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
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.
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.
- Organisers of shoots must ensure there is adequate provision made for retrieving shot game.
- Dogs used for picking-up must be trained, under control and responsive to your instructions.
- Game is food. It must be handled appropriately to ensure that it reaches the table in the best condition.
- Retrieve wounded game first.
- All game must be retrieved as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.
Dog breeds: When it comes to dog breeds, which is best for picking-up: labs or spaniels? We ask two experts.
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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.