The purpose of a beat line is to move forward finding the birds and pushing the birds forward at a steady pace until they fly forward over the guns.
To do this a line of beaters spaced evenly is needed and one cannot allow gaps in the line as the birds that you are pushing forward will slip back through these gaps.
This star line shows a good line that will not allow birds to slip through or be missed
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This star line will allow birds to be missed and to slip through the beat line
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As you can see there are many places for the birds to escape back behind the beating line in the above example and therefore totally not desired.
If you have a dog with you, hopefully you have spent the time to teach the dog to work side to side and/or to stay close to you working through any bushes you direct it to work in.
You will also have taught it a good recall.
Below is a good beat line with dogs in front of their owners working side to side and covering the ground and bushes, with the line moving at a nice steady pace to allow the dogs to work all of the ground in front of them, not to fast as not to give the dogs the time they need to do this but not to slow as to allow the birds to escape.
Dogs --------------------- ---------------------- -------------------- ----------------------
Beaters * * * *
The Beating line that has dogs running forward, and people walking together having a chat as they go, is not a beating line but a walk through woods with the dogs, which while very enjoyable will lose birds.
This line will not only lose birds because of the gaps the humans are leaving but will also lose birds because the dogs are running forward almost in straight lines, missing many birds as they do, and yet the ones they do find are being found in such a way as to make the birds take flight to soon and too far away from the guns, instead of the good beating line that encourages the birds to run forward and not to take flight until the last desired moment.
The more birds that escape from the beating line the less the birds will fly over the guns and a low bag will be had.
There is nothing sadder than to know the day has not been successful and nothing better than to know the beating team, picker-up and guns have all had a good and successful days shooting.
If you are taking a dog to the shoot for its first time and you have trained her to listen to you, but because it is her first time you are not sure of your dog, let him/her off and work her by all means, if she does make a mistake and starts to rush forward or stops taking notice of you, you can easily put her on lead to give her time to calm down and then try her again if you wish.
If she does it again and rushes forward or stops taking notice of you, put her back on lead and keep her on lead until you have time to do a bit more homework with her between shoot days.
There is no shame in doing that and the shoot will be far more pleased that you took the wise decision to control your dog rather than just allowed your dog to run around, possibly ruining a drive for the guns and/or running through another beaters line who was looking forward to their dog flushing the bird that your dog has just pushed up.
As long as you are considerate to other beaters and the shoot, you will be totally forgiven (or should be) if your dog does make a mistake as even the best trained dog is liable to make a mistake once in a blue moon, so do not worry, just take the above steps of action and you will be cherished by the shoot for your care and consideration to them.
Remember you are also there for your enjoyment and it will be no fun for you if your dog keeps misbehaving, you do not want that to become a habit for the dog, so by putting her back on lead will just be giving your dog a chance to calm down and you time to put more training in and thereby turning her/him into a dog that all shoots will want on their land.
Listen to the shoot captain/beat captain making sure you keep in-line with the people either side of you and if ever in doubt of what you are doing or have done, have a word with the person in charge of the line, and always pass on messages down the line. In tall maize a waving hat or stick can help
A small/medium shoot can have its day ruined by a poor beating line, with out-of-control dogs on it, but on most small/medium shoots a dog that has a good nose which leads it into the bushes to push the pheasants out, and a very good recall, is all that is wanted and needed.
If you have such a dog, you will be going home knowing that Guns and Beaters have enjoyed having you there and that you and your dog added to their and your own enjoyment of the day.
You will also have had the divine pleasure of watching your dog do what it loves doing above all else in life.