"I've seen blinds placed in this manner - ribbon on the wall of cover and the bird placed within inches or right against or even slightly IN to the cover. Very nasty handling issues at the ends of these blinds even in Master, but I've seen them in Senior tests as well.
I'm starting to wonder if they are really fair to 'teams' at all."
As long has pup has a chance to retrieve the bird w/o whacking his head on a tree stump or log and handler can see pup to the bird I have no problem with it. Shows marking and perserverance. And yes, it can get dicey at distance if pup is not already set up in the right direction. But it's a thing of beauty to see pup hold a good line and push through a wall of cover for the retrieve.
Although I believe that bird placement is more art than science, I also believe that there are certain fundamental principles of bird placement
By and large, I prefer for my marks to be downwind. Cross wind marks can be effective, but generally require distance to work.
Because people seem to have an easier time setting up blinds than marks, one way to think about creating a good mark, is to think about the elements of a good blind.
If a blind is easy, it is easy for the dog to run a straight line from point A to point B.
If a blind is difficult, it is easy for the dog to run a straight line from point A to point B.
At the most elementary level, if you want to make a mark difficult, you want to make it difficult for a dog to run a straight line from point A to point B.
We often speak of a difficult blind as having a beginning, middle and end. That is, there are elements throughout the blind - at beginning, middle and end - that make it difficult to run a straight line from point A to point B.
The more obstacles you put between point A and point B, the more difficult it is to run a straight line between those two points. So, for example, between point A and point B, you could put the following:
• a log
• a piece of cover
• a road
• a ditch
• a stream
Some obstacles, for example, a large bale of hay, necessarily preclude a dog from running straight. Others such as a log may do so, but do not necessarily do so.
As a general rule, you make obstacles more difficult the farther you put them away from the start. For example, if you have a log that is three feet from the mat, the dog is likely to jump it. If you put the log thirty yards from the mat, the dog has more room to avoid the obstacle, and may skirt it.
You can also make obstacles more effective if you arrange them so that a dog must navigate them at an angle. Shallow angles are generally more effective than steep angles in diverting a dog’s path.
For example, let’s return to our log. Imagine that the dog is running from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock. The log is oriented from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock. If the dog jumps the log, it is likely to remain on path. Now imagine that the log is oriented from 8 o’clock to 2 o’clock. When the untrained dog jumps that log, it is likely to square its exit and be diverted from its path from 6 to 12.
This principle - using angles to subtly divert dogs - is one that many good marks employ.
That’s all I can write tonight.
I am on the road tomorrow to the Sunflower field trial, so others can pick up the torch from here. Or I can continue next week.
When I train my dogs and I throw a mark that they fail, I try to make a mental note of it, and when I set future tests up it can sometimes pop out of my feeble head and make a difference. Here are some of the concepts that I have found are effective marking concepts. In a trial, you might call them the money marks.
Indented triple. This means the two longer marks are equal distance to make up the outside legs of a "V". At the base of the V, is the short retired bird. Usually in an AA test the left leg of the V will be the long retired, and the shorter base of the V is the short retired. The flier is shot last, and is the top of the V on the right. Of course, wind and terrain and the way the longer marks are laid out plays into making this the hardest concept in field trials. It is also called the McCassey Special, named after the legend John McAssey, who just recently passed away.
If you set this test up in a strong, straight downwind, it will eat up dogs. If the wind switches, they can eat you up as a judge. If you really want the short retired to be harder, then you leave out the long retired and just make it a long mark. The suction of this will make the short retired harder.
This setup is why about half of the marking setups in a training day (when I'm training anyway), have a short retired in it.
Another tough concept is to throw a retired gun at the edge of a pond, with a long mark behind it. If you can put the gunner in a layout blind, it's even harder. Of course the field trial Guru's don't like layout blinds and are trying to outlaw them. PLEASE have your club vote against this bad, bad rule. (off my soap box now).
In an open field dogs will run and mark around trees. (Which is why I want to keep layout blinds). If you can put a bird in a place that is open, with trees nearby, dogs that are in trouble will go to the trees. They will also leave the area and go up a hill if that's available.
Throwing marks at the base of brush piles is effective.
Putting a mark about thirty yards behind a clump of trees in an open field works too. Dogs again want to hunt around something.
Out of order fliers always screw up a dog, although I'm not that much of a fan of them. You need to train on them.
For younger dogs a long mark thrown after a short mark on a double is tough. If the dogs has to run past scent it's really tough.
Marks thrown towards another one is difficult. Hip pockets, etc.
Mamas and Poppas are very hard and most folks don't train on them much because it confuses dogs and teaches them to hunt behind a gunner.
Marks thrown against a tree line can be hard.
Dogs like to square hills. Dogs on a side of a hill at an angle to the line make this tougher. IE, the dog doesn't believe in himself or the factors cause him to cave and run straight up hill. Getting out after a long swim makes this really hard.
That's enough for me too....