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October 09, 2009

Trainer, pointing dog prepare for competition

Posted in: News

FAIRCHILD - Rod Lein of Chippewa Falls opened a plastic case filled with battered bells. They look liked small, tarnished cow bells. Each had a different tone and a different origin. He picked one from Nova Scotia that Lucy, a 3-year old English pointer, would wear Monday afternoon on a training run.

She is training for a field trial that began Wednesday and ends Saturday in the Eau Claire County forest. She will run against dogs from across the eastern U.S., many with professional handlers.

Lein, a retired postman, technically is an amateur but trains dogs with a fanatical intensity. In August he spent two or three days every week camping in northern Wisconsin, where he could run his dogs on wild sharp-tailed grouse.

The training and the pointing dog field trials are all catch-and-release. After the dog points a bird, the trainer walks in, flushes it and shoots a blank gun.

Lein also hunts with a regular shotgun, but he keeps it unloaded until the dog points a bird, then loads it. He already has been to North Dakota to hunt sharp-tails. He probably will go back in November for pheasants.

He also plans to go to Minnesota for pheasants and probably to southwest Nebraska for quail and pheasants. He also hopes to squeeze in some hunting for ruffed grouse and woodcock in October, sandwiched between a busy field trial schedule.

His dogs did well in their first competition of the fall, a trial on sharp-tails in the Namekagon Barrens. His 5-year-old pointer, Bell, was the champion and Lucy was runner-up.

But Bell is on the disabled list now with a disease that has yet to be diagnosed. She may be back later in the fall, but for now it’s up to Lucy.

On Monday, besides the traditional bell, she wore a GPS unit. If she pointed a bird the bell would stop jingling, and the GPS would help locate her in thick brush.

Lein also wrapped her tail with orange and blue tape, mostly to protect the tail, but this color scheme would help find her in the brush.

He walked Lucy to a starting point. He unleashed her, gave her a command and she was off at full speed.

We followed behind at a brisk walk on a winding trail, slightly wider than a deer trail, through brush and sloughs.

We passed a porcupine poking its nose out of a den in the hollow base of a dead tree - a hazard for a curious dog.

In the trial, the two judges will be on horses, Lein said. Otherwise, going all day in this terrain would wear out the fittest of judges.

For 10 minutes we followed Lucy’s comings and goings through the tingling of her bell. Occasionally she zipped across the trail in front of us and gave a quick glance back.

Then the bell stopped.

With the help of the GPS, we found Lucy standing like a statue, her multicolored tail pointed toward the sky.

As we walked toward her, a grouse flushed off to the side. Lein fired a blank gun. The dog didn’t flinch.

The dogs are required to remain stationary to the flush of the bird and the shot.

Lein tapped Lucy on the back and gave her a command to hunt again. She took a few steps, and a grouse flushed in front of her.

It was a serious miscue for her and Lein and one that would have gotten Lucy ejected from a field trial.

In the complicated etiquette of pointing dogs and pointing dog trials, no sin is more heinous than a dog flushing a bird.

But because we were just training she would run another 40 minutes.

She found another grouse. Then a woodcock.

As of Monday the migrating woodcocks clearly had not arrived yet in the Eau Claire River bottoms, Lein said.

Last year, when there was a flight of woodcock, Lucy pointed 12 birds in an hour - 11 woodcocks and one grouse.

Lein had her swing down to the Eau Claire River for a drink, and on the way a turkey flushed well ahead of us. Lucy stopped and would not move again until Lein tapped her on the back and commanded her to hunt again.

He called that a “stop to flush.” If a bird flushes wild ahead of the dog, the dog is supposed to stop.

Chasing a flying bird also is grounds for being pulled from the trial.

Turkeys don’t count in the field trial. Lein said he preferred that his dogs stayed away from them. He knew of one dog that had its back broken by an adult turkey.

After about an hour in the woods Lein called Lucy in. She was more than willing to continue hunting, but we were running out of daylight.

Also, she needed to rest up for the competition.

Knight can be reached at 830-5835, 800-236-7077 or joe.knight@ecpc.com.

Dog Trials

The Wisconsin Cover Dog Championship, a field trial for pointing dogs in the eastern Eau Claire County Forest, began Wednesday and will run through Saturday. A Derby Stake for younger dogs will be on the weekend.

The dogs will run two at a time on six courses in the forest in search of wild ruffed grouse and woodcock. No birds are shot; only blank guns are used in the trial.

Dog handlers will meet for lunch and dinner at Wilson Park.

About 46 dogs are entered, some from as far away as Pennsylvania and the state of New York.

The field trial has been in the county forest for more than 30 years.

Source: LeaderTelegram.com

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