By Alex Keeble, GWCT Game and Wildlife Advisor (Cental England)
2 minute read
After a dismal year regarding COVID-19 the coming season has finally begun to look brighter, game days are sought after, and we can all sigh with relief that normality will hopefully return. Unfortunately, on the other hand the weather has failed to be as bright as hoped, arable crops are still yet to be combined, along with various hay fields making wandering released pheasants a challenge to dog back to the surrounding pens.
From experience it is best not to use a dog to flush birds where standing cereals are present as the poults will fly and land in the middle of the crops posing a greater threat to predation than being left on the hedge line. If the poults become lost and darkness falls the birds will jug down in the crop on a tramline and become easy pickings for foxes and badgers. Driving the birds back without a dog would be the preferred option until the standing crops are harvested.
Depending on the landscape, homemade scarecrows with hanging bags on each arm can help hinder the released game from straying; these scarecrows will need to be moved regularly to cause alarm to the wandering birds. Using this method should help stop them wandering for a few weeks, the scarecrows can also be used to turn birds that are flushed to fly in the right direction; I find using these with red-legged partridges really helps to stop birds flying onto roads or to areas where they are not required.
When eventually the sun shines the poults will reside under a hedge spending a large part of their day dustbathing away from disturbance. Try not to be alarmed after driving around the shoot and seeing very few poults during the day, in hot weather the birds will limit most of their movements to the early part of the morning and evening.
Regardless of the weather, a fresh supply of water will need to be made available to poults not only inside the pen but outside in the adjoining cover. Gamebirds will wander to find a source of water so providing water stations near feed rides/feeders is vital to keep the birds within the covers. IBC water tanks fitted with a line of bell drinkers within the covers and woodlands will give the birds water when needed and depending on game stocks will only need to be refilled a couple of times a season.
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