Shooting Times – August 2015

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The long evenings of summer give us the opportunity to have fun with a gun outside of the game shooting season. I know we can still be out after pigeons and rabbits as well as the odd bit of vermin control in the form of crows or magpies, but the chance of joining up with a few friends and breaking a clay or two should not be missed.

I was recently invited to join a corporate evening hosted by the estate and land agents Savills, in conjunction with Peacock and Binnington the agricultural machinery suppliers, held at Park Lodge Shooting School near Thorne. Forty guns assembled before splitting up into ten pre-selected teams to tackle four hundred-bird flushes from a variety of strategically placed traps, ranging from high driven to bolting rabbits including one stand where the team all had to shoot sitting down.

With much banter and high spirits we all set out to do our best. The targets were at times a little challenging, with more than a few targets getting the better of us. In a little over an hour and a half we were all back in the club house for supper and much discussion over targets missed and how we should have done better.

With all the scores in, it was left to organiser Andrew Wraith from Savills to thank everyone and to announce the scores. He started with the team that came last; I will spare their blushes and not name them but their team was called ‘In Need of Improvement’, very apt as it happened. To hoots of laughter they were presented with bunches of carrots, presumably in order to improve their eyesight. All were accepted in great spirit.

Two teams tied for first with ‘The Young Guns’ from Lincolnshire and ‘The Wheat Warriors’ from Yorkshire being invited out to the skeet layout for a one pair each shoot off. Sadly, I have to say that Yorkshire was triumphant and that Lincolnshire came second, but despite this a great time was had by all, along with a healthy donation of £350 to the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute. For those who do not shoot clays on a regular basis these events allow us to meet up with others and enjoy the company of friends old and new, as well as getting a few shots off in order that we are not too rusty when the new game season starts – which of course kicks off this month, for those of you lucky enough to head for the moors on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’, the opening day of the grouse season.

As usual the race will be on to get the first grouse down to London to be served to waiting diners in some of the capital’s top restaurants. This ritual has taken place for many years and highlights and showcases not only the wonderful sport of shooting but that game meat of all species is great on the table – not only in restaurants but on our tables too.

As a regular shooter myself I always try and introduce game to those who may not have tried it before. At the end of a shoot day, as well as accepting my complimentary brace, I will always buy a couple more, some for the freezer but also a brace to give away. I generally fillet the breasts out and wrap them in cling film before presenting them to friends or acquaintances. Looking not unlike chicken fillets, I find most are more than eager to try them and in the main come back for more.

By now the harvest is well underway and my shooting pal George and I will be getting out after pigeons with renewed enthusiasm. Although we see it as a sport that gives us so much pleasure, there is of course a more serious side to it. It is our most numerous British bird and the farmer’s number one enemy, in terms of the damage that they can do to so many crops. So from the farmer’s perspective the responsible pigeon shooter is always welcome, but it is a privilege and we never underestimate the generosity of landowners who allow us to enjoy our sport.

We do of course respect their property and take great care that no damage is done and that every bit of litter and empty cartridges are taken away. Not all do this and we do sometimes come across litter left by others. This is unacceptable and should not happen, we all need to do our bit to keep our beautiful countryside and our wonderful county of Lincolnshire tidy. Finally on behalf of all pigeon shooters, I will say a big thank you to all those farmers and keepers who allow us to come and enjoy ourselves.

Owen Williams, a renowned wildlife watercolour artist based in west Wales, has won the CLA Game Fair’s third annual Official Show Guide cover competition.

The competition was open to all artists that exhibited at last year’s CLA Game Fair and also to those submitting an application for this year’s event, to be held at Harewood House in Yorkshire from Friday 31st July until Sunday 2nd August.

Entrants were asked to submit a piece of art in colour that followed a British countryside theme, was influenced by fieldsports or game and which depicted the essence of the CLA Game Fair. Judging of the competition was by CLA director-general Helen Woolley, CLA Game Fair director Tony Wall, and PR and marketing manager, Charlie Thomas.

Owen’s striking watercolour image of a red grouse in flight, which is a detail from a larger work, was picked as the winner thanks to its drama, movement and its unique ‘splash’ style that differs from his traditional sporting landscapes. It was also chosen thanks to its relevance to the 2015 CLA Game Fair’s location in Yorkshire, which has large populations of red grouse on its heather moorlands.

Owen is highly regarded for his fine and atmospheric watercolours portraying animals and birds such as stags, woodcock, grouse and snipe. He is also director of the Woodcock Network and is well known for his work ringing and tagging woodcock on his site in Wales.

Charlie Thomas, PR and marketing manager of the CLA Game Fair, commented: “Owen’s superb image of a flying grouse is a very worthy winner of our cover competition. As well as being absolutely stunning it will also give our show guide immense local relevance.”

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