We just had a whistle-stop tour up to Massachusetts to do some training on quail with Team Vizsla -- Eastern MA chapter and Dennis + Sally (who I need to come up with a good nickname for). But before that, a quick picture from this afternoon's walk taken on my cell-phone. Yes, that's a skunk, the Terminator of skunks, the skunk who literally chased us off our trail. This search-and-destroy beast saw us, came towards us, followed us down a trail, then doubled-back to make sure we couldn't get around him, and then pursued us when we emerged from our double-secret cross-country escape route. Psycho.
And now back to this: the biggest challenge of our day's training was that it was a clear and blustery day (even in some of the glades at Hill & Hollow) and there was a visible and audible hawk population. As a result, the vast majority of the birds didn't want to fly. And once they started running, there were lots of stumps and holes and logs to hide under. And even Sally, a dog with the conviction of a martyr and the patience of a saint when it comes to pointing birds, was showing signs of frustration -- which, as far as I could tell, just involved looking at Dennis as if to say 'you can't get another one in the air?'
I felt bad for Momo. He was finding birds like crazy but, for now, the retrieve seems to be the thing that seals the deal for him... because he knows he's going to get piles of love when he does it. And so when birds run, don't fly, can't be shot and can't be retrieved, he tends to lose some of his staunchness -- and while relocating is a great thing for a hunting dog to do, if it starts leading to bumping the bird from applying too much pressure, it's not a great thing and so I want to nip such behavior in the bud. Momo did get one great retrieve in, and on a bird that Rich had to shoot rather close. Which is to say that there was a lot less bird to pick up than usual -- and while a lot of dogs will balk on that, he didn't make any sign that this was anything but business as usual.
One of the encouraging things for Sally, Jozsi and Momo was that, after working them first on birds ejected from launchers, all three of them would 'stop-to-flush' and were 'steady-to-shot' -- which feels especially important when one is using a blank-pistol (and therefore no birds are going to hit the ground prematurely). Jozsi had a great first run -- but by the time he was let out for his second run, he was high on quail scent and had his first bird run in front of him -- at which point his wheels came off and he wouldn't hold a 'whoa'. And spent 20mins in the penalty box for 'roughing.' I took him out for a final spin in a fresh part of the field and he looked good, even if his first bird unexpectedly flushed somewhat prematurely.
With all respect to both my boys and to Sally -- who lived up to my high expectations -- the highlight of the afternoon was watching Ella + Khumbu. Khumbu is just starting to get genuinely excited about birds, but when he does find a bird, he holds a beautiful point (as you can see in the middle picture). Ella, by contrast, was looking like the fire had been started all over again. I'm not sure if she gets even more stoked when there's a second dog on the ground, but she spent some time running with Sally and was jazzed like crazy. When Sally pointed a bird, I would hold Ella while Rich shot a bird for Dennis -- and when that bird hit the ground, there was no restraining her. Nutso. Awesome.