A Condensed History of Shooting in Britain

King Edward VII was a keen shooter in Scotland and on UK estates

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A Gun with Loader and Gamekeeper on a double gun driven shoot circa 1910 – 1920.

In Britain, hunting deer and wild boar for food and to kill predators such as foxes and bears with Agassaei hounds was popular in Celtic Britain before the Romans arrived for permanent settlement in around AD43.

As well as introducing their Castorian and Fulpine hound breeds to Britain, the Romans also brought with them the brown hare (the mountain hare is a native of the UK) and fallow deer as quarry.

The earliest recorded attempt to specifically hunt foxes with hounds was in Norfolk, in the East of England, in 1534, where farmers began chasing down foxes with their dogs as a form of predator and vermin control.

Packs of hounds were first trained specifically to hunt foxes in the late 17th Century; with the oldest Fox Hunt likely to be the Bilsdale in Yorkshire. By the end of the 17th century, many organised hound packs were hunting both hare and fox for sport.

Game Laws were relaxed in 1831 which meant anyone could now obtain a permit to take rabbits, hares and game birds.

Up until around 1840 shotguns were usually sold only as single guns as most game was being taken during walked up shooting. However during this decade, coinciding with the refinement and increased reliability of the percussion cap firing system, an increased number of matching pairs of shotguns were made, giving rise to the increased popularity of driven shooting. As time moved on, shotgun design and manufacturing improved and so did the attractiveness of game shooting especially amongst UK and European royalty and rich landowners.

To protect the pheasants for the shooters, gamekeepers were employed to care for the game birds and to cull vermin such as foxes, magpies and birds of prey. This they did almost to extermination in popular areas. Concurrently, landowners improved their coverts and other habitats for game.

While shooting was available throughout most counties of England, the Victorians and the generations that followed made it very popular to shoot on the large estates of Scotland. This trend is generally attributed to Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert being inspired by the romantic imagery of the Scottish Highlands and their subsequent purchase and development of the Balmoral Estate.

Down through the centuries many Kings and Queens of England have been involved in hunting and shooting, including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, King Edward VII, King George V (who on 18 December 1913 shot over a thousand pheasants out of a total bag of 3937), King George VI and Princes’ Philip, Charles, William and Harry.

While shooting in the UK continues to grow in popularity, it is also facing many new challenges from a variety of sources.

The economic downturn of 2008 through to 2012 hit the shooting industry quite hard though the larger commercial shoots that were able to adapt their business model to mitigate the situation, survived and in some cases thrived. The grand old private estates and small family run shoots generally carried on regardless. Many shooting syndicates and gundog fanciers banded together to form DIY style driven and rough shoots to overcome the situation.

The continuous urban sprawl that is occurring in the UK is unremittingly infringing onto tradition shooting areas occasionally causing friction between shooting and non-shooting groups. Well meaning but sometimes partisan and occasionally ill-informed environmental and conservation groups have been quite vocal in the UK media denouncing activities associated with shooting such as the raising of game birds for release on shoots and the legal predator control and land care methods used on shoots and the various moors.

Organisations such as the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) work tirelessly throughout all regions of the UK to work with law enforcement agencies, various environmental and conservation groups and the media to present the positive aspects that shooting provide to the UK economy and society.

A survey to assess the economic, environmental and social benefits of shooting sports completed between August 2012 and July 2013 by the Cambridge-based Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC).  A total of 16,234 questionnaires were completed, making this the most comprehensive research into the value of shooting ever undertaken in the United Kingdom.

The survey ascertained the following facts:

In the UK today:

  • Shooters spend £2.5 billion each year on goods and services
  • Shooting supports the equivalent of 74,000 full time jobs
  • Shooting is involved in the management of two-thirds of the rural land area
  • 600,000 people in the UK shoot live quarry, clay pigeons or targets
  • Shoot providers spend nearly £250 million a year on conservation
  • Shooters spend 3.9 million work days on conservation – that’s the equivalent of 16,000 full-time jobs
  • Two million hectares are actively managed for conservation as a result of shooting

Despite the aforementioned challenges, shooting in Britain in the 21st Century remains a strong and active sport growing in interest and membership each year. Its significant contribution to the national and local economies cannot be denied or ignored. At present shooting retains support at various levels of government and in UK society generally. The expanding PR programs being run now by the various shooting related agencies, NGOs and businesses are essential in helping maintain that status quo.

