We pick out some good reads for field sports lovers
Two Centuries of Great Dog Stories
By Tom Quinn
In the shooting world we pride ourselves on the way we enable gundogs to utilise all their natural instincts to help us find, flush, shoot and collect our game. You will never see a happier animal than these working dogs, which have been well trained to work in conjunction with us on our shooting forays. But we shooters are not the only ones who enjoy owning dogs and, as this anthology entertainingly reminds us, dogs have all sorts of roles in our lives, intentional or not.
Tales of otherwise untrained dogs achieving remarkable feats; such as bull terriers saving boys from the Leeds and Liverpool canal and dogs which travel hundreds of miles of their own accord intermingle easily and exhibit some of the aforementioned instincts which shooting folk know all about. And the chapter on sporting dogs will ring a particular bell with readers of this magazine. There was the wily old ghillie on the Spey who had a secret to success when everything else failed; Alsatian fur on the hook! And then there was the determined goose retriever who would rather drown than lose its bird. Apocryphal or not, all the tales in the book will strike a chord with dog lovers everywhere. And many of them are beautifully illustrated by Nicola L. Robinson.
Editor Tom Quinn scoured the globe seeking out entertaining and unusual stories about our four-legged friends. The result is an extremely light-hearted book which can be dipped into for either five minutes or an hour depending on your mood. Quiller Publishing £14.95
TRAVELS OF A GUNDOG
This is an extremely light-hearted and totally irreverent TripAdvisor for dogs, written from the dog’s perspective, although that thin veneer is so transparent as to be almost invisible. And once you have pierced the veil, what’s left is a rather entertaining and self-deprecating jaunt around the author’s favourite shoots and hotels over the last 50 years. As an old Uppinghamian there is something of a slant towards that neck of the woods with David Ross’s Nevill Holt, Elton and Milton Parks near Peterborough and a number of other East Anglian shoots and hotels getting a mention. However, the book does travel further afi eld to the grouse moors of the north of England, from Knarsdale to Reeth and Westerdale, and to the likes of Ballington shoot in the Wylye Valley in Wiltshire.
If you are familiar with any of the places mentioned you will certainly find this an entertaining read but the fact is that all profits from it are going to the Countryside Alliance (CA). This organisation has just recently demonstrated its worth to shooting with the overwhelmingly successful defence of grouse shooting in the Westminster debate on October 31, so can you afford not to pick up an extra Christmas present and support them at the same time?
You can find the book on the EJ Churchill Shooting website under GIFT IDEAS (£14,99) with profits going to the Countryside Alliance.
THE PIGEON SHOOTER’S DIARY
By Tom Payne
The names Archie Coats, Will Garfit and Peter Theobald spring to mind when talking of pigeon shooting gurus. Indeed anyone who has read Shooting Gazette at any point during the last 15 years will be more than familiar than Will’s exploits in the field. They will also know that he learnt a huge amount of his fieldcraft from the late Major Coats. He attributes a fair percentage of his success in the field to today to the great man.
And that is the nature of the business; as one acknowledged master passes, another takes his place. It’s the same in any walk of life. And that’s where Tom Payne comes in. Still a young man he already boasts an enviable record in the field, having shot his first pigeon at the age of 10. He has worked as a professional pigeon shooter and is now a private game shooting instructor and specialist gun fitter.
This book is very much the manual for the modern pigeon shooter. Sadly, times have changed in the countryside, and so seeking places to shoot is more of a challenge than ever and Tom’s detailed advice on this subject is excellent. As he says it’s all about timing and the way you ask and his words are salutary indeed.
Beyond that this is a thorough handbook for anyone who is even vaguely serious about improving their pigeon shooting experience. There is plenty of advice on everything from reconnaissance and weather to fieldcraft and shooting technique. To top it all off there is also a lovely illustration by our own Will Garfit of the left-handed author in action in the hide. This is a thoroughly relevant, useful and modern book, which is well illustrated throughout and will be invaluable to any pigeon shooter. Quiller Publishing
Usually £20 but until December 31 Shooting Gazette readers can buy it for £18 by using this code on the Quiller website or telephone orders: SGTPSD
BETWEEN THE COVERTS
The Shooter’s Bedside Book
By Charles Smith-Jones
With illustrations by Will Garfit
This compendium is packed with snippets about shooting. The author is a lecturer in game and wildlife management at Sparsholt College in Hampshire, so you might justifi ably expect him to have a decent grip on the basics of our sport, and so he does, but thankfully this book is more for casual entertainment than textbook studying. It’s absolutely crammed with chapters on a variety of different topics. The A-Z section on quarry species has descriptions, unusual information and advice on shooting each one.
Other sections of the book include: wild tales from the Officer’s Mess of the fictional ‘Glamorgan Fusiliers’, a sporting regiment with a treasure trove of adventure stories; equally fantasy tales from Glen Garron, a hotbed of sporting activity; advice on choosing and maintaining equipment; keeper’s tips for days in the field and storing game; and a mixture of classic shooting stories from the real and imaginary worlds.
In the tales from the real world there are a few gems, such as the confession to shooting a white pheasant, at the age of 16, on a Welsh shoot where the owner cherished these birds above all others. It’s a good description of how it can happen and the gradual realisation of the dreadful truth! Elsewhere snippets such as you ‘You can tell a man by his dog’ may ring true with shooters up and down the country.
Once again our very own Will Garfit is the illustrator, and has supplied the handful of beautiful illustrations for the book which add another element of entertainment. It’s an entertaining book and would make a decent addition to the pile of presents under the tree this Christmas. Quiller Publishing
Usually £20 but until December 31 Shooting Gazette readers can buy it for £18 by using this code on the Quiller website or telephone orders: SGBTC
BIG GAME HUNTER
A biography of Frederick Courteney Selous
By Norman Etherington
This biography tells the story of the man widely regarded as Britain’s greatest big game hunter. There is no question that Selous was a pathfinder and his life story makes for incredible reading. If you have ever berated yourself for sitting on the sofa too much and not grabbing life by the horns, then this man’s biography might help you take some more action. Alternatively you may feel so daunted you don’t know where to start; either way it’s one hell of a read.
Selous was an adventurer, hunter and naturalist in late 19th century Africa – this was a time when large parts of the continent remained unknown to the western world – and his life and work inspired writers H. Rider Haggard and Wilbur Smith. He was a complex man who began his exploits as an elephant hunter, out and out, but eventually founded game reserves, the most famous of which is the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. It is bigger than Denmark and is the largest nature reserve in the world.
He was also involved in diamond-prospecting and an early expedition to found Rhodesia. This book also looks at his relationships with other people inextricably linked with the colonisation, exploitation and development of the continent at the time, such as Cecil Rhodes, Robert Baden-Powell, King Lobengula of the Ndebele and Teddy Roosevelt. Almost inevitably a man who had led such an active and inspirational life met a violent end when he was shot by a German sniper in Tanganyika during the First World War.
The author has left few stones unturned in this thorough biography of a man who seemingly put many of us to shame with his sheer enthusiasm for life, discovery and knowledge. Merlin Unwin Books (£19.99)