& Ted shows on a shoot and photo shoot that he has come of age and all the hard work has paid off, says Nick Ridley
It has been a long nine months during the close season and Ted has undergone a lot of training. During this time he has consistently shown me that he can cope with any situation that I put in front of him and this past month he has been tested to the full.
Regular readers of this column will know that I bang on about versatile gundogs. No doubt I sometimes sound like a stuck record, but for the majority of us that is exactly what we need of our gundogs — versatility. This goal can be achieved by training but the dog also must have the DNA to be able to cope with the ever-changing demands of its owner. The dog must also have been conditioned during its formative months to totally trust his owner and has to have the personality to be able to switch from task to task. All of that can only come from good breeding.
I was still on a high from my recent rabbitshooting trip and during the first week of October I started my picking-up duties on a local shoot. I tend not to use Ted too much for picking-up as this job falls to my other two cockers, Harry and Fuss. I think chasing too many runners can spoil a dog for the other shooting activities that are required of him, but I do like to give Ted at least one drive during the day. This particular shoot can be quite busy and as I always like to keep my dogs off the lead when picking-up, they have to stay steady and concentrate during a drive. Patience and the ability to sit still and quiet when pheasants are flying overhead and dropping in front of them is a valuable skill and one that I try to instil in all my dogs. Ted coped admirably, though at one point he got so hot in the unseasonably warm weather he started to struggle with some of the cock birds. I wasn’t overly concerned as I could see some of the other dogs doing the same.
The next day was both a test for Ted and me. Sporting Gun’s Our Shoot is led by gamekeeper and good friend Andy Gray and this season I have been asked to help run the beating line. It was decided that only a few dogs would be allowed in the beating line: Andy’s spaniel Weasel, Ted and one other. The shoot ground is quite tight, there are plenty of birds about and a wayward dog could ruin a shoot day. No pressure, then.
Ted has a good “off switch” and throughout his early training I would switch tasks constantly; one minute he would be
“A dog must trust his handler and, equally, the handler must be able to trust his dog”
Back in his element: rough or walkedup shooting is Nick’s passion in life
After the exhilaration of a shoot day, it was back to the day job. I had been commissioned by a dog food company to take pictures for marketing purposes and for its new website. They asked if I could bring along Ted to supplement their own dogs. Let me just say that during the photo shoot I saw another side to Ted; one that I didn’t know existed. During the day he performed faultlessly sitting next to strange dogs, sitting next to people he didn’t know, holding merchandise and even sitting next to a bowl full of food without even looking at it. He made my job so much easier and the client was over the moon with the final images. I didn’t expect him to cope with the situation so well, but he is obviously used to having his photo taken, even though that is normally when he is on his own or with one of our other dogs. I was very proud of him and after a month like that I think he really has earned the title of “versatile gundog”.
I read with interest a recent letter in Sporting Gun where Robert asked about clubs where he can shoot “Wild West” guns. You said that he needed to join a Section 7 club. While this is true, there are clubs — I belong to two — where these pistols can be owned and fired. They are done so by using blackpowder as a propellant that is loaded into each cylinder before seating the ball/bullet.
These firearms come under the heading of muzzle-loaders and can be kept at home in an approved cabinet. I am sure that your reader could find one of these clubs as there are plenty of them around the country.
Great magazine but can we have the occasional article about side-by-sides, please? All but two on my game shoot use these type of guns. Robert Morgan – Absolutely! With the laws in this country, blackpowder and muzzle-loading offer an exciting avenue for people to indulge their love of shooting. While it does have its drawbacks, mostly in maintaining the guns in good condition, blackpowder revolvers offer shooters an opportunity to fire “pistol-sized” handguns with far less restrictive constraints than their 7/3 cartridge counterparts. Because of this far more clubs now cater for this branch of the sport. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of the readership. Game shooters may also like to take note that there is a growing trend at the moment for many shoots to hold black powder muzzle-loading only days, and trust me when I say that if you have never shot pheasants with a muzzle-loader, you have missed out on a special experience.