This all takes a lot of time .... and energy (particularly when pegs are on hills and slopes!) ... but it is then important to get back to the game cart ASAP to start tying the birds that the pickers-up bring in.  

Sometimes the pickers-up pile them in various spots and the game cart driver has to drive as close to them as possible (without getting onto any crops) and pick up the dead birds, which the pickers-up do not usually tie in braces.

When new to a shoot the birds are usually put in the back of the game cart as quickly as possible and an eye is kept on the pickers-up's and guns' vehicles to see which direction they take.  There may be a map ..... and a list of drives too ..... but some days things 'change' and in addition the same location is often known by a different drive name due to how it is driven .... so watching where the other vehicles go  (particularly the guns) and staying in touch with them is important.

Once at the next drive the birds from the previous drive are tied in braces and hung on the rails.  If it is a reasonably warm day it is best to make sure that the birds are spaced out so that they can cool as much as possible.  In any event, it may be necessary to return to the game larder (a large refrigerated unit)  to offload the birds and keep them in good condition, prior to being collected by the game-dealer and/or handed out to guns and beaters.  (Beaters are often given a brace or two if they want them).

Despite rumours that the dead birds are simply dumped in a large pit in the ground I have never witnessed such action ... but I have been present on numerous occasions when the game-dealer turns up in a large refrigerated van.  Why waste good quality, free-range, low-fat tasty meat!
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Working on the game cart on pheasant shoots & partridge shoots.

Working on the game cart on a pheasant shoot sounds very simple .... and so it is, but there  are always pointers that can help anyone new to this essential (on big shoots) shoot activity.

Running the game cart must be regarded as either too easy, too boring or too difficult for many beaters ... as they often turn it down when asked.  Due to my dodgy joints I was very happy to accept the role on a shoot.  If only I'd known ....... LOL!    Seriously, I really enjoy working on the game cart.  But it can be pretty hard work.

At the start of the shoot day the gamekeeper and beaters leave the beaters' cabin and the pickers-up and game cart stay there a little longer.  The beaters have to be dropped off at various locations and that takes time.

On some shoots the game cart will leave at the same time (perhaps it will be towed by a tractor) on others it will remain there until the head picker-up says we should leave.  Then, I follow the pickers-up in their 4x4's (that's usually what I'm driving too) to where we need to be - somewhere near the guns where the pheasants and partridges that have been shot will be.

Now it gets a bit more complicated!  I may remain with the pickers-up .... or wait until the guns and beaters wagon (now empty) have parked up elsewhere and then drive to where they are.

If I am charged with picking up the spent cartridges on the day, then I can either remain with the game cart or make my way (if possible) to the end of the line of guns (the pegs) and wait there.  That is often the best thing to do as it saves time once the drive is over, though not seeing the spent cartridges from opposite directions can mean that some are missed, so more care is needed.

When the gamekeeper's horn or whistle sounds for the end of the drive I then have to move ASAP to the last gun's peg and collect his spent cartridge cases - for which I carry a magnetic telescopic stick and a bag/bucket to put them in.

I move to all 8 pegs to collect as many of the guns' spent cartridges as possible.  Some guns are helpful and will collect their cartridge cases, pocket them and put them in a large container on the back of the game cart themselves.  (That is often because they do not want anyone to see how many shots they had - as they usually admit!).

Other guns will collect up their cartridge cases and put them close to the peg to make it easier for collection.

Some guns will walk away and leave spent cartridges scattered all over the place, knowing that a 'lackey' is there to clear up after them.

Whatever the case,  as many cartridge cases as possible are picked up.   Any downed pheasants & partridges that  can be seen  or which a dog can find are also picked up and either left in a pile or carried back to the game cart after tying them in braces.  Er ... that's a pair of birds - not those things that hold up trousers!

Tying the pheasants and partridges is a different procedure on each shoot. 

The 'old-fashioned' way is to make a loop of the twine by tying the ends in a reef knot.  Then the thumb and forefinger  are used to make a further 'loop' at one end, and the game-bird's head is passed through it.  The opposite end of the main loop is then 'looped' to allow another head to be passed through.  You end up with two birds hanging with a gap between them (which I like because it helps to prevent contamination etc [IMHO]) and they can then be strung on a rail without actually touching each other.

Other shoots prefer to tie two birds at the neck.  This is simply a matter of laying 2 birds together and looping some twine around their necks and then tying a reef knot.   On other shoots that use the 'neck' method, a plastic tie is simply put around them.

Please don't panic if you don't understand the above 'tying methods' .... a Youtube video will soon be available as a demonstration.
This all takes a lot of time .... and energy (particularly when pegs are on hills and slopes!) ... but it is then important to get back to the game cart ASAP to start tying the birds that the pickers-up bring in.  

Sometimes the pickers-up pile them in various spots and the game cart driver has to drive as close to them as possible (without getting onto any crops) and pick up the dead birds, which the pickers-up do not usually tie in braces.

