Writer, zoologist and gundog enthusiast, Pippa blogs on life in the countryside

Fourth driven shoot

Waiting for the birdsA blanket of early morning mist soon gave way to a lovely autumn day, as we set off on our fourth driven shoot of the season. 

My daughter took some photographs and I have posted a few up here for you.  

This photo is of one of our guns waiting for the first birds to flush from the copse across the field. 

The telephoto lens has flattened the image somewhat,  the wood is actually about 200 yards away.

Here they come!

In the next photo, the first birds begin to fly over the guns

As you can see from the pictures below,  we have some Viszlas in our beating team this year,  and very useful dogs they are too.   

Speaking of dogs,  I read an interesting post on a forum yesterday. A gundog owner explained that their dog had been injured whilst beating,  and that they had asked the keeper on the shoot for half the costs of the veterinary treatment incurred. 

I have to say I was quite shocked initially.   My dogs have had many minor injuries working on different shoots over the years, and it has never occurred to me to expect anyone else to foot the bill. 

I shall await further comments on the thread with interest. For as someone that runs a shoot, this is clearly a situation that could arise at some point in the future for us!

Looking for fallen birds!

My first reaction to the forum post was that as the shoot organiser, I would probably foot the bill if there was genuine need,  but that I might hesitate to ask that person back to beat in the future. 

I then tried to be more objective and to look at the issue from other aspects.   Whilst our own shoot, and many small shoots like it,  is not profit making,  there are many shoots out there  that are very profitable.  Maybe it is not unreasonable for a small part of that profit to be allocated to caring for an injured dog?

But where do we draw the line?  Is the shoot responsible for the dog developing arthritis in old age due to wear and tear on the joints?  

Viszla picking up

What about ripped jackets and leggings,  damage to clothing is all part and parcel of working in the beating line,  and good waterproof/thornproof clothing is expensive.  Who should be held responsible?   And how do we define the limits of this kind of responsibility?

If a shoot organiser or landowner were to agree to pay half the vet bill for one dog, would he be setting a precedent that might make him liable for more, possibly unaffordable, bills in the future? How would this affect his insurance policy?  And could we be left with a situation where only wealthy shoots could afford to take on the responsibility of beaters?

Ultimately beating and picking up are hobbies.   Yes some shoots pay expenses and provide meals.  But that is about the extent of it.  We don’t do it for  money, we do it because we love it.   As do our dogs.    

It seems to me that unless the landowner has been wilfully negligent (leaving hazardous objects where dogs will be working for example) it might not be reasonable or wise for him to accept responsibility for beater’s veterinary bills. How about you?  Do you think shoots should pay out for vet bills incurred by dogs in the beating line or picking up? 

It’s all food for thought and I’d be interested to hear your views!

The BagFortunately,  our fourth day was unmarred by accident or injury!   We had six superb drives and a good bag to divide between us all before we made our weary way to the pub for beef in ale pie.   

As you can see from the final photo,  the combined harvester comes in useful in the winter too.

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