Deer Stalking and Wing Shooting in Scotland

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Gun and Loader in action on a Scottish grouse moor

Red Deer Stag is  carried off the hill by pony

Red Deer Stag is carried off the hill by pony

A slightly dated but very informative article on Scotland’s ancient estates, stalkers, gamekeepers and ghillies and the way they are preserving a traditional way of life. It is no wonder that Scotland remains one of the most popular and intriguing shooting and fishing locations in the world. Long may it stay that way.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-2247535/Game-hunting-A-blast-past-How-game-hunting-thriving-new-breed-master.html

Which is Better – Side by Side or Over and Under Shotguns

I always like a good hearty discussion and this topic usually generates that amongst shotgun shooters.

I personally came to clay and game shotgun shooting rather late in life having been an ardent rifle and pistol shooter for many years. When I began shotgun shooting I was instructed on an ever-reliable Beretta Gold Pigeon over and under which seemed to work well for me and so I have primarily stuck with the over and under design.

I have occasionally shot side by sides owned by friends – some were newish but mostly they were quite old guns. If asked, I would have to admit to having  achieved more success with over and under guns on sim days and driven shooting than when using a side by side. I find the in-line barrels of the over and unders help me to take a clearer sight picture of the target and to squeeze off a quicker second shot (if required) as I continue through with my swing than the side by sides do. Being generally heavier, the over and unders also seem to absorb recoil better and have less barrel flip.

Having said all of that, I am quite fond of using a side by side when out rough shooting in close country when “snap shooting” at fast fleeing quarry is often called for. Being lighter, often shorter in the barrels and therefore more “pointable”, the side by sides seem to come into the shoulder more quickly and more consistently.

Anyhow let us now have a look at what Mr. Yardley’s thoughts are on the subject.

Side by Side Versus Over and Under – Michael Yardley

HPX Rizzini SmallAYA Boxlock Small

Over the last twenty years, the over and under, long popular with clays shots, has also become a favourite with gameshots. This does not just apply to the new generation of live quarry shooters. Go to almost any game shoot in Britain and you will see as many Berettas and Brownings as ‘traditional’ English and Scottish side by sides. Happily, the prejudice against the over and under that was once apparent in some more reactionary quarters seems to have faded (and with it a new appreciation of the side by side has grown).

Both over and under and side by side configurations have their strengths and weaknesses. I will place my neck on the metaphorical block: I think the over and under is, generally, the better gun if ease of shooting and the statistics of shotgun marksmanship are our primary criteria for assessment (though, for the record, please note that I do much of my own clay-busting with an 1896 W&C Scott side by side). The best game shots I know use over and unders (with two notable exceptions) and they are indisputably the gun of choice for most serious clay shooting competition. Not since the days of Percy Stanbury has a side-by-side been seen to take the main prizes in big competitions like the British Open (though Simon Ward, Mark O’Dowd and Jason Abbot have shown that side by sides can still do great things).

All sorts of blimpish tosh was written a generation or two ago to support the bogus notion that the over-and-under was inferior to the traditional side-by-side. None of those making these irrational and often silly statements were ever asked to put their arguments to the test. Nor – apparently – did they bother to look very hard at some of the great British over unders such as those made by Boss and Woodward (I tend to think, though, that the focus of prejudice was foreign over and unders).

