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The golden rules for picking-up on a shoot

When it comes to picking-up on a shoot, confidence in your dog and abiding by the rules are paramount. David Tomlinson advises

picking-up on a shoot

If you have picking-up dogs, 
then it is always good to get them 
out working, especially if you haven’t been out on the grouse moors or 
on partridge days. Taking them on 
a small boundary day is ideal if you 
get the chance, as it will remind them what they have been bred for. Even experienced dogs will appreciate 
a gentle start to the new season 
before the serious work starts.

The quickest way to ruin a gundog is to take it shooting

For those with young dogs about to start their first shooting season, this is a nerve-racking time. Always remember that the quickest way to ruin a gundog is to take it shooting, 
so if you have any doubts delay its debut, a strategy that is likely to 
pay off in the long term.

  • Don’t even consider working the dog on your first day.
  • Instead, stand well back and watch what is going on.
  • If there is a simple retrieve you can do after the last drive then by all means go for it.
  • Otherwise it is best to do nothing more than to listen and learn.
spaniel with hen pheasant

Taking your dog on a small boundary day is a good way to ease them into a new season

Advice for first time pickers-up

Here are the five golden rules of picking-up, taken from BASC’s code of practice, which is essential reading.

  1. Organisers of shoots must ensure there is adequate provision made 
for retrieving shot game.
  2. Dogs used for picking-up must be trained, under control and responsive to your instructions.
  3. Game is food. It must be handled appropriately to ensure that it reaches the table in the best condition.
  4. Retrieve wounded game first.
  5. All game must be retrieved as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.

Flouting the rules

There is nothing there that is the least bit contentious, but I’ve been around long enough to see all five rules ignored.

I went once to an end-of-season day where none of the Guns had a dog yet there was only one picker-up with a single (and not very good) Labrador. I’ve seen dogs that flout rule two rather too often.

One of my pet hates is seeing pickers-up or Guns throwing birds to the ground or into the back of a vehicle. You wouldn’t do that with apples or tomatoes, so why do it with game?

It clearly makes sense from every point of view to retrieve wounded game first, but I have been on shoots where the pickers-up were instructed not to retrieve any birds, wounded or dead, during the drive. This is absolutely wrong. Imagine a situation where a footpath or road runs close to the shoot and you are being watched by someone who may not be an anti, but knows little about shooting.

Ignoring a wounded bird is certain 
to appal any observer, but they are likely to be impressed if a well-trained dog speedily collects that bird.