Some might opt for shells, others might choose a coat.To celebrate Shooting Gazette's 300th issue, Martin Puddifer examines how far £300 would actually go if you did your research…
Game cookery courses
With so many shoots now offering an oven ready brace more guns than ever can share the harvest of their sport with others; but what if you want to improve your knowledge of game butchery and your preparation skills? There are day-long courses during the season at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage HQ in Devon for £240. Farther north in Ripon food miles turn to food inches at Swinton Park where chef Stephen Bulmer shows novices the way to create everything from game parfait to roast partridge with garlic confit, from £140. Those near the Scottish capital will get to prepare dishes like Moroccan-style rabbit and pan fried pigeon breasts with one of the tutors at Edinburgh New Town Cookery School, £155.
Build your own sporting library
Thanks to online shopping the days of trawling through second hand bookshops looking for rare tomes on fly-fishing are long gone. Though nothing beats browsing through the pages of pre-loved books, if they haven’t got a first edition of The Amateur Keeper by Archie Coats in your local bookshop you can’t have it, can you? What a relief, therefore, that you can stretch your budget further than anywhere else on our list – and look well read in the process – by travelling down the used route when purchasing some iconic sporting titles. Your shopping list could include: a signed copy of The Better Shot: Step-by-Step Shotgun Technique with Holland & Holland (1992) by Ken Davies £49.95, a first edition of A Shooting Man’s Creed (1989) by Sir Joseph Nickerson £22, a first edition of The Amateur Keeper (1962) by Archie Coats £30, or a first edition of Grouse Shooting And Moor Management (1936) by Bernard Cazenove £25. Add a scattering of others from Shooting Gazette columnists and suddenly Hugh Drummond’s collection has competition!
Going, going, gone!
There’s something glamorous about buying a slice of sporting history at an auction, and though you’re unlikely to get a Damascus barrelled Purdey with your ration, there are many splendid items to be found in auction catalogues for less than £300. Let’s use Gavin Gardiner’s April sale as an example. A beautiful Webley & Scott 12 bore boxlock ejector went for just £200 back in the spring, and if a shotgun isn’t your bag then what about a guncase? A well cared for brassbound leather gun case with a compartment for 30” barrels and a reproduction Stephen Grant label went for just £220.
At your service
A good shooting hotel is worth its weight in gold, but nothing beats the feeling when you and your pals have exclusive use of a nine-bedroom manor house such as Felin Newydd House near Hay-on-Wye for a night from £160 per person, or somewhere equally resplendent farther north like the 16th century Middleton Lodge near Scotch Corner, from £300 per person.
Lessons for you and yours
What better way to spend your £300 than a course of lessons for you or those closest to you? Why not follow up an hour’s lesson at West London Shooting School £126 with a unfitting session for the same price again? If you’ve got the whole day to kill, you’ll even have enough in your pocket to get into London, so nip onto the Central Line at West Ruislip and off at Oxford Circus for venison chateaubriand at nearby Mac & Wild £12 in Mayfair and the delights of our best London gunmakers are half a mile away, and as we all know, browsing shotguns that match your mortgage actually costs nothing.