Over-and-unders do have distinct technical advantages. Three of the most important are the single sighting plane, the stiffness of barrels (not to mention stock and action), and the efficient way that stack-barrelled gun controls recoil. It is frequently said that side by sides have a tendency to shoot lower than over and unders. They also have less reliable single trigger mechanisms. Many of the finest game shots of recent times – Sir Joseph Nickerson and Barry Simpson, for example – opted for the over and under before they became the norm. Joe Nickerson used a trio of over-and-under Purdey Woodward 28-bores and Barry still uses his Beretta 687 EELL 20 bore.

Over and under do have some drawbacks, however. They can be more complicated to manufacture than the side-by-side (and are typically more costly in comparable qualities). Most designs require the firing pins to be angled (which is a more theoretical than real-world concern). Cocking dogs in the forend on cheaper guns can be prone to breaking. Perhaps the most important practical problems is that in many over and under designs there is their lack of “gape”: they do not open quite wide enough for really rapid reloading. Holland and Holland made a great effort to address this problem in their relatively new range of over and under guns.

Another problem is the height of the action. To my eye, many over and unders look a bit too high in profile. This is especially apparent in 12 bore guns built with a full-width hinge-pin and under barrel bolting (20 bores are nearly always more aesthetically appealing). Weight can also be a problem with over and under game guns in 12 bore. Light weight guns (under 7 pounds) are quite a challenge to build. I often advise 20 bore variants of popular over and unders for those looking for a moderately priced gun with excellent handling dynamics.

Do not bother trying to argue the case that the over and under is a nasty modern invention. Some of the earliest double barrelled guns were made to this pattern. Greener built an experimental side-opener in the 1870s. Dickson also used this style in the 1880s. Boss and Woodward had patented their improved, low-profile, sidelock actions before the Great War. John Moses Browning died near his workbench in 1926 perfecting the famous ‘Superposed’ (leaving his son Val to complete the single trigger).

Conclusions

There is always a danger in this sort of debate of confusing apples and oranges. You can not usefully compare an 8 ½ pound over and under clay buster with a 6 ½ pound side by side game gun. We must only consider guns of similar weight and intended for a similar purpose. Within those limits, I think that the differences between the two action types are, in fact, quite small. As far as practical shotgun marksmanship is concerned, the over and under makes things just a little easier on paper and often in practice too, especially at long quartering and going-away targets. Beginners seem to progress better with over and unders. Those with eye dominance problems also appear to do better with the configuration in my experience (probably because a single sighting plane has less potential for visual confusion).

I will not over state the case, however. For those brought up on side by sides there may be no advantage in swapping to an over and under. Whatever theoretical advantages the configuration may confer can be outweighed by lack of familiarity. I have championed the over and under in this article, but I would still like to see a long (32”), but fairly light-barrelled, side by side put together to do battle on the clay circuits. It might do very well. The ideal side by side for shooting clays has not yet been made and consequently we cannot settle an important part of the argument.

Falconry Teamwork in Hampshire

Buddy on handler Steve's gloved hand ready to fly

Buddy on handler Steve’s gloved hand ready to fly

Note how useful Lu's long, white tipped tail is for seeing him in deep cover

Note how useful Lu’s long, white tipped tail is for seeing him in deep cover

Buddy sampling his kill. An important part of hunting with birds of prey.

Buddy sampling his kill. An important part of hunting with birds of prey.

I was just sent these amazing photos and accompanying “Post Action Summary” by fb and Blog friend Helen Thomas reporting on her hunt this afternoon with her Spinone Lu and austringer friend, Steve Forrest and his Goshawk Buddy.

Readers of the BCS fb page will already be familiar with Helen’s fantastic pics of her HPRs working in the field. Reading Helen’s message I could easily see it all unfolding in my mind’s eye and the photos only confirmed my mental video images for me.

I hope you enjoy the photos and summary as much as I did.

I look forward to getting similar field reports from other readers. I thought all “fisherpersons” had a good yarn to tell about their best catches and even better stories about the big ones that got away!

Helen’s story:

Hi Gary.

I had a great afternoon out with my Spinone Lu and our hunting partners Steve Forrest and his Goshawk, Buddy.

The grounds are very wet at the moment so I have been over my wellies in water once again!

