When I first got into training for tests I attended a Hillmann seminar. In that seminar he convinced me that the hand wasn't really needed except if you wanted to use it as a cue for one specific thing. His example was that he would only put the hand down if there was some type of obstacle such as a log that the dog was supposed to jump.
I'm not saying it was a accurate but was the reason I started my advanced training experience without using the hand.
What other command besides a release does the dog need two things to happen?
As a cue i get it but a verbal cue can be just as effective in communicating that the dog is lined up and ready to be sent.
We agree though that the hand is not used to line up the dog. They don't follow your hand. I see a lot of handlers waiving their hand around on top of the dogs head or out in front of their face.
The good trainers only use it as a cue and only put the hand down after the dog is lined and ready to be sent.
I was told by someone who trained directly under Rex Carr that the hand was introduced to handling for control/steadiness on the line.
The use of it for lining purpose followed suit shortly after. True or not, I don't know for sure, but it makes sense that's how it started and evolved into something else.
To your point, verbal que's are very effective and always used, on every mark and blind. If one que is good, why not use 2 ques to solidify communication with the dog?
The way that I use the hand for steadiness on the go bird is...
When the go bird hit's the ground, the hand goes down and is the que that the dog is about to be sent, like on a blind, then the dogs name is said and the dog is realeased to go get the bird.
If they're conditioned to sit until a hand comes AND their name is called, theorically, they'll be more steady and the handler have more control. Again, an extra tool or form of communication to influence the dog to sit/be steady on the go bird.
In training many times, especially with a young dog, the bird will hit the ground and I'll put my hand in and hold it down there for 5, 7, 10 seconds making them focus and bear down, stay steady.
For me and my dogs, no hand down is the que for my short retired.
No hand down, "easy, easy, easy" and a really really soft send means its not very far away, be sure and check up.
The more tools I can have in my bag, the more info I can transfer to the dog and use in training, especially if i'm familiar with them and know how to use them.
I canít concentrate long enough to read this post. Iím cooking pork chops. But Iíll bet that mutt will fetch a dead bird. GREAT JOB.