Too close for com­fort

The ex­pe­ri­enced picker-up knows where to stand but sadly the Guns some­times don’t al­ways put oth­ers’ safety first, warns David Tom­lin­son

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - GUNDOGS -

I sus­pect there are few ex­pe­ri­enced pickerups who haven’t been pep­pered or en­coun­tered bad or even dan­ger­ous shoot­ing. This was the one sub­ject I didn’t con­sider when I dis­cussed pick­ing-up eti­quette (Pick-up good habits, 24 Oc­to­ber), be­cause it de­serves an ar­ti­cle to it­self. My guide states: “If there is a Gun out on the day who con­tin­u­ally takes dan­ger­ous shots, putting you or your dog at risk, in­form the keeper or shoot cap­tain im­me­di­ately.”

As a picker-up you are in­vari­ably go­ing to be in a vul­ner­a­ble, if not dan­ger­ous, po­si­tion stand­ing be­hind a line of Guns. Ex­pe­ri­enced Shots are usu­ally safe and wouldn’t dream of shoot­ing low be­hind. Sadly, that is not al­ways the case, as the ex­cite­ment of the mo­ment can lead to a mo­men­tary lapse of con­cen­tra­tion. My nar­row­est es­cape was when the Gun, a re­tired army of­fi­cer of high rank, fired low be­hind at par­tridges. For­tu­nately he missed me, though not by a great deal. He did at least have the man­ners to ad­mit his mis­take and apol­o­gise pro­fusely. He also got a se­vere rep­ri­mand from the shoot cap­tain.

Of course, shoot­ing low is stan­dard prac­tice on a grouse moor, but there the pick­ers-up know that they have to keep their heads down dur­ing the drive. I re­mem­ber shel­ter­ing be­hind a dry­s­tone wall on the first drive of a grouse day. Hardly a shot was fired, though plenty of birds went whistling over­head. It turned out that none of the Guns had shot grouse be­fore. They had not fired as they thought the birds were too low. The keeper was not pleased. Guns switch­ing from grouse moor to low­land shoot have to re­mind them­selves that shoot­ing low is no longer ac­cept­able.

It al­ways makes sense to stand as far be­hind the Guns as you can to do your job as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble. You don’t want to be too far away. You cer­tainly don’t want to be too close. One time I was on a shoot where all the pick­ers-up po­si­tioned them­selves about 50 yards be­hind the Guns on each drive. I thought that was far too close for com­fort, but it seemed to be ac­cepted prac­tice on this shoot.

It is not al­ways easy to get as far from the Guns as you would like. My most un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence was pick­ing-up on a syn­di­cate day on a semi-com­mer­cial shoot. The syn­di­cate was a lit­tle un­usual, as though they shot to­gether, there was not much ca­ma­raderie. The shoot was on an es­tate that had been di­vided be­tween brother and sis­ter. They had fallen out, with the re­sult that the

“It makes sense to stand as far be­hind the Guns as pos­si­ble, not too far away but you cer­tainly don’t want to be too close”

Ex­pe­ri­enced Guns will al­ways be safe, but the pick­ers-up must be aware of the line of fire

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