After a rather sparse half hour, Lu went on point in the long white grass. It was obvious that the bird was on the move and at one point we thought we had lost it.

He worked away, going back on himself. I was just about to call him back and bang – hard on point. We walked back to him and he was on a strong point into/over a ditch.

Asking Steve if he was ready, I sent Lu in. He leapt into the stream, putting a hen pheasant up. She flew straight up in the air as I was on one side and Steve with the goshawk on the other.

The goshawk was released and there was a fabulous flight resulting in a catch. It was truly fabulous to watch.

Rubbish picture of Lu pointing due to the cover, but you can see his tail can prove rather useful at times.”

My Introduction to British Driven Shooting

Mr. Rigby keeps a watchful eye on proceedings

Gamekeeper Trevor Rigby keeps a watchful eye on proceedings

Meg my GWP's first retrieve on a driven shoot day

Meg my GWP’s first retrieve on a driven shoot day

The Guns guided by Shoot Captain Simon Ball move to their pegs

The Guns guided by Shoot Captain Simon Ball move to their pegs

To most country pursuit enthusiasts around the world, having the opportunity of living in Britain and working their dogs on a shooting estate that provides both driven and rough shooting is something they can only dream about as they flick through the glossy pages of Shooting Gazette and The Field. For my good fortune, several years ago I was given just that opportunity and I will be eternally grateful as it opened up a whole new world for me.

For many years both my wife and I had worked abroad in various conflict zones and on aid programs in developing nations. In 2008 we were settled back in Australia on our farm raising beef cattle and breeding, showing and trialling our dogs when my wife was offered a four year posting to London. Contented as I was with farm life, living and shooting in the UK for four years was a chance I was not going to miss and so I and four of our dogs tagged along as “excess baggage” to “good old Blighty”.

We were fortunate to arrive in the UK in early September; a bit late for grouse but just in time for the partridge and pheasant season. As soon as we were settled into our house in London, the four dogs and I moved up to a comfortable cottage near Colveston Manor Estate in Norfolk.

Colveston’s Gamekeeper is retired School Principal, Trevor Rigby whom I had known for many years. Trevor’s stepson Simon Ball is the Shoot Captain at Colveston. Simon is a retired London stockbroker who moved his family up to Norfolk several years ago searching for the quieter life that the English countryside offers.

Trevor and Simon had agreed to me helping out on the shoot for the season in exchange for them teaching me about British driven and rough shooting and for Trevor who is also a Hunter, Pointer, Retriever (HPR) A-Panel Field Trial judge, to coach me and my two German Wirehaired Pointers in the finer points of HPR Field Trialling.

From the glossy shooting magazines one could be forgiven for thinking that life on a UK shoot is all Range Rovers, expensive H&H and Purdey shotguns, tweed shooting jackets and breeks, Sloe Gin at “elevenses” and fat Labradors tethered to gun pegs. And yes, there is definitely some of that but what is not generally explained in those pictorial essays is the enormous amount of hard work that is put in by the gamekeepers and other shoot staff to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of quality birds presented for the Guns to shoot at during the long and more often than not, harsh winter season.

Like many estates and farms in the UK, Colveston is leased out by the owners to a tenant farmer. In this case it is Edwin and Wendy Allingham, who as well as growing lambs, barley and sugar beet, run a delightful B&B in their Georgian Manor House. (www.colveston-manor.co.uk) Two of the most delightfully hospitable and knowledgeable Norfolk country folk you could ever wish to meet. Wendy’s full English breakfasts are scrumptious and filling and her traditional Norfolk roast dinners are simply to die for.

The “shooting rights” which are part of the Colveston land title are leased separately to a shoot syndicate of 10 Guns headed up by Simon. Each Gun pays for the right to shoot on a scheduled number of days during the partridge and pheasant season. The shooting season for partridge runs from 1 Sep to 1 Feb and for pheasant from 1 Oct to 1 Feb.

The Colveston shoot buys in around 2500 pheasants and 250 French partridge poults each year with their bag target being 100 – 120 birds shot on each of the 8 days the syndicate shoots.

