Most is not enough

The big­ger the shoot, the less re­spect the Guns seem to have for the quarry once they’ve pulled the trig­ger, says a concerned picker-up

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - READER’S STORY -

Pick­ing-up is about one thing — find­ing shot birds. The joy I get from find­ing one bird that would oth­er­wise be lost gives me more plea­sure than shoot­ing even the high­est of pheas­ants.

Over the years I have man­aged to climb the pick­ing-up tree, from a small syn­di­cate with one dog to pick­ing-up three or four times a week on some very large es­tates. What has be­come in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent is that there seems to be a di­rect cor­re­la­tion be­tween the num­ber of birds shot and the lack of rev­er­ence given to the birds once the trig­ger has been pulled.

At the bot­tom of this myth­i­cal tree, we have the tiny syn­di­cates; the walk one, stand one type. The amount of ef­fort the team puts into pick­ing each and ev­ery bird is amaz­ing. Of­ten ev­ery­one and their dog will hunt a patch of cover for that one bird that ev­ery­one saw crum­ple but no­body seems able to find. The shouts of

“get on”, “high lost” and “find it” are al­most at fever pitch as the dogs dive in and out of cover. The Gun looks on in an­tic­i­pa­tion, wait­ing for that ex­u­ber­ant and tri­umphant shout of “I’ve found it”. There will only be two out­comes — ei­ther it is found and the per­son who picked it walks out of the cover proud as punch, or ev­ery­one keeps look­ing un­til ev­ery patch of ground has been checked and dou­ble checked.

Fur­ther up the tree, we have the small com­mer­cial shoots of­fer­ing let days. Here the birds have a price on their heads. This is where we start to see teams of paid pick­er­sup who have more than one dog. They are po­si­tioned strate­gi­cally through­out the drive, ready to send their dogs to in­ter­cept run­ners as soon as they hit the ground.

At the end of the drive the dogs burst on to the field to pick the birds ly­ing in front of them. It is like a con­veyor belt of dogs and birds as each one re­turns with its re­trieve be­fore be­ing cast out again. Once the field is clear, they con­cen­trate on the mar­gins and hedgerows, search­ing for the bird they had marked ear­lier or tak­ing di­rec­tion from a Gun who in­sists they have a bird down “over there some­where”.

Th­ese pick­ers-up are no less in­tent on find­ing ev­ery bird than those on the small syn­di­cate be­cause this is their job. It is what they are here to do and they take pride in the fact that, if they haven’t picked it, it is be­cause it’s not there. Their de­ter­mi­na­tion to pick ev­ery last bird of­ten means they miss elevenses, are late for lunch or are the last ones to re­turn af­ter the day has fin­ished.

The keeper and shoot owner know that find­ing those last few birds can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween mak­ing the bag or hav­ing to do an­other drive and one extra bird a drive cov­ers the cost of any picker-up many times over. Un­for­tu­nately, due to time The small com­mer­cial shoots pay teams of pick­ers-up to find run­ners

“Any­one in­volved in shoot­ing knows that a bird which is lightly pricked can be in the next county be­fore lunch”

On walk one, stand one shoots, ev­ery­one and their dog will hunt for that one bird that they all saw crum­ple

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