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3, 2, 1... cast off. This handler is using a nice exagerated gesture to convey her wishes to the 6-month old GSP pup. Her voice and arm movement are upbeat and enthusiastic, and are designed to push the pup out in front as she and her companion walk along behind. Click an image to see a larger version in a new window.
Casting off. 1. Off you go, pup. Head that-a-way and do your thing.
Let Rover work. 2. Here the handler is taking her time as the dog casts over 100 yards out ahead on his way to his objective. Her pace is deliberate, and she's not calling to or overhandling the dog because she wants him to make his way to those trees without any doubt in his mind that he's doing the right thing. Only after he's checked it out with his nose will he either move on by himself, or get some guidance from his handler on where to head.
Much like with using a rod to cast a fly out into a trout stream, bird dog handlers use the term "cast" to refer to the way that a motivated, objective-oriented bird dog will head out towards a place where some action may occur.

It may take some time for a pup to realize that most of the good stuff happens in and around objectives in the field (humps of grass, thickets, hedges, gullies, etc.), but once that concept has become solid, dogs will make for those objectives without fail. That trip across the field and on to the next objective, when the dog is moving with a purpose in anticipation of checking out a potential target, is a cast.

Because the dog should be all business when this happens, handlers should resist the urge to make noise (not even praise) or try to influence the dog until the objective has been reached and checked out. Depending on the dog, she may just head out for the next obvious objective, or she may look for some direction from her handler. The handler can communicate the next cast to the pup by changing the direction they're walking ("quartering" towards another target), perhaps giving a loud "Woop!" or a toot on a whistle, and signaling with a large arm gesture. If there's an objective ahead, and especially if that once in a while pays off with a found bird, the pup will become very serious about casting the field and working those likely targets.

It's worth mentioning another variation on the use of this word. In some types of hunting and competition, especially with certain types of hounds and beagles that are being put on rabbits and other small fur-game, handlers and hunters may refer to working their dogs on leads, as opposed to working them "cast" (meaning, cast afield loose, to hunt untethered). In this case, the word is used as an adverb: "My foot beagle was running cast, and flushed out a cottontail, which I am having for dinner, pan seared, along with a nice merlot." Or, one might hear the adjective form: "We worked the field that morning with the dogs in a cast brace..." Over time, these slightly unusual turns of a phrase start to sound less stilted and unfamiliar, and soon you'll forget you're saying them, even as your friends at work, watching you eat your leftover hasenpfeffer think you perhaps got a little too much sun over the weekend. That's part of the joy of upland life - traditions and bits of old culture that truly are the domain of the dedicated, even if no one else knows what we're talking about!


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