Game birds cost approximately £40- £45 each to buy and rear by the time they are “driven” over the Guns on a shoot day. At the end of the shooting season gamekeepers would like about 20% of the introduced birds to have survived shooting and predation to add to the “wild stock” that inhabit their shoots.

Long before the young poults arrive at Colveston, Simon and Trevor and their small but dedicated team of local helpers have been busy with a multitude of diverse shoot chores including: ongoing vermin control programs, repairing and predator proofing rearing pens; thinning out the woods where the birds will roost after they are released from the pens; planting game cover and repairing vehicle and foot bridges and other structures on the shoot to ensure not only firearm but all aspects of safety are covered in their Risk Assessment and Management Plan. (Yes folks, OH&S has well and truly hit the English countryside).

Once the young game birds arrive then the intensive rearing work really begins. The birds need to be fed, watered and monitored for sickness daily.  The rearing pens are located in the woods close to the drives where Trevor and Simon want them to roost and stay after they are released. The netting pens are open to the elements and if the weather turns nasty as it is often want to do in England, it is not uncommon for gamekeepers to spend wet, windy nights herding their birds around the pens to keep them warm so as to prevent them from developing hypothermia.

The birds are kept in the pens until they are 3 months old when they are released into the woods and game cover. This is the critical time for the gamekeepers who need to make sure that the birds are kept fat, warm, safe and happy in the drives otherwise they will simply wander off to greener fields.

It is at this stage that Trevor’s team of HPR’s (and for this year my own dogs) come into their own. They are used to “dog in” the birds from the boundaries and the impenetrable woodland areas of the estate to keep them in the drives.  As well as an essential element of game keeping, it is a great opportunity for young gundogs to develop scenting and pointing skills and to improve their fitness prior to the shooting season. The dogging in work really helped develop the hunting and pointing skills and steadiness to flushing birds of my two keen but inexperienced GWPs.

For people involved in UK shooting, the year is broken into only 2 parts – the shooting season and the non-shooting season.  The non-shooting season is used ostensibly by Guns to prepare themselves, dogs and equipment for the next shooting season.

As September approaches, the older Guns will start oiling shotguns and stocking up with No. 4, 5 and 6 shot, maybe slipping away for a quick practice on the clay pigeon range (never admitted to of course), airing the mouldy shooting tweeds and wellies that have been banished to the attic trunk since last season, and throwing a few training dummies for the old Lab to get him “match fit” for opening day.  Younger Guns and Lady Guns on the other hand may spend an afternoon or two in the “country pursuit” shops of London’s St James, Pall Mall or Kensington acquiring the very latest in shooting fashion and accessories. A tip for shooting newcomers: one must always keep up one’s appearances in the UK, especially when in the company of one’s good chums. Unless of course you have a long shooting pedigree and then your Grandfather’s patched hand-me-down tweeds are worn in the shooting field like a badge of honour.

After a few weeks for the dogs and I to find our feet, all too quickly Colveston’s first shooting day arrived. I for one was full of nervous energy for my two GWPs and I were tasked to join the very experienced estate picking up team comprised of agile Springer Spaniels and brave, hard running Labradors.

Using the Continental HPRs breeds such as GWPs, GSPs, Weimaraners, Spinones etc on driven shoots is still not widely practised in the UK and many an old craggy Gun and Beater’s eye was cast rather disparagingly over the lip of a steaming coffee mug at my dogs that morning. Much the same as a seasoned Land Rover Defender driver looks doubtingly at the chap up from London driving the latest Porsche SUV as they head off across a sodden English meadow to the first drive. My dogs, oblivious to the odd detrimental stare and comment were just eager to get to work but I was definitely feeling a bit of pressure for them to perform well and for us not to let Trevor down.

