In the field
As we move into October it is really starting to feel like the shooting season.
Until now, with grouse having been on the menu since 12th August and partridges from 1st September a shoot day doesn’t seem quite right somehow. I know those of us who shoot welcome the opportunity to get out early in the autumn while we still have long warm days and shooting attire consists of short sleeved shirts and shoes but still, it just doesn’t seem right.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as keen as anyone to take advantage of an early day or two when I get the chance but by October the nights are drawing in and altering the clocks is not far away. The weather is starting to feel somewhat autumnal, now is the time when the leaves are falling from the trees and a morning mist is perhaps starting to hang in the fields and hedgerows as we make our way to our shoot destination.
For myself and for many it is October that brings the first day of the new season. It is a gathering of old friends from past years as well as a chance to greet new ones who might be visiting the shoot for the first time. So how does one get involved in shooting and join in the great social occasion that is a shoot day? Once upon a time, if you did not know a land or shoot owner, it was pretty much a closed shop.
After the Second World War, however, when the farming economy was in the doldrums many farmers and landowners started letting their shooting rights and the syndicate gun was created, when groups of friends would get together to share the cost of running a shoot. This is still the case today but far and away the most popular method of finding good shooting is paying by the day to visit virtually any shoot you fancy, as long as finances permit.
Gone are the days when the only opportunity to shoot came from the occasional invitation. Now we can surf the internet to find the best shooting around the world using a network of shooting agents that we can contact at the click of a button. Shooting is now big business with many of the great estates now offering shoot days in the grand style of yesteryear. Such is the history and shooting reputation of so many grand houses in this country that guests travel from all over the world to enjoy the history and hospitality and a level of sporting tradition that is unparalleled anywhere else. We cannot underestimate the economic importance either nationally or locally.
But of course not all of us have the time or the resources to shoot at this level, so we have to cut our cloth accordingly – this is where a little time spent on the internet can turn up a host of shooting opportunities without breaking the bank in the process. You might be looking for a syndicate place on a small shoot or a walked up day with friends, or perhaps a small driven day not too far from home – all are available if you care to look.
Many shoots as well as agents and estates now advertise the shooting they have to offer whereby you can see reviews and perhaps visit first before parting with any money. Like any financial transaction, most shoots will require a deposit on booking and the balance before the season starts – or as many do, ask for the balance on the day, this allows an element of trust on both sides, especially if the shoot is being visited for the first time. But remember, setting up and running a shoot is expensive and this is reflected in the price being asked. Some charge by the day and others on a price per bird shot, but what are we getting for our money and is it good value?
One has to remember that a shoot day is a social occasion and not just the opportunity to shoot a few birds. As a shoot organiser myself, I always start the day by inviting all shooting guests to meet up for breakfast. This gives us the chance to get acquainted and to put everyone at ease. With breakfast over and after a quick safety briefing and rules for the day, we draw our pegs and set off for the first drive. We have a mid-morning break for a drink of something warming, along with pork pie or sausage rolls and a couple more drives before a break for lunch, with normally one drive in the afternoon. The day usually ends with tea and cake or a sit down meal, whatever the team decides. And with a brace of birds to take home your shooting day is concluded, hopefully leaving you with happy memories of a great day out in good company.