Proper pick­ing-up

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

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

Though The pheas­antshoot­ing sea­son may have opened at the start of this month, lit­tle se­ri­ous shoot­ing takes place be­fore the end of Oc­to­ber. I have al­ways thought that shoot­ing short-tailed cocks isn’t an ac­cept­able sport for a gen­tle­man (or gen­tle­woman), and for­tu­nately most shoots seem to agree with me. Once Novem­ber has ar­rived the great ma­jor­ity of birds will be not only look­ing good, but fly­ing well.

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.

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.

Of course, it may be ex­cit­ing run­ning a new dog for the first time, but it is a lot more ex­cit­ing if nei­ther you nor your dog have ever been on a shoot be­fore. My ad­vice then is to not 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,

12 • SHOOT­ING TIMES & COUN­TRY MAG­A­ZINE but oth­er­wise it is best to do noth­ing more than to lis­ten and learn.

Part of a team

I well re­mem­ber my first proper day’s pick­ing-up with my 18-month-old spaniel (it was her first day, too). I was hardly a new­comer to ei­ther shoot­ing or dog han­dling, as I’d been shoot­ing for more than 20 years and work­ing a dog for most of them. How­ever, there is a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween work­ing your dog on a small shoot where you are a mem­ber and go­ing to some­one else’s shoot as part of the pick­ing-up team.

Though I trusted my dog, I worked her with cau­tion, only send­ing her for straight­for­ward re­trieves. Af­ter the last drive a bird dropped into a small wood and I was asked to look for it. It was clearly a run­ner, but the worry for me was that there were a lot of other birds around that might dis­tract her.

I sus­pect that no one re­alised quite how in­ex­pe­ri­enced a com­bi­na­tion we were, but we did as we were told,

“The quick­est way to ruin a gun­dog is to take it shoot­ing, so if you have any doubts de­lay its de­but”

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