A number of folks have asked in private messages how I set up tests. So, I thought I would discuss how I go about it. I do not say that this is the only way. Rather, this is the way I go about it.
A couple of things before we get started. I have used the diagram that Darin kindly provided us. I have placed distance markers for the sake of discussion. My distances may not be accurate, but they are what we will use for this discussion.
We also start with some assumptions:
1. There are no unsafe areas in this field that need to be avoided.
2. The temperature and humidity are such that you could run 400 yard marks - if you chose to do so - without worrying about a dog collapsing
3. We are setting up a test for the Open.
4. Time is not a constraint.
5. We are going to set up a triple. No mark will be over 400 yards.
6. The wind is blowing 5-10 mph at our backs.
7. We are setting up a set of marks for competition, not for training.
We begin by placing our flyer.
Why the flyer?
Because I think that the flyer is the hardest, yet easiest bird to place.
Hard because there are so many constraints on the flyer compared to a dead bird.
Easy because once you account for those constraints, there really are not that many options.
My general principles on flyers:
1. I do not use them as breaking birds.
2. I want them to be hard marks, which dogs handle or hunt hard.
Some people like breaking birds, I hate them. I want a dog to eliminate itself because it cannot find a bird, not because it broke. But, that’s me. Other people have a different approach.
I want the flyer to be a tough mark. If you want to create separation in a trial, you must make each and every bird count. You cannot have any “gimme” birds. I also don’t believe in placing a bird simply to set up another bird. I want the dogs to work for each bird, burn memory on each bird, thereby making the next retrieve more difficult.
My flyer no-nos:
1. Shooting the flyer where a worker or contestant is at risk
2. Shooting a flyer that must land in a specific area
3. Shooting a flyer where the location where it lands has a disproportionate impact on the fairness of the test (this would include - in my book - wipeout flyers, flyers thrown into a test, tight to another bird)
My flyer yes-yes:
1. Shooting the flyer close enough to the line that the dogs recognize that the bird is a flyer (once you get past 250 yards, the flyer is - in my opinion - less and less inviting).
2. Shooting the flyer in a location where the dogs can hunt all around the guns (for example, I do not like putting flyer guns up against the tree line where the dogs can only hunt in front of the guns.)
3. Shooting the flyer where it lands in an area where the dogs do not want to go (heavy cover) from a gun station is located in an area where the dogs want to run (meadow)
4. Picking a location where the gunners can ride out the birds and let them fly as far as possible (because dogs like to hunt near a gun)
5. If you want to get really sophisticated, consider flyer feather drift and its impact on the dogs.
Ok, so for those of you who want to play. Use the diagram and place your flyer. Explain your reasoning. After we decide on a flyer, we will work on our other two birds.