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 Dispatching pheasants and partridges humanely
(how to dispatch a pheasant using a wooden priest,
a brass priest or a priest made of horn, or even aluminium).
If you are a newbie beater, the chances are pretty slim that you will come across an injured pheasant which needs dispatching, but just occasionally it might happen.  An experienced beater near you will almost certainly be well-equipped to deal with such a situation, so simply call him over to dispatch the pheasant quickly, effectively and humanely.

Just as Bob Preston says in his article on picking-up on, I hate to see the recent 'trend' in swinging wounded birds around by the neck in order to dispatch them.  Inevitably, there will be a bird or two that has been brought down yet is not dead, but why treat it with such apparent disdain?  Killing it quickly, efficiently and humanely is surely paramount.

Most partridges that fly on after being hit will suddenly drop and be found to be dead when collected a few seconds later.  Just occasionally you might pick one up that still has some life in it.  So how do you dispatch it quickly and humanely?

Pheasants that are hard hit will sometimes not have taken a pellet in a vital organ and may be 'alive'.  Take care!   I was handed a few pheasants by a picker-up (when I was on the game cart) without being told that one old cock was still quite alive.  He managed to scratch the heck out of one hand in no time!  I quickly dropped the rest and dispatched him.  But the hand was a tad sore and needed some treatment as I bleed like a leaky pipe!  How did I dispatch that pheasant quickly and humanely?

Well, to dispatch pheasants I usually hold them by both wings near the body, which makes them extend their neck (so I don't whack my fingers!) and give them a sharp tap on the back of the head with my 'priest' ..... which also doubles as a stick-tapper to make a noise when beating.  Probably the best tool to dispatch game is the 'priest'.

It is simply a length (6 or 7 inches) of heavy wood on a wrist cord.  With some, I've drilled a hole in the centre, along the length of the stick (not across it!) and then inserted a large screw  or lead to add weight.  But you can buy heavy wooden priests or brass priests  here to dispatch game birds and fish if you do not want to make your own and want a 'professional' game priest or fishing priest.

Sometimes I use my beating stick or flag stick to achieve the same end result and recently as I pick up the cartridge cases on a shoot I carry a magnetic stick in one welly.  When the stick is in its closed state it makes an excellent priest as the magnet is heavy.

I never 'swing' a bird as I feel it shows disrespect for the creature and I'm not sure at what stage the neck breaks and the bird is dead.  I have witnessed some keepers using this method and then watched a bird appear to live on a few minutes longer.  People say it is just 'nerves' ..... but then why don't birds that have been whacked on the head with a priest do the same thing? 

A relative has a 'pointed' blade (rather like a sharp nail) on his knife, and can insert that through the back of the head very swiftly to penetrate the brain and instantly dispatch the bird.  However, I have heard of people who remove a sturdy wing or tail feather from another dead bird and use that in the same way to quickly penetrate the brain.  I've never tried it myself, as I find the priest method very satisfactory but I have now witnessed it (courtesy of Gerald Jones - pictured demonstrating the technique on mouseover of this text) and it seemed quick & efficient.

Game dispatchers or poultry dispatchers are used by some people.  They fit around the neck and break it, instantly killing the bird.  However, this can cause the bodies of birds that are then strung by the neck on the game cart to detach from head ... so they are rarely used on a shoot in my experience.

With hares and rabbits (sometimes caught by the dogs) you might see a handler simply hold the creature by its back legs and put the other hand behind the head and 'stretch' downwards to quickly and efficiently break the neck.  Others hold a hare or rabbit by its back legs in a similar manner and use a 'karate' chop with their hand, or a priest to hit the animal on the back of the head.  It has a similar effect to stretching, but seems a tad more remote!  The animal is killed instantly.

I hate the idea of any animal suffering so I am always pleased to see good methods of dispatch used in an efficient and quick manner.

Why is a 'priest' named as such?  Well one definition on the www is "priest: Brit. slang. cudgel for dispatching fish that have been landed"
. I was told that a priest got its name as a Priest administers the last rites immediately before death.  That made sense to me, though I cannot say if it is right or not.                        
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