How did you feel when you shot your first ever game bird?
Was there a sense of pride, overwhelming ecstasy, perhaps even relief?
When I took my first bird, a cock pheasant, a couple of weeks ago on my first ever game shoot as a gun at the Ashburnham shoot in east Sussex, it was a mixture of all three.
To have gone away from that shoot day empty handed would have made the drive back north to Stamford a very, very long one. I’m not a fan of long journeys at the best of times, but this would have been the equivalent of walking around China on my hands.
The first drive brought a number of opportunities to fire, but a mixture of nerves and being phased by the birds behaving quite differently to the clays at the West London Shooting School meant that I walked towards the next drive slightly anxious about what lay ahead.
When the covey of cock pheasant came over on the third drive, the fifth such grouping I had faced in quick succession, I suddenly began to feel an outside presence taking over my hands to raise my shotgun, follow the bird and then pull the trigger.
The bum, belly, beak, bang approach never felt so automatic. I was proud to have taken my first bird so cleanly, and the relief washed over me like an ocean wave.
As soon as these feelings came however, they were gone. I had no time to even think about raising one finger in the air in overwhelming ecstasy and racing down the time, Dennis Law-esque, to celebrate before the next birds came, but wouldn’t you just know it, the previous shot went to my head and I missed.
The drive ended soon after but I still had a smile from ear to ear as we headed off towards lunch, so should be honest and say that I felt a little smug too? Yes.
That was until I found out how well everybody else had been doing that is.