Diversions - Short Bird, Long Bird
by Mike Stewart



Ducks Unlimited TV, "World of Ducks," featured during the first week of August was an excellent show on hunting ducks on the hallowed timbers of Beaver Dam, Mississippi, the duck hole made famous by Nash Buckingham. Drake and DU's executive vice president, Don Young, as well as host Wade Bourne, hunted from Nash's actual blind guided by a former Wildrose kennel man, Alex Littlejohn.

One of the best retrieves Drake made in this show involved three birds down, two shorter ones close to the blind and a long "sailer" falling out into timber. Without hesitation, Drake, once released, disregarded the shorter birds on his own and drove out straight and carefully for the long bird. He made a quick, clean pick, and then on his way back additional ducks were dropped along his path. Drake never considered switching. This is an excellent example of how our "Wildrose Way" training methodology pays off on the hunt. Ignore the shorter birds opting to pick longer falls first. These are the ones likely to be lost. No switching. Stay on the bird that was sent for despite distractions going or returning. Drake accomplished both in a single retrieve and received credits from Don Young who expressed his regard for hunting over finely trained retrievers.

I'll share a few pointers about training for diversions so your hunter may accomplish the same. First, begin young (or use the same approach if training an inexperienced, older dog). Introduce diversions and doubles at the same time using a trailing memory, 180?. I begin the concept at quite a short distance along a fence where bumpers will be visible at about 3.5 months of age.

The Exercise: Walk along a solid fence or wall and drop the first bumper. Require the pup to sit, focus, and be patient. Turn with a "no, heel." Walk away a short distance down the fence. Toss out the second bumper and repeat the process. Walk to the center of the line, send for the first, then the second. We now have a pattern to move about and we have established doubles/diversions without a chance of a switch. Build entrenched habits!

In later months of training, the diversion (second bumper) can slowly be brought around your position, gradually getting closer to the line of the memory - the first bird. Always pick up the diversion as a denial.

Next, apply the same concept on water. Begin in shallow water using a longer memory with a short diversion tossed wide of the line, well over 90? at first. If problems are experienced, use a rock to make a splash as the diversion. No chance of a switching now. After a few successes, reintroduce the short diversion bumper very wide and proceed.

Incorporate all three types of diversions in training with sight, trailing, loops and circle memories. Types:

1. Short bird - long bird
2. Diversions falling as the dog returns from a retrieve
3. A secondary bird drops as the dog goes out for a retrieve
a. Wait until the dog is locked on the first bird, then drop the second. No switching.
b. The first bird is an unseen. Stop the dog and toss out the second, then handle for the primary bird.

Remember the 3 D's of steadiness: Deny, Delay, Diversion

Deke, at 12 months, has learned all three types of diversions just as Drake did in training. Now we await his first real experience in the field this season.