The battle for birds
The Field|January 2022
Part of the fun of a shoot day is letting your dog retrieve a few of your birds, says David Tomlinson, bemoaning the advent of the big picking-up packs
David Tomlinson

SOME years ago I was picking up on a pheasant shoot, standing behind a Gun with an impeccably behaved labrador. It sat steady as a rock throughout the drive, not even flinching when a bird fell just a couple of feet from its nose. At the end of the drive I walked over and asked the Gun if he would like to send his dog for any of the birds he had shot. The answer was a polite no: it transpired that his labrador was his shooting companion, not his shooting dog. It apparently enjoyed coming out for a day’s sport but it left the retrieving to the professionals.

I’ve chuckled about this dog ever since. At the time, I thought it was somewhat eccentric but I’ve now decided it was an exemplary member of the shooting team. Many of us enjoy the company of our dogs but can’t take them for a day’s shooting because they are likely to misbehave. To have one that you have total confidence in, regardless of the temptation on offer, must be most rewarding. Though I hardly dare suggest it, it’s probably better to be accompanied on a cold winter’s shoot by a happy dog than a partner who would rather be somewhere warmer.

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