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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been in this sport for twenty years now, I started in hunt test and moved to field trials some time ago, so have grown to appreciate marking as an inherited and trained skill. To me there is nothing more special than watching that one dog that just knows where all the birds are on a difficult field trial set up. You watch the dog return to the line with the flyer then line itself up on one of the now hidden birds, the ears come up as his eyes bore into the distance and he launches out with style and enthusiasm, if terrain or some obstical pulles him slightly off line, he bends back into the bird way before any wind helps him, then as he approaches the area of the fall you can see the breaks come on as the dogs head comes up and starts to look for the bird "which should be right there!" When you see marking like that you know the difference between a great marker and a good lining dog who lines out there and winds the bird.

I train and trial my dogs from January (they go south with a pro for the winter circuit) through September, then we take all hunting season off to hunt, October through Christmas if the water doesn't freeze. Hunting over the years I have noticed that I have a much higher percentage of blind retrieves and handles on a marks than would be acceptable on a hunt test or field trial weekend. It isn't that my dogs suddenly lost their marking ability, it's just the nature of real hunting for them to not be able to mark birds as well. Birds come in from all angles, get shot in front,overhead and behind the blind, and cripples can glide way out of the picture. That plus despite brags to the contrary, my buddy and I have been known to jump up and unload our guns in a volleyat a flight of birds and not hit a thing. All this is very different from the marking we do in training or a trial or even a hunt test.

So as I said, I don't want to change a thing to our game, I'm just pointing out that our dogs are probably a little overqualified from a marking standpoint for real hunting. It's the calm, enthusiastic great handling dog that will impress your hunting buddies.

John
 

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John I would completely agree. The HT is a manufactured situation and real hunting is completely unpredictable. I love when things line up, we see the birds, can Q the dog and have them smack a triple or quad with no help. Just doesn't happen that much. As well, I find that the first bird shot is typically close in and stone dead, while the birds getting out of there are longer and crippled, so we end up with a lot of poison bird handling. Get the cripple first, pick up the easy one later.

/Paul
 

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I think occasionally on a locked up cripple. Otherwise, common sense tells us that if you are a decent hunter, shoot as many birds as the braggarts like to claim they shoot....that would make them a good shot and good at setting up decoys. If you are a good shot, you are good at setting up....your birds should all fall into a 30 yard radius. If your dog can't find duck in a 30 yard radius after picking up the hundreds of birds half these guys claim to shoot well, time for a new one.

Dogs quickly learn they just head in the general direction.
 

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Hunting over the years I have noticed that I have a much higher percentage of blind retrieves and handles on a marks than would be acceptable on a hunt test or field trial weekend. It isn't that my dogs suddenly lost their marking ability, it's just the nature of real hunting for them to not be able to mark birds as well. Birds come in from all angles, get shot in front,overhead and behind the blind, and cripples can glide way out of the picture.
I would say that if you can handle the dogs to those birds hunting, YOU must be a pretty good marker! In training and competing I am more focused on the dog and don't mark the bird as well as I should in case I have to handle, something I learned I have had to learn to do better running HT. That was one of the first things I initially learned going from FT to HT.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Paul, your right about the poison bird scenario, as hard as they are to train for, having a dog that will pull off a big dead greenhead floating just twenty yards out in plain sight, to run a long water blind past the dead duck to a cripple that swam into the cattails over a hundred yards across the pond, is a valuable dog indeed.

John
 

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John, I couldn't agree more. Most of my waterfowl hunting is done in either flooded timber or corn, which requires my dogs' to pick up birds out of my line of sight. The only test/trial scenario where I've frequently run across this is in British-style trials.
 

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I have a Chopper son who is an outstanding marker. I have a hunting dog that is more of a common marking dog. The great marker comes up with my birds especially in the upland field much quicker and cleaner than the common dog. Also, the outstanding marker is much better at digging birds out or sloughs and such than the more common marking dog.

So I don't know... I like the outstanding marker, although the more common one is actually the better dog at finding and flushing upland birds. They work extremely well as a team.
 

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I agree that in group hunting situations the ability to mark is far less important than the ability to run blinds quickly and efficiently. Another skill that is very usefull in hunting is the "hunt em up" blind. That is where one guy in the pit saw a bird go down "somewhere over there" and your dog is expected to retrieve the duck. These blinds involve a lot of casting downwind of cover and the dog using nose, eyes and bird sense to retrieve a duck that otherwise would have been lost. This back and forth, in and out of cover with general disregard for the last cast would get you dropped from any retriever game. I teach a hunt whistle but feel the dogs know the difference between hunting and testing and know when this behaviour is appropriate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yep, that "hunt em up" blind is valuable as handling a dog to a point where a cripple swam or ran out of sight is quite common.

Buzz, having an outstanding marker sure can't hurt in real world hunting, I have had two that were the best hunting dogs ever. I think beyond pure marking ability these dogs possess a tenacity, a drive to never-ever give up on a retrieve, these two dogs will go through anything to find that bird and retrieve it to hand. That same trait is what separates them in a field trail to.

John
 

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John, reading your first paragraph makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up!

Likewise, I get a nostalgic feeling recalling some of the amazing retrieves that dogs have made for me in the field 40+ years ago. Possibly embellished slightly over time :D, they are moments that can never be relived.

You're right, of course, that the "normal day's hunt" can never really be replicated in a venue that tries to test numbers of dogs. And in the case of FTs, where the intent is to find the BEST dog(s), we departed from reality long, long ago.

