A good team of pickers-up is essential to the enjoyment and success of a day’s shooting. It is also essential to avoid suffering and the waste of game. Everyone who shoots live quarry should ensure that there is always a dog available for retrieving.
Organisers of shoots must ensure that adequate provision is made for retrieving shot game.
Traditionally, picking-up is carried out immediately after each drive. However, when a bird is wounded it should be picked-up and humanely dispatched immediately, provided it is safe to do so.
- Find out before the shoot day how it will be organised and what your responsibilities are.
- Arrive on time and report to the shoot organiser or the head of the picking-up team. You should then be briefed on the order in which the drives will be shot and what is required of you and your dog(s) throughout the day.
- Be proficient in the humane dispatch of wounded game.
- Never take a young or inexperienced dog to a shoot without permission.
- Never take a bitch that is in season (oestrus – period of sexual receptivity) to a shoot.
- Exercise your dog(s) before setting out and, if appropriate, provide a light feed.
Dogs used for picking up:
- Be trained, under control and responsive to your instructions.
- Deliver game readily to hand and without damage. A hard-mouthed dog (one which damages game) should not be working in the shooting field.
- Be trained to mark (note the position of) falling birds and be capable of being directed to game which they did not see fall.
- Be able to retrieve shot game quickly, or as soon as practicable, from all kinds of cover and, where necessary, from water.
- Be steady to (not chase or run-in) fur, feather, deer and livestock.
- Remain silent (not whine or bark) while waiting to retrieve.
Picking up on pheasant shoots
- Make sure Guns are aware of your position. Unless instructed differently, pickers-up usually stand well back from (behind) the line of Guns (you may be required to pick up for more than one Gun). Always choose a position which is safe and from where you can mark falling birds.
- Always mark shot game carefully. Decide how you will accurately remember the number of birds that are to be picked-up and their last seen position.
- Pay particular attention to birds that may have been hit but carry on flying; watch where they fall. They should be retrieved immediately, if appropriate to do so, or as soon as possible after the drive is over.
- Wounded game should be retrieved before game which is known to be dead.
- If it is necessary to retrieve wounded game during the drive, only send an experienced dog, and only if it is safe to do so.
- If you are using more than one dog, only one should be worked at a time unless you can handle more than one.
- On some drives it may be necessary to leave one or two pickers-up behind to ensure that all shot game has been collected after the Guns, beaters and other pickers-up move on.
- The shoot organiser or the head of the picking-up team should be told at the earliest opportunity if game has not been picked-up.
- Do not allow your dog into an area that may be part of a later drive. Wounded game, however, should be retrieved as soon as possible.
- Guns often bring their own dogs; if they wish to pick up their own shot game, allow them to do so before they move to the next drive. However, check that all their game has been collected.
- Once the Guns have left the drive, check behind the pegs (numbered markers indicating firing positions) before moving on.
- The basics of good handling of shot game includes keeping it clean, protecting it from contamination, cooling it rapidly and storing it correctly until it is processed. The process of good game handling begins as soon as the shot bird is in the hand.
Partridge and grouse shooting
The guidance for pheasant shoots generally applies to other types of driven shooting but note the following in particular:
- On partridge and grouse shoots pickers-up may be positioned next to the Guns or well out of range of shot, well behind the line of Guns. With these types of driven shooting, lower birds than those on a pheasant shoot are likely to be shot both in front of and behind by the Guns. Care should be taken to ensure your position is safe, allows a good view of any birds which may be shot and does not distract the Guns.
- Make sure before the drive starts that the Guns know where you are.
- If not up front then stand out of range of shot and wait until the drive has finished before moving forward.
- When picking up during evening flight on ponds or from moving water, you may receive instructions to pick up while shooting is still in progress. All wounded duck should be recovered as soon as practicable and all quarry should be recovered immediately from running water. If in doubt, ask.
- Extra care needs to be taken when retrieving birds from or across moving water, as dogs tire very quickly. Only experienced dogs should be used.
- When retrieving from moving water, the handler, if possible, should walk downstream during the retrieve to avoid the dog returning against the current. The handler should also assess where the dog can get out of the water before the retrieve is commenced.
- Always carry a torch but do not use it until the end of the flight has been signalled.
- Never send a dog onto water covered by ice.
During and after the shoot
Remember the health and welfare of your dog is paramount.
- Check your dog regularly for cuts or thorns and treat them promptly.
- Always have a first aid kit available for your dog.
- If you have to leave the shoot to get veterinary attention for your dog, always tell someone you are leaving.
- Seed heads can get into dogs’ eyes, ears and toes and long-haired breeds can become tangled with burrs. Such irritants should be removed.
- Make sure that your dog has regular access to drinking water, especially on warm days.
- Fences, especially barbed wire, can cause serious injury to dogs and great care should be taken when crossing these.
- Always attend to your dog before yourself; ensure it is warm and dry before travelling. If you have a long journey home, your dog may need food and a drink before you leave.,