Because they are more easily identified in cover than their better camouflaged brethren, many shoots in the UK purposely release hand-reared white pheasants with their shooting stock.
Gamekeepers use the white birds to identifying where their game birds are and to track their movement patterns around the estate.
Because of their usefulness, Gamekeepers are not keen on their white birds being shot by Guns on driven or walked up days. They often offer the white birds “diplomatic immunity” by making a statement in the shoot brief that they are not to be engaged under any circumstances.
In the situation where a Gun does have a lapse in their bird recognition skills and shoots a white bird, a significant monetary fine is usually imposed on the guilty party with the proceeds going to a nominated charity. The guaranteed ribbing that the perpetrator will undoubtedly receive from their fellow Guns for the remainder of the day and most likely for the remainder of the season and possibly their entire shooting career, may be considered by some as double punishment. Welcome to British shooting traditions!
I have read about it but never witnessed it first hand, that some shoots make the transgressor wear the dead bird hung around their neck for the remainder of the day and also the shoot dinner to ensure that everyone on the shoot is aware of the Gun’s “heinous” crime.
Similar fines and punishments may be imposed on Guns if they shoot a hen bird on an end of season cock only day.
All Guns should be prepared to admit their error of judgement if they do shoot an “immune” bird and have their wallets and cheque books ready to pay the required compensation.
The moral of this short story? Listen carefully to the shoot brief, observe all the local rules and do not under any circumstances, “Shoot their White Pheasants”.