y recent article on Italian gundogs
10 October) prompted a fascinating response from Shooting Times reader Håkan Schön, who lives in the Swedish town of Gävle, which is about 100 miles north of Stockholm. He wrote to tell me that he is successfully using two
for rough shooting. His quarry species include blackgrouse, capercaillie, willow grouse and ptarmigan. He assures me that “are my best hunting buddies”, working in much the same way as a cocker spaniel.
are as rare in Sweden as they are here and Håkan’s acquisition of his first came about by coincidence. His older bitch, Sally, was bred by the Kennel Rowntree at Furuvik, a small town sister’s keeper patrolled the boundary on shoot days and no one, not even a dog, was allowed to trespass across.
Far from safe
The third drive of the day was close to the boundary, so I had no choice but to stand, with my spaniels, uncomfortably close to one of the Guns. Unfortunately one particular Gun, a man of senior years, proved to be far from safe, shooting low and continuing to fire after the horn had been blown at the end of the drive. close to Gävle. Her original owners were separating, so they returned her to the kennel. The kennel’s owner is a friend of Håkan’s and suggested that he might give Sally a try to see if she would be any use for shooting.
He did so and was delighted by how well she worked, despite no formal training, hunting through thick cover and using her excellent nose to great effect. She also stayed close to him instinctively, an important point when hunting woodland grouse. Håkan didn’t hesitate to rehome her.
The report of the shotgun has never worried her and simply excites her to work harder. According to Håkan, it’s easy to tell when she gets hot and is about to flush a bird, as her tail wags frenetically. Such was Sally’s passion for hunting that he was keen to breed from her and keep a puppy from her litter. She now works with her four-year-old daughter Harpa, who has proved just as good a shooting dog. Håkan describes the pair of them as intense, brave and always happy. Fittingly
it is a matter of judgement where a picker-up should stand on a shoot
but the safety of all concerned
As I had experienced shot whistling around my ears I decided to have a quiet word, as politely and as unobtrusively as I could. It was a mistake. The Gun, already somewhat red-faced from the sloe gin, became even redder with rage, swearing at me loudly and profusely and generally drawing attention to himself. Perhaps I should have spoken first to the shoot owner who was running the day, but it was me who had been in the line of fire and, unpleasant as it was, I felt entirely justified in saying something. for a breed used for duck shooting in its native Italy, both Sally and Harpa love swimming, even when the water is cold.
Håkan suspects that he is the only hunter in Sweden to use as gundogs. He recommends them, with the proviso that they are very energetic and hard to keep still, like cockers. He adds that Kennel Rowntree has a fine reputation of breeding healthy dogs both in body and mind and that it is “important to find good, stable lines”.
Later in the day the shoot owner asked me to apologise to the errant Gun. That was something I could not do, as I felt strongly that he should have been apologising to me. It was when I was putting my dogs in the car to go home that another member of the syndicate came over, shook me firmly by the hand and thanked for me for my work that day. He didn’t say so, but it was clear that the dangerous shooting had worried him too.
I wrote about this incident in
13 years ago and invited readers to comment. I had a good response, with most saying that I had done the right thing. Others insisted that a picker-up should never speak to a Gun and that any communication should be through the shoot owner or captain, or the gamekeeper. I resolved never to pickup on that particular shoot again.
Lastly, I hate the word peppering, which makes a serious incident sound curiously innocuous. Having an ounce and an eighth of No.6 rattling around you, even at 100 yards, is not a pleasant experience. A shotgun might not kill at 100 yards, but a stray pellet can still blind. Perhaps safety glasses should be standard wear for picking-up?
as happy as sally: nothing to grouse about