Knowing how to dispatch a wounded bird humanely is part and parcel of knowing how to behave correctly out in the field

Never leave a pricked bird

It is every sportsman’s duty and responsibility to keep unnecessary suffering to a minimum. The quarry we hunt deserves respect and must be treated as such. None of our actions should bring gameshooting into any sort of disrepute.

If you are pigeon shooting, then the quickest option is to shoot the injured bird again while it’s on the ground. Pigeons are more frightened of humans walking around the field than they are by the sound of gunshot.

Priest for birds

A “priest” is a traditional tool used to despatch pricked birds

The most humane way

Probably the most humane way to kill any injured bird is to knock it on the head with a purpose-made priest. This is a small, heavily weighted club used by fishermen,  which can easily be stowed in a pigeon bag.

If the bird is larger than a pigeon

The easiest way with any bird up to the size of a mallard, is to grasp the body firmly in one hand, to stop it flapping, then take its head between the thumb and first two fingers of the other hand, and rotate until you feel the neck dislocate. Death is instant.

Retrieving dogs

There are times when an experienced retriever can be a real help, especially when a bird falls out of shotgun range. A well-trained dog should sit until told to fetch, when it will then get out to the bird quickly and bring it back.

This is far less fuss than a handler arm waving, whisting and shouting.

A good gundog retriever will keep disturbance to a minimum and cause little disruption to the flightline.