what is picking up

Picking up shot game is the most important job on any days shooting and, as a result, gamekeepers will tend to have a team of trusted pickers up who know the ground and where game will tend to fall.

Thus, becoming a picker up can take time as, not only do you have to prove yourself, you have to prove your dog’s capabilities too. Having said that, being a good picker up can be very satisfying as it gives you a chance of showing your dog’s prowess in front of the guns who are invariably hugely appreciative if you have picked a wounded bird of theirs.

What is picking up?

‘Picking up’ refers to the collection of shot game, with the objective of covering the ground behind the guns and ensuring that any wounded birds are despatched promptly and humanely. Much of the responsibility associated with picking up will involve ‘sweeping up’ – effectively finding and picking up any fallen quarry and taking these birds to the game cart ensuring a clean sweep after each drive which is important both in terms of ensuring any wounded birds are dealt with but also that the numbers shot are accurate – of major importance when most let days are based on the bag quantity.

Tips for your first time picking up

Typically, picker ups work as part of a team and are normally some way behind the line of guns where they can see and mark where birds fall allowing them to send their dogs straight after anything that is wounded. The key to any successful first outing is to make sure that your dog is completely under control and that you are following your instructions precisely.

Make sure you get clearance on what to do with birds falling closer to the guns and particularly around those guns who have brought their own dogs. Most guns who bring their own dogs do so because it gives them huge pleasure working them at the end of a drive. It can therefore cause problems if your dog has hoovered up all the birds around a gun whose own dog is sitting patiently beside them. Focus first and foremost on anything that is wounded and make sure that has been found and despatched first. Dead birds aren’t going anywhere so they can be collected later on.

Above all else, take advice from your fellow picker ups as they will know the ropes and be keen to help you, be polite to the team of guns as they should have marked where their birds have dropped. In particular, they should have marked any wounded birds which will make your job easier. If you pick any wounded birds then it’s always worth letting the gun know when you next see them that you were successful.

What to bring and what to wear

As with any outdoor pursuit, you need to be prepared for all weather scenarios. Picking up by definition involves often long periods of time waiting for a drive to start and then watching where birds fall. That can then be followed by periods of high activity whilst you are working your dogs and gathering game and then carrying what can be a heavy load back to the game cart.

Warm layers are essential for the winter months but you want them to be breathable to get any sweat away from your skin so that you don’t get cold when you are waiting for the next drive. Good, robust waterproof trousers and a good, tough, waterproof jacket (preferably with a hood) are essentials when you will be out in all weathers and might have thick gorse, brambles, bracken and shrubs to contend with. You can often be on tough terrain so a good sturdy pair of warm boots will keep your feet in good shape. Finally a good hat will keep the warmth in on those cold blustery days.

In terms of kit, we would recommend a good game bag with a wide, sturdy strap and/or a pair of game carriers that can sit over your shoulders with these often being the easier and more comfortable way of carrying game leaving both hands free for your dogs and yourself. A stick is useful for that awkward terrain and for despatching game quickly and humanely or you can use a humane tool for doing the job – both options are good leaving their necks whole making hanging them easier.

In addition to that is all the kit you need for your dog/s and don’t forget water for them as there may not be water on the hill, particularly in August or a warm September.

Most shoots provide refreshments, however you should check this before you go to make sure and it’s definitely a good idea to take a bottle or flask and some snacks with you to keep yourself hydrated and full of energy.

If you’re not sure what to wear, then have a look at our suggested products below which are popular with pickers up:

Seeland Key-Point Reinforced Trousers

Zip ventilation for rapid heat loss during high activity
​Windproof, waterproof and breathable
Multiple pockets and noiseless materical

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Deerhunter Rusky Silent Hat

Fold down faux-fur ear warmers
​Thinsulate warmth
Waterproof membrane with taped seams

Shop now

Harkila Pro Hunter Endure Jacket

High quality shooting jacket
​Waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex membrane
Detachable & adjustable hood for added protection
Full suit available

Shop now

Harkila Retrieve Lady Jacket

High quality shooting jacket
​Windproof, waterproof and breathable
High collar with packaway hood
Full suit available

Shop now

Shop full Harkila Pro Hunter Range

Seeland Buckthorn Overtrousers

Ripstop material with Seetex membrane
​Waterproof and breathable
Elasticated waistband

Shop now

Seeland Woodcock Advanced Jacket

Robust jacket with a tough outer fabric
​Fleece lined hand warmer pockets
Quick load straps to keep cartridge pockets open
Full suit available

Shop now


ShooterKing Greenland Jacket

Durable men’s shooting jacket
​Made from technical, high quality materials
Concealed hood

Shop now

ShooterKing Greenland Women’s Jacket

Lightweight, noiseless and breathable
​Flattering, feminine fit
Adjustable cuffs and detachable hood

Shop now

Harkila Cartridge Bag In Leather

Waxed genuine leather
​Adjustable padded shoulder strap
Robust brass buckle fastener

Shop now

David Nickerson Canvas Game Bag

Heavy duty canvas game bag
​Comfortable wide shoulder strap
Outer mesh pocket and quick release buckles

Shop now

David Nickerson Canvas Game Carriers

Durable, canvas strap for transportation of game

Shop now

If you have any questions regarding clothing, footwear or accessories for your day in the field, then please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team.

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