Once a dog is steady on pigeons in launchers, we transition to a bird cone. This consists of cylindrical cone 2 feet in diameter and 2 feet high. There is no top or bottom on the cone which allows the bird to fly if pressured by the dog.
We set the launcher next to the cone and sleep a bird in the cone. We usually use pheasants, and keep the launcher next to the cone at first as we have conditioned the dogs to point at the sound of the beep from the launcher. This way if the dog does not point the cone, we beep the launcher and the dog points. The dog has to be conditioned to the beep first. For a free video on how this is done, visit www.willowcreekkennels.net.
Once the dog is pointing the cone well with the launcher next to it, we remove the launcher, and trust the dog to point the cone. When placing the pheasant in the cone, we sleep it by placing it's head under its wing, and laying the bird head down. We do not dizzy the bird as we want them to be alert and ready to flush if the dogs move in. We place the cones in light cover so the bird can see the dog coming and flush if pressured. Be sure to allow about 5 minutes before working the bird. This allow the bird to wake up.
You can drag a scent trail with the pheasant to the cone, allowing the dog to track until body scenting the bird, and point. We also use the cone to pattern field trial and hunt test dogs. We place the cone in an objective and the bird will be exactly where we put it.
When transitioning to running birds, we always have a cone somewhere just in case the session does not go well, then we can end with success.
The bird cone allows us an extra step in the steadiness process, and the smaller steps we take, the faster we get the desired result.