Push­ing out the peg dog

The Field - - Younger In The Field -

Once an in­te­gral part of shoot days, Peter Pen­ning­ton Legh finds that a gun’s dog is now rarely welcome in the line

On Belle Isle, County Fer­managh, on a wooded hill over­look­ing Lough Erne, are ranks of head­stones in a dogs’ grave­yard, to which were emo­tion­ally as­signed (if the tear-stained game­books for 100 years ago are an in­di­ca­tion) the Duke of Aber­corn’s hunt­ing and shoot­ing dogs. It is a mov­ing place. As the 2015/16 sea­son ended, I could not help but re­flect on what fate many in the shoot­ing fra­ter­nity would wish upon the dogs cur­rently worked by guns.

Work­ing peg dogs, in spite of the in­creas­ing num­bers be­ing trained and sold, are, in prac­tice, be­com­ing a rare sight. So are their own­ers.

nowa­days, guns in a line with their own re­triev­ers are at best in­dulged and at worst vil­i­fied. The habit of tak­ing a dog to a shoot is be­ing lost. Be­fore I am en­gulfed by howls of “and it’s a good job, too” from the union of pick­ers-up, I must first vouch­safe that we are all aware days in the sport­ing field do not fol­low a sin­gu­lar par­a­digm. Whereas on cor­po­rate shoots and the big-name, big­bird days you rarely see a gun with a dog at heel, in con­trast, many fam­ily, walked-up, walk-one-stand-one days and farm shoots are in­com­plete with­out a pack of gun­dogs bustling ex­cit­edly around their masters and mis­tresses.

My fa­ther and grand­fa­ther would recog­nise these shoots but not the lines of guns on cor­po­rate or let days de­nuded of dogs or, even worse, with dogs un­suit­able or un­trained to pick-up the wounded and fallen. Granted, many guns “ar­rive, shoot and leave”, are trav­el­ling, are new to the game or are too busy mak­ing oo­dles of dosh in Lon­don to keep a trained dog.

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