Coming through! There you are. Now then, two to go. One splash, one thump. Here’s an­other of the small things over here. That means that there’s one in the wa­ter. Bear with me. Let’s just get our bear­ings here. You’re there. I’m here. The splash was there or there­abouts. Sniff the wind! Mmmm! This way a bit. GOT IT! An­other big one! Where are you? Oh, there you are! Large thing. Is that it then? Head for home!

Is it tea time?

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