Following my first article about picking up and having the experience of many shoot days from a young age, I have discovered that very little acknowledgement is given to the game cart and its driver.
Recently, on a large commercial shoot, I and other pickers-up were heading to load up the game cart with the birds we had retrieved. We were each carrying on average 15-20 birds. We trudged up a steep and muddy embankment to offload our quarry, only for the cart to then take off onto the other side of the drive.
There was sighing and muffled expletives from the more mature of the group and it was at that point I realised I actually didn’t know the full job description of a cart driver. After asking experienced keepers and pickers-up, I learned a little about the role, and added to my knowledge by doing some online research at home.
The main job of a game cart is to carry shot birds that have been collected by the pickers up, following the Code of Good Shooting Practice. This includes respect for the quarry; game must be regarded as food and should be treated with care from the moment it is retrieved to hand until it reaches the table. Game carts can range from a small buggy-sized vehicle to a large 4×4, but their job remains the same.
On some of the shoots I have been on there have been negative remarks about the cart driver and that is because we are unaware of the pressure that they are under to be at everyone’s beck and calI. Not only must they to be present to collect the game from the pickers-up, some are also asked to collect all the empty cartridges from each peg, help beat through and transport the less able Guns to their peg.
That is why the unsung hero of the shoot, the game cart driver, needs some urgent praise. Often the drivers are older beaters or pickers-up, as they know the ground well. They collect the birds from the pickers-up or beaters, bracing them up and keeping a count of how many birds there are from each drive, all of this before the shoot moves onto another drive.
It is the responsibility of the game cart driver to be parked correctly so as not to spoil the drive and to be at the right place at the right time to collect the birds. Sometimes pickers-up have been looking for runners or birds brought down a long way back, and it is not acceptable for a cart driver to glance over at us carrying our load and then take off to another area. An acknowledgement to us that the cart will return is necessary if they are carrying out the job correctly! However, despite some quirky game cart driver antics, we must acknowledge that they have a diverse job, which is obviously open to change, and must remember they are under instruction from the keeper to carry out those tasks.
On small shoots the game cart can be driven by a Gun, beater or under-keeper and quite often this works better than on the larger shoots, because we all work as a team, there is not as much ground to cover and there are fewer birds to be picked.
All that remains at the end of the day is for the birds to be transferred in good condition to the larder or chiller and for a brace of good quality birds to be selected for each Gun.