Beating can be great fun. But ultimately a beater is there to do a job and help the keeper achieve the day's bag
Being part of a good team and putting birds over the Guns isn’t always as easy as it sounds because weather conditions play a big part, and what works well one week might not work next time around.
Furthermore, if a gamekeeper asks us to do something new on the shoot it’s never very helpful to reply: “The last keeper here never did it like this” or “we don’t normally do it that way.”
Remember that the gamekeeper is boss
He is the one who makes the decisions.
Similarly, most keepers use radio-men in the line to pass on instructions and it is important these are followed to the letter.
Sometimes the information will need passing quickly, clearly and quietly from one beater to the next, so we need to listen carefully to what we’re being told.
Keep looking left and right
Walking in a straight line isn’t as difficult as some beaters would have you believe – all we need to do is keep looking to our left, then right.
And when it comes to high maize crops all we have to do is ask our next-door neighbours where they are and adjust position accordingly.
Brambles? Don’t walk around them – beat a path through ‘em!
The path will be there next time around.
Beating on a shoot – the role
Beaters have to be flexible and open to other jobs we may be asked to perform.
Obvious ones are going on stop, carrying game back to the game cart or – if you have the experience – standing with a novice Gun, or driving the game cart.
We may even be asked to hang game in the larder, or open and close farm gates.
Being put on stop can entail standing around for an hour or two before a drive starts and I have heard tales from beaters who used to get put on stop at 08:00 in the morning for a drive that didn’t start until the one before lunch.
To keep warm they lit a fire.
I have also heard stories of stops being forgotten for the entire day simply because the keeper had changed the running order of the drives!
Only when they got back to the yard at close of play did they realised some poor soul had been out there all day!
In this age of mobile phones I doubt it could possibly happen again. Or could it..?!
As beaters we need turn up promptly at the allotted time and be ready to go as soon as we reach the meeting place.
It also goes without saying that we should let the gamekeeper know weeks in advance which shoots we can make, and these that we can’t. In this way he has time to find a replacement.
If a keeper stipulates ‘no dogs in the beating line’ it’s generally because he doesn’t require dogs for the drives he is doing, but do not just turn up with a dog regardless of how well you think it is trained.
Leave Fido at home if you want to earn brownie points and instead prove your worth as a valuable, reliable, beater to start with.
Always remember that an unruly dog can easily ruin a drive (or entire day for that matter!) but once a keeper can see that you understand how his day works he may be more willing to let you bring your dog at a future date.
Do not assume your dog will be welcome on every shoot!
A beater’s checklist
- Wear appropriate clothing for the weather on the day. You can always take clothes off if it gets too warm, but not the other way around.
- Turn up at the meeting place on time.
- Let the gamekeeper know if you cannot attend.
- Listen to instruction.
- Be flexible.
- Bring your own packed lunch if one isn’t supplied by the shoot. Where will it be taken
- Enjoy your day, there is a lot of satisfaction in helping a day go well. And remember – the keeper is all-seeing!