Of all the elements that make up a driven game shoot, perhaps the one that is least understood, is the role of the picker-up
Etiquette during the drive
Don’t pick-up during the drive if it can be avoided. Dead birds around the gun pegs are just that – dead. They should be collected by the Guns and their dogs.
If a bird hits the ground and gets up, watch it carefully. It may just stagger a few feet and then quietly expire in which case it is no problem, but it might run. Wounded birds mostly run in the direction they were flying and if that happens to be towards you then let it keep on coming. Watch to see if your dog has seen it and if he has make sure he is absolutely locked onto it. Let the bird come in as close as you can before letting the dog go. That way the bird can be picked with little fuss and without interfering with the drive.
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When the drive is over
The general principle is to work forwards to the gun line. If you are standing far enough back this will give those Guns who have a dog with them time to get a retrieve or two before they have to move off to the next drive.
What sort of ground are the Guns on? Is it open drill, plough or cover crop a foot or more in height? Are they in woodland or on open grass? These factors will determine a picker-up’s course of action on any given drive.
If the Guns are on open ground I first go in search of the wounded birds that may have gone down a hedgerow or a small copse they always make for. Once that is done a look along the gun line to make sure nothing has been missed is all that would be required.
However if the Guns are standing in a cover crop or a field of rape for example, then do this is reverse. Wounded birds can cover a surprising amount of ground if they are in cover crops. Work as a team if possible with two or three pickers-up systematically sweeping the area rather than wandering randomly about. When you are sure you have covered the area thoroughly, turn your attention to wounded birds which have flown on to a hedgerow or other parts of the shoot they tend to make for.