I promised you part 2 of my “Pre-Snap Checklist” and here it is. Make sure you take the time to watch the video I put together about analyzing a blind. The video is a part of my “Line Mechanics For Success” digital course. I will take you to the 2018 National Amateur Retriever Championship in Roseburg, Oregon. The 4th Series Waterblind is loaded with factors. I interviewed Robbie Bickley right after coming off line. We discussed his plan for the blind and how it played out.
Let’s get back to my checklist. The following bullet points on my checklist are in common with Part 1. Take a look at them and visualize yourself on game day.
Know the predicted wind direction
Have access to Google Earth photos of the site
Orient yourself after arriving on the property (N, S, E & W)
Check the current wind direction
Analyze the factors -Terrain, Wind, Cover, Water & Visibility
Review test instructions
Have a plan for exiting the blind and approaching the line
Where do I want to be on the mat and what side do I want to heel on?
Be aware of my dog’s attitude prior to getting to line
How has the test changed?
Wind, Visibility, and Developing Trails
Visualize success and proper execution
Focus and don’t allow yourself to be distracted!
The following items pertain specifically to preparing for a blind retrieve:
Watching Test Dog
Pay close attention to the judge’s reactions and instructions to test dog
Study the test dog’s return, as you may see factors that are more obvious than when the dog ran
Have multiple references to the blind location - don’t just rely on the intended marker
Have references along the route
3 Questions to ask yourself:
How well can I see my dog?
How well can they see me?
How well can they hear me?
Develop a plan
Dissect your blind into thirds
Handle to objective points
Setup “with the wind casts” when tackling hazards
How do I want to approach the trouble zones? i.e., out of sight or trouble hearing areas
Where can’t I be? “Death Zone”
Be Flexible (Plan B)
Watch patterns develop
Pay close attention to the seasoned handlers
What are the adjustments the pros are making?
Re-evaluate the line, if possible, after watching dogs run
Remind yourself which way your dog turns
Where is the “Red Zone”
Are there multiple ones?
Psyche yourself up not out!
Be passionate, not panicky
Have a “Never Give Up” attitude
Make sure you have a good spot to watch the test dog. This is no time to be chatting with the other handlers. You need to concentrate. Be certain to pay attention to the communication between the judges as well as any specific instructions they give to the test dog handler. This will provide insight into what they are looking for and help identify a standard. Pay particularly close attention to the test dog’s return. Often times the return will provide more information on out of sight zones and running water areas. Ask yourself three questions. How well can I see them? Here is where you identify the out of sight zones. How well can they see me? Are the dogs having any difficulty seeing the handler? Do I need to move away from the line clutter in order to make myself more visible? If so, I may need to exaggerate my movement when casting. Sometimes you handle more with your whole body than just your arms. How well can they hear me? Are there dead spots in the field where the dogs aren’t responding to the whistle? Where are the running water locations on the water blind? If you can, take a photo from the mat and transfer it to your iPad and study it more diligently.
Don’t just rely on the blind marker. When lighting changes, the once visible marker can become difficult to see. I want to have multiple references in the field to help me accurately identify the depth of the blind. It is also wise to have references along the blind route. In the event you have moved from the mat, you can make sure you are still staying on the judge's intended line.
Identify the “Red Zone”. The Red Zone is typically the last 10% of the blind. This is where things can get dicey. This is where all of that momentum that got you to the end of the blind can get you in trouble. I came up with the term “Red Zone” after watching a football game on TV. The announcers refer to the area inside the twenty-yard line as the “Red Zone”. The whole nature of the game changes when a team enters the “Red Zone” and gets close to the goal line. This also happens at the end of a difficult blind. This is where a poor decision gets magnified.
If possible, watch the seasoned handlers and especially the ones handling multiple dogs. They will make adjustments after running the blind. You will want to identify places where you want to be and more importantly places you don’t want to be. Watch any patterns that develop. There will always be a better approach to running a blind and it won’t be obvious until you watch a number of dogs run. I know this seems obvious, but be downwind of the blind at the end!
You have to develop a killer instinct. Don’t ever give up. That “refuse to be denied” state of mind is contagious. Your dog will be empowered by your determination. If you go through this process of preparing for each blind, I promise your future will have many more ribbons in it!