Like two military strategists, Simon and Trevor had meticulously planned the day’s shooting schedule and their tactics for how each drive was to be conducted. They had staked the Gun’s pegs on the various drives, had organised Beaters and Pickers Up, had repaired and tidied up the Gun’s and Beater’s wagons (converted horse floats towed by 4WD vehicles), and of course had procured the traditional sloe gin and game pasties for “elevenses” (morning tea). Trevor’s wife Barbara is a trained chef and does a wonderful job of producing the most delicious game pasties and other fare.

The Guns and Beaters arrived at around 0815 hours for a 0900 kick off. On the older and large commercial shoots throughout Britain there still remains a distinct but cordial segregation between Guns and shoot staff throughout the days shooting. On Colveston it is a little less formal but as paying clients the Guns are treated with the respect and courtesy that British shooting etiquette requires. Everyone involved knows the rules of the game and goes about their own business in a most professional but friendly manner.

Very much to their credit the British are sticklers for “good form” and on most shoots the day will start with tea or coffee and grilled sausages. At Colveston the breakfast goodies are provided by Wendy from the Manor B&B, courtesy of her ever burning Aga stove.

At around 0830 hours Simon as Shoot Captain gave the welcoming speech and the safety and conduct brief and then had the Guns draw for their pegs for the first drive. On Colveston, Guns move up three pegs on each drive to ensure every Gun gets an opportunity to be in the “hot seat” at some stage of the day.

Guns and dogs were loaded up and we were off to the first drive where Simon placed the Guns on their respective pegs. Guns are able to load as soon as they are on their pegs but are discouraged from taking ground game and wood pigeons until the game birds have commenced breaking from cover over them.

While all of this had been happening, Gamekeeper Trevor had briefed and positioned his team of Beaters.  On his command they then moved forward waiving their heavy, brightly coloured plastic flags that “cracked” in the breeze or softly tapping homemade castanets and walking sticks. Some Beaters had their spaniels and other dogs working in close to them to help push the birds out of their hiding places in the denser groundcover.

Quite discreetly, the Picking Up team had moved into position behind the Guns ready to retrieve any “runners” that were wounded during the drive and then to move forward to pick up all of the other birds that had been downed by the Guns. If a Gun has a peg dog, then the Pickers Up will extend the courtesy of allowing the Gun time to have their dog make several retrieves before moving forward to pick up the remainder of the downed birds.

On Trevor’s command the Beaters slowly moved forward in extended line, taking care not to push the birds too hard less they “leak” out the sides of the drive or fly too soon away from the Guns.

The Guns shooting habits are monitored by the Shoot Captain. A “sporting” Gun would not dream of engaging a bird that was lower than 45 degrees and usually only at a height in excess of 25 metres. If a Gun breeches safety or shooting etiquette then the Shoot Captain will take them to task and in matters relating to the safety of other Guns or Beaters may politely ask the Gun in question to “slip” his gun and withdraw from the remainder of the days shooting. Firearm safety is taken very seriously in the UK and rightly so.

While the birds are being flushed and shot at, one or more of the Beaters will be using a counter to keep a record of the number of shots fired. A ratio of 3 shots per bird killed is the benchmark that is sought to be attained on the flatter terrain of Norfolk – anything better than that is regarded highly. The shot count is recorded just in case at the end of the day the Guns complain about insufficient birds being presented over them. Sometimes there will be lots of birds presented but few killed due to poor shooting or adverse weather conditions.  On other days, the birds just may not be in the drives and there are insufficient birds able to be driven over the Guns. That is a chance everyone takes when purchasing driven shooting days.

At the end of each drive the very effective Picking Up team (sometimes disrupted by less well trained dogs owned by the Guns) moves in to pick up the shot birds. It is very important that all birds are found for a couple of reasons. Firstly the humane dispatching of game is the keystone of participating in any shooting sport, secondly each bird that is missed is one less off the tally sheet and one less that goes to the game dealer for revenue to be re-injected into the shoot. Thirdly, birds left behind become easy feeds for the predators that the shoot is trying so hard to eradicate.

