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I regularly go picking-up on lowland pheasant and partridge shoots throughout the season, but through a friend I’ve just been offered the opportunity to pick-up on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire next season. Please can you tell me what I might have to expect and what things I should consider taking with me?
THE SPARSHOLT TEAM replies: Having just returned from that area picking-up myself, I can sympathise with your situation. The main difference is the environment you will be working in; moors tend be at a higher altitude and they seem to have their own micro-climates, so weather forecasts cannot always be relied on. Therefore, good quality, lightweight waterproofs are a must. Personally, I wear tweed plus fours with high ankle boots and gaiters. This gives excellent manoeuvrability at the knee when wading through heather, your ankles are well supported and your feet stay dry. Safety glasses, usually supplied by the Estate, help to prevent accidental eye damage, but remember to take your own just in case.
The pickers-up are usually stood well behind the butts out of shot, but you need to keep your head down until the second horn signals the end of the drive. Your dogs do not tend to pick huge amounts of game on grouse days because the beaters’ dogs have already worked the butts where the highest density of birds have fallen. Due to their speed of flight, wounded grouse can fall many hundreds of metres behind the butts and these are your priority. It is very important that you sweep the butts front and back after the drive as there are usually grouse missed.
Beating and picking-up is extremely hard work on a moor, especially for your dogs, as they are usually up to their chests in heather throughout the day. The weather can also be very warm during the first months of the season, so it is imperative the dogs are fit before you commit to a day. Make sure you take additional water for them. I like to keep some foil-packaged wet dog food in my lunch box so that my dogs are able to feed when I do, which helps to keep their energy up. I also carry a tick remover and a towel in my car to give them a check over and a rub down to keep them warm and dry for the journey home; while doing this, it is worth checking the dog’s undercarriage as the ‘woody’ heather can cause redness and sores.
A driven grouse day is a phenomenal experience, even when you are not shooting, so just enjoy your day, listen to the advice given from others and I am sure you will get an invitation to return.
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