“I finished playing in 2011, so last season was my first in a more ‘normal’ job. Ultimately, I run the academy programme here at Bath, but even now the rugby timetable has a great control over you, so I missed a few opportunities last season when I would have liked to have been out shooting.”
It must be annoying to miss out on shooting opportunities?
“Yes it is, but as I’m sure you’re aware the day job here is crucial and it’s a job that I just love, and the timetable is in place so you live with it.”
How many days did you get last season?
“About five or six, plus a few deer. There’s a small group of us who started shooting around the same time. We try and pick up odd days but all are juggling their own jobs. There’s former players like Flats (Dave Flatman) who’s head of communications here at Bath Rugby; he came out for his first day recently. He’d done a few clays and felt he wanted to move on to game. We are totally comfortable around the 100-bird day mark, but if we ever got invited onto a slightly bigger day no one is going to turn it down.”
So, how did shooting find you?
“It all started for me in 2005 when Bath toured New Zealand. A golf day had been arranged but about 10 of us weren’t so keen on golf, so a couple of local farmers came in with a clay trap and some guns. We all had a cracking time, laughing at each other mainly. They mentioned wild turkeys were a real pest locally and they often shot them. The following week they hosted us in some stunning scenery and luckily the turkeys provided nice big targets for us.”
So, the first bird you ever shot was a turkey?
“Yes, start big, eh? I moved to Wells when the kids were en route, and, funnily enough, home isn’t far from Mendip Shooting Ground. I thought, well, my career’s nearly up, I need a focus and I’ve never really fancied golf much, but loads of our boys love it, so I tried the driving range. One proper go at golf convinced me that I should get straight back to Mendip Shooting Ground. I joined there and then and applied for my licence, bought a Miroku and never looked back. We went up to Hereford for a day last season, through Matt Powell, one of the guys here who used to play at Worcester. Matt’s cousin farms near Hereford…beautiful ground there. For us, it is definitely the whole day; laughs, a few drinks and good food.”
And no wind-ups, I’m sure?
“We’re pretty good really, although the boys are always keen to identify someone who has made a less than fantastic shot, shall we say. It’s the abuse more than anything for us. If anyone does manage to shoot a decent bird we look away and pretend we didn’t see it.”
You also mentioned deer. Do you like the contrast of solitary shooting to a day with your buddies?
“I do, I love it; just being outdoors is magical. With the pheasants, it’s so much more a social thing but I adore the quiet and the tactics involved with stalking. It appealed to me because I just like being out there in the morning. I like being out there first. It’s so nice to watch and hear a wood wake up. The old gamekeeper here at Farleigh House (Bath’s training facility) introduced me to a local stalker, a man of huge experience when it comes to deer. He gave me all the founding knowledge I needed. It doesn’t matter what you read or which exams you take, these are the people who have the knowledge and make it so real.”
Aside from Danny Grewcock, other Robert Cuthbert interviewees for Shooting Stars include: