Guns up: Preparing dogs for duck hunting

Posted May 21, 2012, at 11:12 p.m.
Last modified May 22, 2012, at 8:42 a.m.

“Dog to the line. Guns up,” a voice shouts.

A handler uses a duck call and sounds off two quacks. Several more quacks are heard coming from the woods. A dead duck comes sailing out of the trees by way of a giant slingshot and lands in the field. One shot is fired. The handler says the dog’s name and, in a flash, the dog takes off across the field.

This was a Guns Up Hunting Retriever Club’s hunt test on Saturday, when hunting retrievers are tested using realistic hunting scenarios in a controlled environment. It is fascinating to watch. The dogs have amazing speed, skill and patience.

There are three levels of dogs: Started (beginners), Seasoned (intermediate) and Finished (advanced). Dogs are judged as pass-fail in the tests based on marking ability and memory, nose, hunting desire, control and hunting style.

“If you ever get a dog with the instinct to retrieve, there’s nothing like it. There’s a bond. The dog sees you as a part of the pack and there’s nothing like it,” said Tim Cobb, a Guns Up member.