A DOG’S LIFE
Honing the spaniel’s retrieving skills and senses during an evening at the flight pond.
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.
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?
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?