My two dogs with their Retrieving Trial experience from Australia were superb in picking up fast fleeing “runners” and executed several retrieves in excess of 200 metres over all types of terrain and streams – much to the pleasant surprise of my picking up team colleagues and many of the Guns and Beaters.

After two drives, “Elevenses” was taken. Traditionally Sloe Gin is sipped and the ever popular game pasties are enjoyed by the Guns and the Beaters. Sloes are a plum like fruit that are pricked and soaked in a solution of Gin and sugar to make a sweet purple concoction which has been associated with British shooting for decades, if not centuries.

Another two drives and lunch was taken – again in separate groups. On large shoots, the Guns may retire to the Estate Manor or a shooting lodge for a lunch of roast or game casserole, wine and port. The Beaters often have to settle for less salubrious digs for a “pack up” lunch washed down with a warm Lager. At Colveston the Guns and Beaters bring their own lunches and share a barn stall with straw bales arranged in two co-located but separate circles. During lunchtime Simon and Trevor circulate around the Beaters and Pickers Up and slip them their “pay packets”. On most shoots Beaters are usually paid around £25 for the day and Pickers Up £35. The extra money for the Pickers Up paid because they supply their invaluable, well trained dogs and their own vehicles and fuel to get about the shoot.

Another three drives after lunch saw the day conclude at about 3pm – remembering it is dark in England in Autumn/Winter by 4pm.

At the end of the day the Guns changed out of their “Wellies” for dress shoes and replaced shooting jackets with v-neck sweaters (often with game bird logos on the left breast), the birds were tallied and entered into the Shoot record book, sums were done to calculate the shot to bird ratio, shoot cards were filled out and handed to the Guns and a brace of birds were selected in turn by the Guns and then the Beaters and Pickers Up.

At this time the Guns discreetly tip the Gamekeeper for his efforts (usually somewhere between £25-£50 depending on the bag limit) in presenting quality birds throughout the day before retiring for afternoon tea. It is also customary for the Guns to personally thank the Beaters and Pickers Up for their efforts and assistance during the day.

The following day, Trevor and I were out on the shoot again “hoovering” the drives with our dogs to make sure any shot or injured birds that may have been missed the day before were recovered and added to the tally. On Colveston this usually takes 4-6 hrs and entails the Gamekeepers walking anywhere up to 15km in muddy fields and briar filled woods.  Gundog enthusiasts would see this for the excellent training opportunity that it is for further educating young or inexperienced dogs.

The next day the cycle of feeding the birds in the drives, dogging in, improving rides through the woods and game cover for the birds to sun themselves in, placing out hay bales for the birds to scratch around in and repairing gates and bridges that may have been damaged on the shooting day began once again.

Life on a shoot is not an easy life but it is a very enjoyable one for those with the outdoor spirit.

If you are ever offered a similar opportunity I strongly recommend you seize it with both hands. Working on a shooting estate is a truly satisfying and most educational experience.

A Field of Dreams – Lord James Percy

Field of Dreams Cover

2013 – First Edition Book Review

By growing up in the wilds of Northumberland (the north-eastern region of England nestling on the Scottish border) Lord James Percy freely admits he has had an enormously privileged life – a life full of all sorts of sporting adventure from the very earliest age.

Lord Percy is a gifted and easy reading author. Intertwined with over 120 spectacular colour photographs depicting the natural wonderland of this barren but enchanting part of the British Isles are his carefully selected and thoughtfully composed essays on the diverse but interconnected elements that have made up his life as a devoted countryman of northern England.

In this book with its stunning dust cover highlighting the rolling hills of Northumberland, Lord Percy shares his deep fascination and admiration for the British countryside and his infatuation bordering on obsession for conservation, wildlife, shooting and fishing.

Lord Percy is the owner of the Linhope Estate in Northumberland so it is not surprising that there is a strong emphasis on grouse shooting, the crème de la crème of British game shooting, but there are also informative chapters on pheasant, partridge and wood pigeon shooting, on sea-trout fishing, and on salmon fishing on the river Tyne.