But if you think about how we got where we are in the games ... starting with a couple guys getting "over-served" in a bar and arguing who had the best dog ... and all the things that have transpired since that first attempt to "settle it", it's not surprising at all that we have outgrown what is really necessary in a hunting dog. And I truly believe that if we could go back in time and start over, we would arrive at pretty much the same place we are today.

And just like the impractical, unnecessary 200 mph Indy car competition has led to engineering improvements we enjoy in our personal vehicles, the dog games have, in many ways, led to better and better dogs available to Joe 6-pack, the guy who has no interest in anything but bringing home his birds. I think it has been good and will continue to be good. Believe it or not, there are still guys out there who throw rocks to get their dog to cast. But not as many as there used to be.;)

JS
 

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on water not so much but in upland conditions finding a dead bird in dirt or corn stubble it absolutely helps to have an above average to great marker
 

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I ran into an individual at the service station the other day. He came up to me and said I had trained his dog. I didn't remember him and you never know how this will go. He went on to tell me how great his dog was in duck hunting. He then said that I had told him his dog wasn't a very good marker. I asked the dogs name, then I remembered.

He further said that he gave my name to everyone he knew and recommended me as a trainer.
 

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I do a lot of hunting on a river that has a small current to it so marking is not so important but lining and handling is very important. But as long we are on the are on the subject I think one of the best qualities a "meat and potatoes" dog is one that knows to look up. Specifiaclly one that can mark the birds as they come in to the spread. A lot of times an experienced dog will see the birds well e their handler who is talking with his buddies in the blind. :razz:
 

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I think marking gets overrated with a meat dog. Give me one that can handle and has a great nose.
 

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Markings nice, but give me a team-player in the duck blind. One that watches while I snooze is solid gold ;)

Upland I prefer one with an excellent nose, cause even when you think you mark those, you still got find them ;)
 

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O man this thread is making me jittery thinking of duck season coming up. When the ducks are circling I love watching my dogs eyes as she stays locked on the birds,I don't even look for the birds, I just watch her and keep my head low.
 

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I also believe that marking is over-rated for hunting. I started having the labs at heel when my hunters are walking in on the pointers and the marking improved but I still need to handle on about 30% of upland birds. I also have a number of track em, trail em, get em birds both on waterfowl and upland. In training, occasionally I will do a trail, like they do in NAHRA. Besides my dogs love it.
 

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Until I saw my first hunt test, I thought a great hunting dog was one that picked up all your birds before you ran out of rocks and had to start throwing shotgun shells. I believe that a dog that can sit still and do SH work is better than probably 90% of the hunting dogs out there, including many guides with whom I have hunted.

I have never had many opportunities for great marks duck hunting, mostly because of how we hunt. I have from time to time seen some great ones while pheasant hunting.

If I were only looking for a hunting dog, give me one that will sit quietly for a long, long time while no birds are around, can mark marginally well, handles pretty well, has a great nose and has the experience to know what it is supposed to do when the time comes.

I also agree that a short poison bird to a longer cripple is probably the most common real world scenario that I see hunting.
 

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I have been in this sport for twenty years now, I started in hunt test and moved to field trials some time ago, so have grown to appreciate marking as an inherited and trained skill. To me there is nothing more special than watching that one dog that just knows where all the birds are on a difficult field trial set up. You watch the dog return to the line with the flyer then line itself up on one of the now hidden birds, the ears come up as his eyes bore into the distance and he launches out with style and enthusiasm, if terrain or some obstical pulles him slightly off line, he bends back into the bird way before any wind helps him, then as he approaches the area of the fall you can see the breaks come on as the dogs head comes up and starts to look for the bird "which should be right there!" When you see marking like that you know the difference between a great marker and a good lining dog who lines out there and winds the bird.

I train and trial my dogs from January (they go south with a pro for the winter circuit) through September, then we take all hunting season off to hunt, October through Christmas if the water doesn't freeze. Hunting over the years I have noticed that I have a much higher percentage of blind retrieves and handles on a marks than would be acceptable on a hunt test or field trial weekend. It isn't that my dogs suddenly lost their marking ability, it's just the nature of real hunting for them to not be able to mark birds as well. Birds come in from all angles, get shot in front,overhead and behind the blind, and cripples can glide way out of the picture. That plus despite brags to the contrary, my buddy and I have been known to jump up and unload our guns in a volleyat a flight of birds and not hit a thing. All this is very different from the marking we do in training or a trial or even a hunt test.

So as I said, I don't want to change a thing to our game, I'm just pointing out that our dogs are probably a little overqualified from a marking standpoint for real hunting. It's the calm, enthusiastic great handling dog that will impress your hunting buddies.

John
No doubt about it. Doesn't matter how great the marking if the dog is wound too tight for hunting. Hunting buddies are more impressed with an all around hunting dog that gets the birds with the least amount of, "sits", "quiets" and "nos".

I'll take a calm, level-headed dog anytime!
 

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John I would completely agree. The HT is a manufactured situation and real hunting is completely unpredictable. I love when things line up, we see the birds, can Q the dog and have them smack a triple or quad with no help. Just doesn't happen that much. As well, I find that the first bird shot is typically close in and stone dead, while the birds getting out of there are longer and crippled, so we end up with a lot of poison bird handling. Get the cripple first, pick up the easy one later.

/Paul
You got that right. A dog that can handle cleanly is far more valuable in picking up the crips especially those long fliers that wind up landing 200 - 400 yards out. I've had it happen with waterfowl and in the upland. Sometimes those dang little sharptails will sail for a country mile with only one pellet in them.

I've also had dogs mark ducks which have sailed to the other side of islands where handling isn't possible. Send the dog and let him have his head on the mark. Some very talented and driven dogs will go to seemingly the ends of the earth for a mark.
 
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