For many people, going beating will be their first introduction into game shooting – and is a fantastic way to experience and learn about just what exactly goes on! A day’s beating has got to be the ultimate day out for all countryside enthusiasts.
If you intend to take your dog then you are going to need some serious balls – initially the type that you use to train the dog, but then the sort that give you the courage to handle the dog in what can be a very testing environment! But don’t let that put you off; it’s a fantastic thing to be able to do.
The Golden Rule
There is one essential rule you must learn from the outset: always be in the right place at exactly the right time – stay in line or risk incurring the wrath of the keeper. Ensuring you stay in line is easier said than done, and for many people it’s a concept that’s difficult to understand. Working in a beating line means you need to be aware of your movement at all times and be constantly aware of where the rest of the team are. Add a superbly bred, high protein-fuelled gundog to your list of responsibilities and it becomes very easy to get yourself into a whole lot of trouble. In my opinion, any man or woman who runs a well-trained dog in the line is the most skilled and undervalued member of the team in any day’s shooting.
Below are some of the things we can do to make our day out beating a success.
Do your homework
Just the same as every other aspect of working a dog, it’s all about the skill, experience and knowledge of the handler. If you have a really powerful but well trained dog, ensure that you are up to speed. Knowledge of how the shoot day – and in this case the beating line – runs is essential. If you don’t know or are a first-timer, don’t just rock up and see how it goes.
There are multiple opportunities to gain experience and you should seriously consider going beating a few times without your dog. There are many gundog training days held by clubs and private trainers that can give you some real experience, and if you really want to get it right, how about employing your trainer to come along on your first day out with the dog? Believe me, their experience and advice could well turn out to be priceless.
It probably goes without saying that your dog needs to be really well trained, obedient and attentive if he’s going to be useful in the beating line. Do your training thoroughly: remember, an out of control dog in the beating line is not only embarrassing for you but could ruin other people’s enjoyment and, in the worst case scenario, spoil the day’s shooting.
Fit for purpose?
A day in the line is really hard work, so make sure your dogs are fit – this is the perfect opportunity for you to get on your bike.
Keep him close
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a really experienced and seasoned dog, ensure you keep him close. Try to make sure you can see what the dog is doing as much as possible; he might be well trained but flush after flush may just take him over the edge and he could start to chase or peg. A timely whistle-blow or a curt growl of disapproval can keep your canine companion in order.
Beware hot spots
‘Hot spots’, like flushing points, release pens and numerous other areas that hold lots of birds, can cause you real problems. Try to always be mindful of your dog’s level of experience; too many birds under a young and inexperienced dog’s nose will send him into orbit. Consider where you are about to send him and if in doubt, pull him out. There is no shame in having your dog under control at heel.
Beaters’ cart behaviour
The beaters’ cart is the chosen form of travel on most shoots and is usually a very cramped place, with people, sticks, flags and dogs. This is most certainly not the place for a dog-on-dog aggressive gundog. If your dog is aggressive towards others you will have to think about alternative forms of transport, and the blunt truth is that if he is really aggressive then he shouldn’t be in company at all.
So there you have it: a few tips to help. There’s a lot more to learn if you want to become that highly respected dogman that every keeper wants in their beating line. Just like every job on a shoot day, working a dog in the line is a skill – an art – and something that you need to put some thought into if you’re going to be any good. But if you find it’s all a bit much and a bit confusing, just remember the golden rule: stay in line!