Very mild and very muddy today. The safety briefing was a little different too – what to do if we get a visit from the “Antis”. Essentially guns back in slips and go back to the trailer and we’ll decide what to do after that. Watch out for your cartridges getting snatched and also keep well clear if you can as they like to spit at you. Hey ho! It’s getting very much towards the end of the season. The birds are fewer but bigger and more wary. The dogs seem to be multiplying - more of them and much fitter. Guns and beaters seem to be gradually accumulating more and more mud on their gear with every outing. My dodgy hip and collapsed knee don’t get any better and it’s a bit of a trial by the end of the day – but worth it. I’ve got a date for the hip surgery now. It’s 9th of March and the knee will be sorted 3 months later. The dogs are all on top form and all seem to know what’s expected. It’s good to watch them working. I shot two pheasants that both fell in the same thicket of brambles. Lady couldn’t get at them so a couple of spaniels were brought in to help. Sent in and left to it. They can get into tight spaces that a much larger lab can’t reach. Both birds retrieved. At 11’s halfway through the morning, one of the pickers up came up and made a point of saying what a beautiful dog I have. She said Lady was so attentive and watching me the whole time. I felt really chuffed about that, I can tell you. I think it must be getting a rapport with one’s dog, but I felt Lady was getting anxious and thought she probably needs a drink. Took her to a ditch that has running water in it and sure enough she leapt in and drank her way upstream! Lady back in the car for the lunch break. Cleaned her up and dried her off as well as I could. Filled her water bowl and gave her a light lunch of kibble to give her energy for the afternoon. We have some really good pickers up with well-trained labs. They stand well back behind the guns and don’t move about which is important from my point of view because I have a mental picture of where everyone is around me when I’m shooting. Last drive of the day and the gun one peg up from me pricks a cock pheasant that comes down a few yards in front of me and legs it towards the wood. “Get on!” to Lady and she’s straight on the case. She’s quite cautious with runners for good reason and overtakes the bird and blocks its path rather than trying to bring it down. They do a little dance around each other until the pheasant ends up sideways on to Lady. She pins it, picks it up by the body and brings it back to me. Well done Small Black Dog! The SBD is now cleaned up, fed and watered, and is snoring on the floor just next to me. Had to give her a shot of Metacam as she was limping a bit after a fairly active day out. Just noticed some mud I missed on her tummy. I’ll deal with it in the morning – best let her sleep now.