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FTCH Saighton's Stinger

summer - so it didnít get dark until almost 11:00 pm. We would leave for the coast near Church Bay about 8:00 pm and work Stingerís Image until the sun set over the Irish Sea. Talbot would shoot and I would work Stingerís Image. As expected, he worked very well. I would go up the bank with Stinger to work amongst the gorse and Talbot would position himself at the bottom and in clearings to get a shot at bolting rabbits. If I heard a shot, I could count on there being a rabbit to retrieve. Stinger flushed some rabbits and some bolted on their own. After a few of these outings, what surprised me was that Stinger was making "blind" retrieves as if he had marked the retrieves. Stinger could be working in a thick gorse bush and Talbot would shoot a rabbit 25-40 yards away that hadnít necessarily bolted from where Stinger was working. I would send Stinger in the direction of the retrieve and he would run straight to the area the rabbit was lying dead.

I mentioned this to Talbot and he said, "I think he is marking them by the sound of the shot, his grandfather could do the same." I had never heard of this before, but had no other explanation on how he could make these "blind retrieves" without tracking the foot scent of the rabbits.

A while later, I was running Stingerís Image in a summer test. These were competitions run entirely on dummies. The general idea was that you ran the dogs as you would when working on game, first in braces and then, singly, as in a game trial. Dummies would be thrown for marked retrieves and a gun would shoot. For a blind retrieve, a dummy would be placed in a specified area; the gun would shoot to the area the dummy was placed. The dog needed to be steady to the shot and handled to the retrieve. When Stinger came to do his blind retrieve, I simply gave him a go back command to send him on his way. He went straight to the area where the gun had shot and in a matter of seconds was coming back with the dummy. I was a bit worried that the judges would think I was cheating in some way as he made it look so easy compared to the other dogs. I guess the judges thought it was ok as he was given first place. He was about a year old.

Retrieves in North American trials are nearly always sighted, but under natural hunting conditions this is not always the case. A clever working gundog can learn to find retrieves in ways other than simply watching the flight of the bird. If a dog can learn that the direction the gun barrel is pointing indicates the direction of the retrieve, it makes taking lines on blind retrieves much easier. I never saw a dog more adept at this than Stingerís Image.

Dogs can become quite resourceful in "marking" retrieves that are not seen. I will always remember one quiet September morning, Spitfire and myself standing with one of the guns in thick marsh reeds 7-8 feet high. There was only a relatively small window of opportunity for the gun to get a shot. Spitfire could only hear the whistle of duckís wings, but could not see the ducks. She retrieved fifteen ducks that morning. Marking by the sound of the ducks

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