IAN McCALL says: Phew; you could write a small booklet on this subject and still not come up with a definitive answer!
Trouble is, each shoot is different in terms of topography, game cover and woodlands. As such it’s not easy to know where to start without, first, taking a look at your operation.
Maybe one day you will invite one of our Game Conservancy advisors along to offer some sound suggestions on how to improve things. It will be money well spent. In the meantime it’s well worth looking at a few simple do’s and don’ts.
The most important basic rule is to feed birds into cover so that they are ‘in residence’ when you want to drive them. This is simple commonsense: feeding one crop at eight o’clock in the morning is all well and good but can you really expect the birds to still be there at three in the afternoon when you do the last drive of the day?
Similarly, if birds are used to only finding feed in a cover as they make their way back to roost in the late afternoon, what’s the point of doing that drive first thing in the morning?
What you need to do is take a long, close, look at the layout of your shoot and identify where birds head for once they come down from roost in the morning. Weather will play a part in how they disperse to find food – and sunshine in particular will prove a big draw. In winter, game birds love it.
With such a small ad hoc arrangement as yours it might be as well to replace hand feeding with a hopper system so that food is available day-long. The only proviso to this is to hand feed woodland rides just before birds come back to roost – this way they get to know some food is available before they settle down for the night.
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