Leicester Square Shoot - 24th January 2008
Hosted by David & Jane Barker of Tarndair
It was with a great deal of excitement and not a little pride, our team of pickers up, presented themselves, in North Norfolk, on time for a Beaters Day, for the last shoot of the season, on Saturday 24th January. One member of the team, with a heavy cold, had struggled all of 50 yards up the road to get there, others had had much easier journeys from as far away as Sussex and Yorkshire! The weather forecast was spot on and the day had dawned bright and sunny, with a bit of breeze but with a temperature of only a couple of degrees above freezing - although this suddenly rose five degrees towards the end of the afternoon.
The first activity was a duck drive which was quiet for the pickers up. The order of the day was "cocks only" and the second drive produced quite a few birds (though by this time of the season, experienced and wily enough to be flying fast and too low for a shot, and straight into cover) and eight enormous hares (though no ground game was shot). Arek made a good retrieve of a bird which had gone into a stream. The next two drives were "back to back" and the terrain, temperature and wind reminded us what part of the country we were in! Lajka made a nice retrieve of a Partridge. A couple of other retrieves were made, in some competition with a spaniel (something better avoided!).
The next drive produced quite a few woodcock as well as pheasant. The next drive was through dense cover which was difficult to work, but Arek proved his credentials fighting his way into the brambles. Min, picking up behind a standing gun where there was quite a lot of activity, was sent for a strong runner. She had not reappeared after ten minutes. On the basis that if she had retrieved the bird she would have returned and if she had not found the bird she would also have returned, the handler (who had stayed behind the peg, carefully marking further birds down) deduced that she had found the bird but was unable to reach it and was therefore probably on point. At the end of the drive, her handler caught up with her, two hedges away, holding a very strong point.
Following a good lunch in a barn, shooting resumed with the Leibs pushing through a small quarry from which three deer broke, at very close quarters. All the dogs were steady (though there was some question about the handlers!). Pearl surprisingly, and for the first time in her life, stopped whirling, having apparently decided that her brother, Arek, is really rather masterful, and she hunted the cover through with him! The last couple of drives were through some good woodland which produced a fair bit of activity. It was here that Arek went on point, with back leg raised, and was backed by Min, honouring his point, also with back leg raised. There was a certain amount of excitement when later on, at the end of the last drive, most of the other dogs, (led, needless to say by spaniels!), took off down a steep slope with failed brakes. No need to worry though, as the ground had been driven through and there were no guns in that direction! By that time I think all our physical, mental and emotional energy was shot - along with the everything else, and if anyone was going to be sent home, it was, after all, the end of the last drive, of the last shoot of the season!
It had been a memorable day for Lajka, on her first day's picking up. We need not have worried about being overwhelmed by birds raining down - suffice to say the sweepstake was won by the punter making the lowest estimate - but the bag was adequate for inexperienced dogs. There had been, however, a good amount and huge variety of game - pheasant, partridge, mallard, woodcock, snipe, pigeon and a couple of squirrels were shot and a large number of hare seen. After a great day in supportive, jolly company, several cups of tea and too much cake, we set off for home in a slight "end of term" euphoria, with withdrawal symptoms beginning to set in! Huge thanks to all who made possible this invaluable opportunity to gain experience.