So two weeks before the end of my fifth season of UK winged shooting there I was about to do my first walk up day in deepest West Sussex in southern England.
I had no real idea what to expect other than from what I had read and heard about walked up shooting. I knew the chaps I was shooting with and had shot a good number of driven pegged days on this estate before so I felt relaxed about the upcoming shoot.
On the drive to the shoot the temperature gauge of the car was reading -4C and the forecast was for snow. Two things that do not usually make for fast, strong flying pheasants but to cut a long story short, it turned out to be an amazing day with good sport, great camaraderie amongst the Guns and the shoot staff and a hearty BBQ lunch to round it off.
In keeping with my theme of brevity, rather than go through all the drives let me describe the main differences to a driven shooting day I noticed.
1) every shooting estate does their own thing for a walk up day so have no preconceptions
2) there were a lot fewer beaters and pickers uppers than normal
3) we did a lot of drives – I think eight or nine in total
4) you have to be really alert – shooting only six Guns in the line meant much wider spacing
5) Guns must stay alert and anticipate what might happen as the line advances because with fewer beaters there is less control on when, where and how the birds will flush
6) on some drives we saw few birds while on others lots, and on some, one great flurry
7) Guns must be able to adapt to the changing situation and scenarios – for instance, on one drive we had a huge flight of duck go over us totally unexpected
8) we did not draw numbers but worked in with the experienced shoot staff who knew their ground like the back of their hand – if a Gun had seen little action they were positioned to be in the hot seat for next drive
9) it was great to spend more time with the beaters and pickers up – these are people who love the countryside and it is a joy to watch their dogs work at closer quarters
10) on most walked up and rough shoots you shouldn’t expect a posh lunch – our gamekeeper fired up the BBQ and we ate great fresh tasty food
11) walked up shooting is not about a huge bag – it is about grass-roots shooting and being able to admire your fellow shots success and commiserate with them about the ones that got away
12) of the six Guns shooting it was the first experience of a walked up day for three of us – all remarked to our shoot captain that it was one of the best days our little roving syndicate had had this season
So if you want a bag of 200 plus walked up shooting is not for you. If you enjoy being out in the countryside amongst great friends and meeting new people this may be a day for you. Clearly the price at about 50% of a driven day appeals as well.
I am sure as a syndicate we shall be looking to do more walked up days in the coming seasons. Two for the price of one – can’t complain about that now can you!