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Estates should act to limit the number of dead poults

David Tomlinson abhors the amount of pheasant roadkill carnage he sees

cock pheasant

Too much pheasant roadkill

In the early years of my shooting career, pheasants were far too valuable to use for retrieving practice. I didn’t shoot many and those that I did bag were destined for dinner. This became second nature and, even today, I don’t like to use a shot pheasant or partridge for gundog training.

This is hardly a problem, as there’s enough pheasant roadkill to provide all the birds I could ever need. It’s remarkable how often roadkill pheasants are barely marked, so they are ideal for training. I will usually cut off the breasts afterwards to feed the dogs, so little is wasted.

Some roadkill is inevitable as pheasants are ground-dwelling birds that are highly vulnerable to road traffic. I do get irritated when people insist that pheasants are stupid and deserve to get run over if they venture on to roads. Pheasants evolved over many thousands of years and it’s only in the past 100 years that they have had to contend with motor vehicles. Not surprisingly, they have yet to evolve a survival strategy when confronted by a fast-moving vehicle. However, it is essential that the proximity to roads should be a major consideration when it comes to siting release pens.

I have recently driven along a stretch of road that passes through an estate with a commercial pheasant shoot. Over the distance of only about a mile, I counted 120 dead, squashed poults or piles of feathers where a bird had been hit. It would be hard to think of a worse advertisement for shooting. We all know that Wild Justice is campaigning to limit the release of pheasants and red-legged partridges into the countryside. The carnage I witnessed on this one short stretch of road provides powerful ammunition to Wild Justice’s argument. It is clear that on this estate there are so many birds released that the loss of a few hundred on the surrounding roads is of little serious consequence to the profitability of the shoot.

Shoots like this do huge damage to the image of gameshooting and I find it remarkable that the shoot’s owner and its gamekeepers fail to appreciate this.