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Sophie and her day at Richmond

Picking up day experience. Saturday 27th January.

The day began with us all meeting at the Gamekeeper’s cottage just up the road from Richmond town centre at around 8.30 am. One of the great things about this shoot venue is that it is really easy to get to, it’s located in an area of gently rolling hills and superb views over Swaledale and the Yorkshire Dales, yet only around 15 minutes’ drive from the A1M.

Met with a hot drink and a breakfast sandwich, everyone started to introduce each other if we had not met before and catch up with familiar faces; there was a lovely friendly and helpful atmosphere right from the start.

As soon as everybody was sorted with their gear, dogs, and warm clothing, we listened to a clear and informative outline of the day given by Darren. The beating team set off in the beaters bus to get into position for the first of five drives, and the guns and picking up team from Kirkbourne set off in the gun’s bus to get into position.

The shoot was really well organised with Kirkbourne trainers Darren and Paul, and the Gamekeeper’s team, having loads of hints and tips on the best places to position our picking up dogs. They also pointed out important features to keep us all safe such as the location of roads which were hard to spot sometimes due to trees and heavy hedges.

We did three drives in the morning before lunch and two drives after lunch. Each of the drives offered different challenges for the beaters, guns, and picking up team. There were some steep inclines, areas of dense ground cover, woodland, and valleys that channelled the cold wind- I was grateful for the thermal base layers I was wearing!

This was all new to me as I have never been on a driven shoot before. I found this type of shoot really tested the steadiness of my dog Tilly; she could see birds falling but was not sent for them until the drive was over. Unfortunately, her steadiness was pushed too far on the second drive, and she broke to run after a couple of deer that trotted past- luckily her recall was hot and she quickly doubled back to where she should have been.

She successfully retrieved a few ‘runners’ and my first sharp learning curve of the day was on her first runner, the lack of using my stop whistle quickly enough saw Tilly jump between 2 strands of a tensioned barb wire topped fence- fortunately she didn’t get injured, but it was a wake-up call for me as it all happened so fast. She did get the runner and I got lots of friendly advice about avoiding that in the future and the importance of a quick cast for a runner rather than delaying and letting the bird get too far ahead of the dog. This is exactly why this picking up day experience was so good, it was a real shoot day, real life scenarios, but with time for help, guidance, and support. Training a dog is tricky enough so it was great to not have anyone being judgemental or intolerant about things that went wrong, just people that genuinely want to see you succeed.

After the first three drives it was time to stop for lunch. Hot soup and pies were a welcome sight, and we had a lovely time eating together while resting our legs. A few hip flasks and small bottles were shared to help keep spirits up too!

After lunch, we set off for the last two drives of the day which again were superb. As the second drive of the afternoon came to an end, the daylight was just drawing in marking the end of a full day out working our dogs. The final bag was close to seventy pheasants, Tilly managed five retrieves, four of which were runners, so I was very pleased with her performance. I also had the great privilege of watching my training buddies from Kirkbourne working their dogs, I saw some fantastic long retrieves, and brilliant sweeping up at the end of each drive ensuring no game was lost.

I would recommend getting involved with these experience days with Kirkbourne. They are a brilliant way to test and proof your training in a friendly but professional environment. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day, and it was priced to not break the bank. I can honestly say that I will not hesitate to book onto more of these types of working dog experiences as they are so well run and the Kirkbourne family is so friendly and encouraging.


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