The short film below was first published just over a year ago. In itself it is a wonderful protrayal of a chesapeake working in the environment it was designed for. Echo has long been a competitor at the CBRC working tests and inter club team events and without doubt is one of the most exciting dogs to watch in competition. The story behind the making of this film demonstrates exactly why strength, inititive and persistance are two qualities that are invaluable in a good wildfowling dog.The following piece was written by Mark and he has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here :
“The task of capturing footage for this film presented several practical challenges for our cameraman who, as a non-shooting man, had never been near a marsh in his life. Thes included:
– walking long dostances carrying tons of expensive and heavy camera equipment, bags, tripods and so forth
– walking through tidal channels ensuring said equipment remained dry
– wading through knee deep mud making sure camera lenses remained mud-free
-generally stumbling around in near darkness desperately trying to keep hidden, so as not to put birds off to capture good quality footage of me wildfowling.
This was all a whole new area of filming and took, as you can imagine, several attempts to get something that we were both happy with.
During one of our visits to the Dee Estuary, I shot a Mallard whilst shooting a tide flight, and had occasion to perform the long retrieve. The bird landed 200 yards to my right, on the opposite side of a very wide tidal gutter, on an area of vegetated marsh. It was a blind for the dog as well as a very long swim against a tide which was flooding fast, towards the camera. Tides on the Dee flood very, very quickly and with huge force. i have in the past tried to stand in the same gutter to collect decoys when the tide is flooding and it is just impossible.
The distance, combined with the tide and that the fact that this was a blind, I can confidently say that Echo had never done anything quite so testing. I remember being aware of this before sending him into the water. But I knew that even in such demanding conditions, if there was one dog in the entire world I could choose to do this, I would have absolutely no hesitation in choosing Echo, with his characteristic, ‘I am going to get that bird, even if it means swimming back to Iceland,’ sort of attitude.
I got level with where I had marked the bird and sent Echo and as you can see from the film. he took a little encouragemnet to get across the tide. He looks back once or twice as if to say, ‘What across here?’ Yes please Echo, keep going. An additional difficulty was that because of the strength of the tide, when he did eventually get out the other side, he had been pushed 50 yards to the left where the bird had been marked.
I handled him into the area where I thought the bird was, then it was over to him, to use his scenting ability and persistence to find the bird. Because of the topography of the marsh, I simply could not see him when he was hunting for the Mallard and I did not know for certain where it was. So, as is so often the case when wildfowling, when shooting in difficult conditions or in darkness or half light, I have to trust Echo’s ability.What I love about this part of the film, is that once he is hunting for the duck he never looks back to me once. After eight and a half years of training and 7 seasons of regular wildfowling, it is safe to say that Echo is fully up to speed with the job description. A true gundog, he knows exactly what is required of him and is able to use his ability and initiative to hunt for and to bring the bird back to hand.
It seemed to take ages for him to cover the ground, but after a while he stopped. I cannot tell you what it felt like to be watching him when he suddenly stopped, his head went down, his tail started wagging that little bit quicker and he raised his head and I saw that he was holding a big drake Mallard in his mouth. I was elated! I knew then that it was a superb effort. I do not remember feeling too worried about the prospect of him swimming back. I suppose that he had made it across so he could make it back. As he swam back he was again pushed sideways by the tide, hence why I am walking towards the camera to meet him at the point where I thought he would exit the water. I love the fact that I give him a big stroke when he delivers the bird. Also, considering the physical effort that this must have taken, when he was walking along after all this he still looks like he is ready to do it all again!!
I was so focussed on handling Echo, that I had totally forgotten that the camera was running, and anyway, I thought that the distance we were away from the camera would be too far for a decent film. Until, that is, as walking back back I do a little wave to camera by way of acknowledgment. Inside I was doing cartwheels I was so delighted.
It is a pleasure to have this to enjoy now and to have in years to come. I think that it shows the breed in a very positive light and I am just so pleased as an owner, a handler and a wildfowler to have this film.”
Mark Greenhough( BASC Wildfowling Officer)
First published in Chessie Chat no. 92