Despite torrential rain and howling gales, many sportsmen took to the field for the opening day of the pheasant season in County Cork, only to come back out on a wet night to enter their bird in Rathcormac Gun Club?s inaugural inter-club pheasant measuring competition on Monday 1 November 2010.

The objective of this competition is to get together at the end of the opening day to exchange stories. Entry is free and all prizes are sponsored. This, however, didn?t detract from the competitive spirit that accompanied the measuring of the birds. On the night itself, we discovered a new physiological disorder that affects freshly shot pheasants: broken stretched neck syndrome. This was evident in less than two per cent of the bag, but it is something that all clubs will need to guard against in advance of next season. A second objective is to consider the effectiveness of each club?s release programme and to compare the released birds with the wild birds. Naturally, this isn?t fully scientifi c, as it offers only a snapshot from the opening day and yields from the full season will need to be considered before adjusting the clubs? plans for 2011/12. However, it was interesting to see the mix of released birds versus wild birds, and the quality of each. The help of a good summer was also commented on by those inspecting the size and quality of birds that were returned this year.

An impressive result

Locally, in Rathcormac, we were able to compare wild birds with birds from our open release pens and those that were reared in a confined pen and released as adults. The results were impressive ? nothing separated the wild birds and the open release pen birds (they achieved first and second prize respectively), however, the confined bird was much smaller. Again, the evidence isn?t oncrete, but it?s consistent with our findings from the past few years. While I was writing this article, another bird from this year?s open release pens measured at 1,015mm (41in) from the tip of the beak to the tip of the tail, which is another indicator of the success of this form of release. It was essential that we had a person who knew his game well and was not involved in the actual competition, to act as referee and score keeper. Little did we think before the opening day that this role would fall to Stephen Pratt. In 2009, Stephen had built a reputation as a good shot and was one of the favourites to collect the Tom Hutch Perpetual Cup. What a difference a year makes ? there was no pheasant for Stephen this time. He did, however, make up for this in the running of the competition. Birds were numbered on entry and put to one side, and measurement was conducted later in random order, so nobody knew who owned the bird that was being measured. This provided some lively commentary, particularly when Rodger O?Sullivan shouted out: ?Who shot the blackbird?? in reference to the size of the pheasant, only to discover that it was his own entry that was on the board.

Before measuring commenced, Colman Howard, chairman of the Rathcormac Gun Club, addressed the gathering and thanked those who attended for braving the elements on the night, especially after getting a soaking during the day. He added: ?It is particularly encouraging to have our neighbouring clubs competing and enjoying this social gathering.? Colman also thanked the sponsors, Lazy Dog Gun Shop, Knocklong and Countryside Alliance Ireland, not only for being main sponsors of this event, but also for their help and support throughout the year. Club member Michael Howard was on hand with his camera to provide some impressive shots on the night. It was a pity that his shooting during the day didn?t deliver equally as impressive results ? he didn?t even have a bird to enter on the night.

The night?s winners

The inter-club competition was won by Paul Connelly from Mitchelstown Gun Club. He received a prize of 250 cartridges, sponsored by Countryside Alliance Ireland. Second prize went to Barry O?Keeffe, from Castlelyons Gun Club, who received a prize of 100 Hull cartridges sponsored by the Lazy Dog Gun Shop. Competition was just as fierce in the Rathcormac Gun Club members? competition for the coveted Tom Hutch Perpetual Cup. It came down to a difference of millimetres for first and second place between Liam O?Sullivan and Colman Howard. After measuring and remeasuring, Liam O?Sullivan was announced the winner, with a cock pheasant measuring 923mm. Liam collected his prize of 250 cartridges sponsored by Countryside Alliance Ireland and the all-important Tom Hutch Perpetual Cup. On collecting the cup, Liam commented on how much of an honour it was to have his name on the inaugural trophy and provided some background for the visiting clubs on how Tom was one of the founding members of the Rathcormac Parish Gun Club in 1971. Second prize in the members? competition went to Colman Howard. A booby prize for the smallest bird went to Rodger O?Sullivan, of Mitchelstown Gun Club ? the prize of 50 Hull cartridges was sponsored by the Lazy Dog Gun Shop in anticipation that they would be put to better use. Many other spot prizes were drawn from the entry list.

The Rathcormac Gun Club would like to thank Countryside Alliance Ireland, the main sponsors of the event. The club would also like to thank O?Coileain?s bar for hosting the event and providing food on the night. Countryside Alliance Ireland provided the entire range of Game to Eat recipe books, which were available free of charge and proved a big attraction to all those who attended the night.

For further information on Rathcormac Gun Club, visit www.rathcormacgunclub.ie.