Box of Tricks

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Have you noticed that the volume on the telly increases during the commercial break. The sales and marketing folk bombard us with must have products. Equally there is no escape in the gundog world. There used to be just two main companies selling to the aspiring trainer but now thanks to the internet a plethora of websites are targeting this market with all sorts of wonderful gadgets and gismos.

I have a large cupboard full of various dummy launching equipment and dummies to help with retrieving. There is the very fancy (and expensive) remote controlled launcher that fires a selection of dummies into the air from a distance emitting an asthmatic strangulated quacking sound before the missile is launched. I still have to walk the 100 meters or so to recharge the unit of course after take-off.

I have a catapult a somewhat complicated piece of metalwork which once you have mastered the technique and avoided getting your hand, arm, fingers and face in the way, fires a tennis ball into the distance. Not to be forgotten is the traditional hand held dummy launcher with its add on extension for shoulder launching also part of the must have accessory. I've yet to come to terms with this piece of kit as after several firings it needs cleaning and the recoil is somewhat challenging! What seemed a great idea was the hand held dummy which self fired a blank shot when thrown the idea is that this would gain the dogs attention whilst hunting.

Now available on the market is an array of different retrieving dummies of varying shapes and sizes. Take your pick. The good old green canvass dummy ranges from small puppy to discus shape up to an enormous hare sized thing. Some can be bought with rabbit skin already attached. A friend has two black and white rugger ball shaped objects (I thought he had borrowed from his grandsons toy box) but apparently sold to emulate a pheasant and a partridge. Not to be forgotten is the bolting rabbit a canvass dummy on a long piece of elastic which stretched to its fullest extent and then released simulates a rabbit bolting! But the piece de resistance must be - wait for it - a moulded bit of hard plastic which is painted to look like a pheasant or duck with the head dangling on a bit of string at one end!! Surely in the dogs mind its just a bit of plastic smelling of paint. Woof, woof you can't be serious. Now all this array of kit crams into the specially designed training bag or training waistcoat. Gone are the days that the game bag doubles up.

However I've given up trying to get into my equipment cupboard. The bolting rabbit has till death we do part married the catapult which in turn has jammed the remote launcher into a corner and underneath that lot is the plastic pheasant and hand held launcher refusing stubbornly to come out to play.

So I grab a couple of old dummies, my game bag and the dogs, phone a friend to go out training. Oh, by the way we may take the old starting pistol with us!!

Happy hunting.