Respect the game

BASC head of press relations Jack Knott talks good game handling. This article was first published in the latest issue of Shooting and Conservation magazine.

Good game handling can improve the quality of shot birds by ten per cent, so I was once told by my local game dealer. By taking a series of logical steps, such an improvement can be made very easily.

Although game dealers are focused predominantly on ensuring they get the best quality birds to sell on, these logical steps also benefit the quality of game for personal consumption.

The process begins as soon as the game is in hand – and cooling is key. Bringing the temperature down gives you more time to store and transport the birds without the meat ‘spoiling’.

An initial inspection will reveal any birds which are obviously unfit for human consumption. In the absence of a place to hang the birds, the rest should then be spread out in an orderly way, breast facing up, in a safe place away from untrained dogs.

This not only shows a level of respect to the quarry but aids the cooling process. Never leave them in heaps, as they will quickly deteriorate. This applies whether on the peg or in the hide, back at your vehicle or at any collection point.

Any birds that have meat damage or broken skin should be set aside – they might be okay for home consumption but may be rejected by a dealer.

Using game carriers, and hanging the birds as soon as possible rather than putting them inside traditional game bags, also helps them cool more quickly – vitally important on early season game days. Game carts have improved over the decades, so really they are a no-brainer.

Be prepared

When planning any day’s shooting, big or small, it always pays to be well prepared. Is your kit clean? Are there enough crates or strings to carry the birds? What about space in the chiller? If you are selling on to a game dealer, are they aware of the likely quantities and do you have a collection date and method arranged?

Back at the larder, allowing the birds to hang with space around them so they are not pressed against each other helps keep them cool and allows the muscles to relax naturally, ensuring they are in good condition for processing.

For substantial amounts of game you are strongly recommended to use a chiller that can hold birds at 4oC. There are several legal requirements around the sale of game, including its storage, which must be followed. In practice this will mean most shoots which sell game on will already be using refrigeration.

For small amounts of game, in the absence of a chiller, fly-proof game bags work well.

This same principle of proper handling should apply to any game taken home after a day’s shooting. It can be tempting to plonk a couple of brace into the boot of the car with your wet dogs and pair of muddy wellies. But you wouldn’t pack your weekly shop in those conditions, so why then your game?