These are a collection of tips that will hopefully help your first shoot day go a little bit smother
Water for both Game Bag and vehicle
Keep a small bottle and some form of container in your game bag for your dog. And a large bottle of water and a water bowl left in the car.
We also take cooked Sausages for the dogs, which they have during the day and once they arrive back to the vehicle after a hard days work.
First Aid Kits and spare Lanyard
Have a small First Aid Kit in your Game Bag and a larger one kept in the vehicle. Also Keep a spare Lanyard at all times in the vehicle, that way if you rush out of the house in the morning, forgetting your whistle, all is not lost.
Keep your dog on the Lead In between Drives
To clarify, this is the time after one drive has ended and before the start of the next drive. Usually when you are walking to the next drive or stopping for break.
This will give your dogs time to recover from the last drive and reserve your dogs energy for the following drives. It will also prevent your dog running around with other dogs wasting its energy and/or prevent you having to keep nagging it to stay by your side. If your dog will happily stay by your side, then one need not have the lead on if one wishes, but I do find that the dogs get to know and see the putting on of the lead as the signal to rest. After all, one wants to go into the next drive with a rested dog that is still happy to please us!
You should also think about keeping your Dog on Lead for some of the drives depending on their fitness level and on how hard your dog has worked on each drive. It may be at the start of the season and you find the dog is not as fit as you thought, and/or that the dog has had a couple of particular hard drives and is looking tired. To not put the dog on lead, thereby resting it, could be asking for trouble as a tired dog can so easily go death to the whistle, or miss game through breathing to hard and fast to be able to sniff the air. The tired dog will also be more likely to receive injury thereby causing vet bills for you and stress for the dog, especially if the dog collapses through exhaustion.
First Time for the Dog
If it is the first time for the dog, we will often not take them until towards the end of the shooting season when the bird numbers are down and therefore less to excite the dog. I was once told that, 'a good way to ruin a good dog is by taking it on shoot.' Not to say you shouldn't take a dog on shoot, that would be daft, but if you take your young excellent dog onto shoot from the start of season, and his to young or hasn't had enough experience, you may well spend your summer rectifying all the bad habits he learns on shoot.
First time for Yourself
If it is the first time for yourself, it would be a good idea to go without your dog on the first day. That way you can concentrate on getting to know people, learning how they work each drive and also finding out the standard of dog on the shoot. Then when you go back the second time, with your dog, you will feel more relaxed and be able to happily focus on your dog.
A Small Comb
We always take with us a small comb and between each drive or when appropriate, we brush out burrs and thistles, quickly checking the dogs body at the same time. If burrs are left they knot the coat and a knotted coat gets caught up in bramble far more easily than a coat that is not, just like a comb getting stuck in knotted hair.
Some Form of Coat for the Dog
Everyone will have different views on coats, as it should be as all dogs have different thickness of coats and different needs. We use Equafleece for the dogs and have found that this is perfect for their shoot needs. In atrocious weather, really bad wet cold weather, we will put them on the girls to keep them warm in between the drives as one does not want tired muscles getting cold. Though one has to watch that their bodies do not get to warm and then get chilled once the coats come off.
The main time we use them is for the end of the shooting day. Before we head off to the pub for a well earned meal and chin-wag, we put their coats on until they are dry and warmed through. An added bonus is that it gets a lot of the dirt off them. We also keep a towel in the vehicle for when they are really wet, to dry them a little bit before their coats go on.
Rules for you
Keep quiet in between drives, especially when walking to the next drive. The reason for this is to not disturb the game as whilst you are walking from Drive 1 to Drive 2, you may have to walk near to drive 4, and it would be such a shame to disturb the birds through loud talking.
Always try to help the guns as much as possible, especially when it comes to finding fallen game. Though some guns are prone to a bit of dreaming and therefore will have you hunting for that lost bird that will tell you 'they most certainly shot', when in fact, they did not, bless them. For this reason it is always wise to inform the beat/shoot captain that you have been requested to stay behind to look for the bird whilst the rest of the beat moves on, this way the beat/shoot captain will more than likely give you a time limit on how long you can look for the bird before moving on to catch up with them.
On the Beating line, always keep an eye on the person to the right and left to you as you are after a straight line when Beating, if a straight line is not kept birds could escape between the gaps.
We always take with us a flask of coffee, and I take my Hip Flasks. It is also wise to take a snack, just in case you cannot make it through to Dinner.
End of the day
See to the dog first and then Thank the Captain of the Beat and/or Shoot Captain.
On one of our shoots we all head to the Pub for a well earned Meal and drink at the end of the day. It's wonderful to sit down and go over the day and just enjoy some wonderful company. If your shoot is like ours, take with you a clean set of clothes, just in case an item of clothing gets wet or dirty during thee day, Also a pair of comfortable shoes, sheer bliss, and it makes for a happier pub landlord.