Whether you are shooting, beating or picking up, knowing how to use a priest is essential.
Never leave an injured bird
Every sportsman should keep unnecessary suffering to a minimum. The prime objective of shooting live quarry is to ensure an instant death for the bird but inevitably there are occasions when birds are pricked (wounded) and need to be quickly despatched. Our quarry deserves respect and we should never bring gameshooting into disrepute.
Well-organised driven shoots will have a team of pickers-up who should be handling competent gundogs and be well versed in dealing with wounded birds. Each will be armed with a priest, the essential tool for dealing with an injured bird.
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.
The most humane, clean and swift way to kill any injured bird is to knock it on the head with a purpose-made priest.
If you shoot, beat or pick-up be sure to carry a priest in your pocket or game bag. You owe it to the wildlife we pursue.
This instrument will also effectively deal with a wounded duck or goose, but the blow administered to the bird’s head must be really forcible to ensure instant death.
Take great care if you are handling a lightly pricked cock pheasant, especially a survivor with long, sharp spurs. The bird will kick and unless you are very careful you may well end up with a badly gashed hand.
Retrieving injured birds to hand
To ensure our sport is as humane as possible, we train our gundogs to retrieve both dead and wounded birds to hand. In the case of the latter, it is essential to ensure that death is instant and painless. This is best achieved by a swift, hard blow to the outstretched bird’s head, while holding it with wings closed in the other hand. There will be a brief flapping of the wings, but this is merely nerves shutting down. The bird is dead.
Unfortunately on occasion there are some appalling sights when it comes to despatching wounded game. The head-twirlers are a case in point. Holding the pricked bird by the neck, they swing the unfortunate creature round and round until its neck eventually snaps, leaving a length of extended neck that means the bird is not only unsightly but also cannot be hung in the game larder. This shows a lack of respect for the quarry.