When new to a shoot the birds are usually put in the back of the game cart as quickly as possible and an eye is kept on the pickers-up's and guns' vehicles to see which direction they take.  There may be a map ..... and a list of drives too ..... but some days things 'change' and in addition the same location is often known by a different drive name due to how it is driven .... so watching where the other vehicles go  (particularly the guns) and staying in touch with them is important.

Once at the next drive the birds from the previous drive are tied in braces and hung on the rails.  If it is a reasonably warm day it is best to make sure that the birds are spaced out so that they can cool as much as possible.  In any event, it may be necessary to return to the game larder (a large refrigerated unit)  to offload the birds and keep them in good condition, prior to being collected by the game-dealer and/or handed out to guns and beaters.  (Beaters are often given a brace or two if they want them).

Despite rumours that the dead birds are simply dumped in a large pit in the ground I have never witnessed such action ... but I have been present on numerous occasions when the game-dealer turns up in a large refrigerated van.  Why waste good quality, free-range, low-fat tasty meat!
Tying the birds is different on various shoots.  Some now use a plastic tie-tag which is placed around the necks of a cock and hen (though some shoots tie cock birds together and hen birds together) and tightened.  Other shoots just use cord or twine and tie the birds by the neck with a reef knot.  In past days, and on many current shoots, more cord is used to form a loop .... and then a loop is made at each end which goes over the head of each bird. 

I prefer the last method ..... especially on rough ground!  The first two methods can easily result in braces of shot game bouncing off the rails when hitting a bump. But the 'looping' method rarely results in that happening as the birds hang lower.

In this age of cutbacks, more and more shoots are reducing costs, even by cutting back on twine .... so they resort to tying two birds by the neck, instead of looping .... as it saves about 50% of the twine costs.

'Looping' the birds is often quite difficult for newbies to grasp.  That's probably because us oldies do it too quickly for them to see how it is done!  Basically, make a large loop by tying the two ends together in a reef knot - one of the simplest knots to tie.  Then simply put your hand partly through the large loop and grasp the two strings .... then pull them back through the main loop.  Now you have a loop of doubled cord through which to place the head of the bird.  Do likewise with the other end of the loop.

For me, running the game cart, it is a pain as when braces fall of the rails it is not always easy / convenient to work out which rail they have come from ..... and we try to keep to a rail (or two) per drive to make sure the tally is correct.  Oh yes, at the end of each drive the game is counted -  carefully noting the numbers split between what was shot - partridges, pheasants, magpies, pigeons etc.

This is important information for the keeper ..... and the beaters may also wish to know as quite often there is a sweepstake in the beaters cabin for the number of head at lunchtime!  Some shoots operate a sweepstake (usually £1.00 a go) and the closest to the score wins it.  Others insist that the head count must be spot on .... otherwise the kitty is rolled-over to the next shoot day.
What I love about running the game cart is meeting the guns.  Some are just so 'superior' that they completely ignore me ( I just laugh in my head).  Others treat me like a human being and often engage in lengthy conversation.  Just last week I had a gun talk about the lunch he'd just had, which had not been the usual shoot lunch, but something rather more exciting.  He (a multi-millionaire) chatted away for quite a while ... almost making me late to get to my 'spot'!  But what a nice guy.  Introduced himself by his first name, shook hands and had a chat.  Superb.

I am pleased to say that gone are the days (or 'gone should be the days') when us beating 'servants' are expected to doff our caps and call the guns 'sir' all the time.  But some old fogies (not necessarily 'old') still expect as much.   I have every respect for the guns and shoot owners who treat me and others as 'people' and not as 'servants'. 

One other thing ..... most pickers-up, keepers, and game cart personal wear tweeds and ties.  I do not, though I think (and hope!)  I am reasonably smartly dressed.   But I do not usually wear a tie.  I spent 30+years wearing a suit and tie 5-6 days a week.  I do not want to be reminded of that when I am 'relaxing' on a shoot.  Plus, due to illness (don't get Lyme Disease!)  I get really bad 'hot' sessions when my system goes OTT.  By not wearing a tie I am in no way disrespecting the guns or shoot owners - I am simply looking after myself.  My daughters liked the photos of guys wearing ties, so bought me one for Father's Day!  So until it's ripped to shreds by brambles, barbed wire and blackthorn, you might just see me in one occasionally ... especially in the cold weather!

Finally, running the game cart often means that I am not back at the beaters' cabin until after the beaters and pickers-up - so if I am giving a lift to a beating colleague he has to hang around at the end of the day.   You might well feel obliged to stay late and help unload the birds and put them in the cold store.    That's just part of the 'job' - and I love it!  Fresh air, all weathers, some exercise, good company - it's a great day!  At lunch time, the keeper, pickers-up and me arrive at the cabin after the bulk of the beaters ... to usually find they've consumed all of the homemade soup provided by the keeper's wife!  What about us guys?!!   We're going to put a note by the soup .... when it gets cold and we could do with warming up, LOL!  Save some for us .... please! 

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