The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever lures ducks with its fox-like dance, then retrieves downed birds with intensity and skill.
James B. Spencer
Visit Dogworld.com/Extras to see videos of Duck Tollers in action!
It’s mid-morning on a crisp fall day. Betsy Fogg slips quietly behind a patch of cover on the shore of a large pond near her home. About 150 yards out, a flock of 20 ducks bobs and relaxes in the water. They have just returned from breakfast at a nearby grain field. Fogg carries only her shotgun and a tennis ball. A little red dog that could pass for a cross between a fox and a Golden Retriever accompanies her.
Fogg kneels behind the cover. The dog sits beside her, tail wagging. Fogg tosses the tennis ball along the shoreline for the day’s first tolling retrieve. As the ball bounces, the little red dog romps merrily after it, tail flicking back and forth. It catches up to the ball, grabs it and cheerfully returns to Fogg.
This canine animation alerts the bobbing ducks, but instead of frightening them, it attracts them. They begin to swim toward shore, but stop when the dog disappears behind the cover with Fogg. She tosses the tennis ball again. The dog makes another merry retrieve, and the ducks resume swimming toward shore. This happens again and again until the ducks are 15 yards from the shore and only 20 yards from Fogg. Ironically, if the dog entered the water, it would frighten the ducks away. All tolling retrieves must take place along the shoreline, near the water but not in it.
Shotgun in hand, Fogg jumps up and the ducks take flight. They fly 60 feet straight up, then level off to fly away. But before they can escape, Fogg pulls the shotgun trigger twice. Two ducks fold their wings, fall and splash into the pond.
Now Fogg brings her little dog to heel, lines it up with one of the birds in the pond, and sends it to retrieve. With a long leap and a big splash, the dog hits the water, swims a few yards, grabs the closest duck, and carries it to Fogg who sends the dog for the other downed duck, which it quickly retrieves. The dog’s fetching “dance,” called tolling, made this hunt successful.
Tolling is a process in which a small, fox-like dog prances along the shoreline and lures rafted, or floating, ducks toward the shore, where a hidden hunter waits. The word “toll” comes from the Middle English word tollen, which means “to entice.” We use it more frequently to refer to ringing bells than frolicking canines, but the idea is the same for both. In the opening scenario, Fogg and her dog tolled a raft of ducks. The little red dog is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, a Canadian breed developed specifically for this kind of waterfowl hunting.
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