Tuesday 10th December 2019
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Featured in the December 2017 issue

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With Christmas imminent and summer a distant memory, we now embrace the many sights, sounds and smells that are so evocative of both the season and the outdoors.

From a shooting perspective we are now enjoying the peak of the season. As I write this we have yet to experience any real frost. On cold clear days, when the air is crisp and the low winter sun is still just applying a little warmth on your back, I realise how lucky we are to be able to get out and about in the countryside in pursuit of our endeavours; whether enjoying country sports or just taking it all in, for no other reason than it fills you with pleasure.

I recently enjoyed what I can only describe as a magical occasion in this my 67th year. Invited to join a few friends for a small shoot day, it started as most of our days do with a breakfast at a nearby venue, in this case a roadside café not far from where I live. As I arrived it was already busy and buzzing with shooting and fishing folk all full of enthusiasm and keen to get going in their respective pastimes. The fishermen were all ready for a match on the nearby River Trent and two or three local shoots were also represented in the happy throng of shooters, beaters and pickers up all keen to get going on this wonderful winter’s morning. As if by magic, at 9 o’clock everyone was in their vehicles and gone.

Our venue was only two minutes away and we were greeted at the gate by our host and his little team of beaters and half a dozen assorted dogs, all bustling about in anticipation of the day ahead. This was just a small day in terms of the expected bag but as I have said many times, the only difference between a big day and a small day is the number of birds laid on the grass at the end. The level of enjoyment, the pleasure of good company and the excitement as well as the ambiance is exactly the same. As I took my place on the first drive and looked out along a wood side with the sun streaming through the trees, I realised how truly blessed I was to be able to participate in the sport I love. If I didn’t get a shot all day, it would be of no consequence.

Today I was using my recently acquired Browning 410 and the more I use it the more I love it. This little calibre is fast becoming my gun of choice, due to its lightness and handling and the fact that as long as my aim is true it will put game in the bag every bit as efficiently as the larger calibres. This day would be no different, as I contributed three pheasants after the first drive. This was a very relaxed day, with just five of us shooting on this compact little shoot of just 190 acres comprising mixed fields and woodland as well as a few ponds and hedgerows. We finished the day with a pint in front of the fire at the local pub, where we recalled the events of the day that contributed to the bag of twenty-two birds.

It really doesn’t matter in what capacity you enjoy the countryside; it is important to understand that it is not just nature that makes it the way it is, that man has been nurturing and shaping the landscape for hundreds of years. It is the farmers and the foresters, the land managers and the gamekeepers that ensure that a balance is maintained and our flora and fauna will still be there for future generations to enjoy.

I have always hoped that my enthusiasm would in some way brush off on others – I hope it has with you. This is my last article for Lincolnshire Life Magazine for a while. I wish you a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2018.

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