The author is also not beyond showing his personal side and sharing his humour and emotions including his love for the various dogs that he has had the good fortune of having as companions throughout his life – mostly cross-breeds with dominating Labrador genes. His summary of the fine line a fearless country sportsman has to tread when sharing his life with a wife and children is both illuminating and downright funny.

Not only is this a book of wonderful photos suitable to grace the very finest of coffee tables around the world but it is an excellent and informative read. Highly recommended and well reviewed by major UK shooting and fishing critics.

Gleneagles Estate Launches New “Fair Game” Package

Gleneagles Resort Hotel Harris Hawk and Handler at Gleneagles Resort

Scotland’s famous Gleneagles Estate (even more famous since golf’s 2014 Ryder Cup was played there recently) has come up with a novel idea to market the field sporting activities it provides to guests.

The 5 Star resort’s “Fair Game” package consists of a clay pigeon shooting lesson at the resort’s own shooting school, a gundog handling lesson with an A-Panel Field Trial judge and a game hawking session hunting rabbits with Harris Hawks from the British School of Falconry.

On the accommodation side, the all-inclusive price of GBP799 (for two) includes a four course game dinner, one nights accommodation and breakfast.

And of course, for the golfers, it would be inexcusable to leave Gleneagles without playing a round or two on a Ryder Cup course. Oh and let’s not forget the excellent fishing that is to be had in the region. Sounds like the perfect short break or holiday location.

For more information visit: http://www.gleneagles.com

UN Resolution on Lead Shot Technically Illiterate – BASC

UK Shooting organisations critical of UN sponsored Agreement to phase-out lead ammunition

A UN sponsored agreement recommending the banning of lead projectiles (bullet and shot) in all areas (not just waterways and wetlands) within the next 3 years has been labelled as “technically illiterate”, “blunt” and “ineffective” by the UK’s largest shooting organisation, BASC (The British Association for Shooting and Conservation).

The resolution was adopted by the Parties to the UN Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) at a conference held in Quito, Ecuador early in November. The resolution forms part of a set of guidelines to stop migratory birds being poisoned.

The Parties to the convention are not obliged to implement all of the recommendations, and have the power to determine whether or not, or how, to implement the provisions of the guidelines.

BASC Chairman Alan Jarrett called the recommendations “technically illiterate”, pointing out that they “fail to distinguish between rifle bullets and shot”. He also highlighted the fact that the Agreement did not take into account regulations already existing in certain countries, the UK included, to protect waterfowl species and their habitats from any negative effects of lead shot.

BASC’s Chief Executive, Richard Ali, also criticised the proposals citing that they are not evidenced based and ignore the principles of better regulation. He added, “BASC’s position on the use of lead ammunition is clear: no sound evidence, no change. We will continue to work at home and abroad to ensure that any decisions on regulation are based on sound science and sound principles of regulation.”

Countryside Alliance (CA) Director of Campaigns, Tim Bonner followed a similar line by saying, “There is no evidence of any migratory species, other than waterfowl, being affected by lead ammunition in the UK. We fully accept the current restrictions on the use of lead (shot) over wetlands and continue to campaign for 100% compliance. However, the Alliance believes in legislation based on evidence and principle, which is why we oppose a ban on all lead ammunition.”

BASC and CA are continuing to work with other UK and European conservation, science and shooting organisations to get a better understanding of the effects of lead shot on the various environments in which shooting is conducted.

Welcome to the British Country Sports Blog

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“The memories are the real trophy of the hunt. Sights, sounds and scents are all locked away and they never gather dust, but gather new smiles every time they are recalled.”   David Archerd

Welcome to British Country Sports – our blog aimed at introducing people from all around the world to the rather unique sporting experiences that traditional British country pursuits provide.

British Country Sports will cover various types of UK shooting, gundogs, fishing, falconry and hunting as well as relevant conservation and environmental issues.

We are hoping British Country Sports will appeal to international readers and help them understand how particular country pursuits are conducted in the UK and to show how accessible we can make those sports to them.