We are graced with hundreds of superb UK pheasant shoots - here's a selection
This stunning shoot just to the south of Hay-on-Wye is run by the ambitious team of Ben Brown and headkeeper Clive Hussell, and recent years have seen significant investment in the infrastructure of the shoot. But what has not changed is the quality of the shooting. The terrain takes care of itself but Ben’s attention to detail with the quality of the birds means that visiting guns are tested in every possible way in a mixture of woodland and open drives. And if you fancy shooting back-to-back days then you can take another day at Llwyn Madoc, which is Ben’s other shoot to the west of Builth Wells.
Contact: Ben Brown Tel. 07711677726 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ANGMERING PARK, WEST SUSSEX
With its location in the South Downs National Park there’s a bit of a clue about the likely nature of the birds here. Yes, you guessed it; they are high! Following years of careful conservation and planting, the home shoot in this rather stunning little corner of the south coast is very well regarded among those in the know. Shooting takes place over 6,000 acres of that unspoilt, spectacular downland countryside which produces the highest of pheasants during the when November comes around. Last season the average bag on all pheasant days through was 328 birds, with average shot to kill ratio of 6.4 to 1, which probably tells you everything you need to know about the quality of the birds. Close proximity to London, Heathrow and Gatwick also makes this the most internationally accessible shoot on our list.
Six hundred feet above sea level in the Meon Valley, the 2,500-acre Bereleigh estate has a well deserved reputation for showing fine pheasant over grassland, arable and mature wooded valleys. The Georgian house is home to Bill and Philippa Tyrwhitt-Drake, and can accommodate a full team of guns with followers. The estate is also well known for its charity fundraising lobster clay shoot and simulated clay days. Mascombe Bottom is a natural depression in the chalk downland and shows arguably the best birds on the ground.
Contact: Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake. Tel. 01730 823468 or email: email@example.com
BOWHILL, THE BORDERS
The name Black Andrew strikes fear into the hearts of shooters worldwide, but this notorious high bird drive is just one of many on offer at this stunning Borders shoot, less than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh. The shoot is run by manager Stuart Riddell and his son Robert, who is the headkeeper. Bowhill offers 200-250 bird days for parties of eight to 10 guns, normally incorporating five drives taken from the choice of 19 in total. It’s safe to say the Riddells know their trade, as Robert is now the sixth generation keeper in the family and has previously worked at headline shoots such as Gunnerside and Raby.
Contact Hawthorn Sporting
Shooting Gazette only visited this 5,000-acre Shropshire shoot last season, but a certain staffer was adamant it should be on a list of this kind the moment he got back into the office. Our trip started at Old Downton Lodge, one of many estate buildings enjoying a new life under sporting agent Christopher Lyons, a 26-year veteran of the shoot, and it was a relaxed introduction to an unforgettable 24 hours. Drives such as Tennis Courts, set on the banks of the River Teme, are as stunning as they are challenging, and are up there with the other, more renowned names across these pages. Expect a family feel here and the urge to book a return before lunch.
Contact Downton Shoot
BRIXTON DEVERILL, WILTSHIRE
Shooting over the Brixton and Sutton Veny beats, Kim Beddall’s ground carries a fearsome reputation for early season partridge that hurtle off the high banks and are visibly un-phased by wind speed or direction, powering over the line. However, when the pheasant come on-stream, they equal the best shoots found further west. Many guns would suggest that Abyssinia is the signature drive, but Beeches and McSharries shoot as well as any and Horseback on its day is unbeatable. Great shoot lodge and lunches are a given.
Contact: Jeremy Lee Tel. 01747 834488 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
CASTLE HILL, DEVON
This shoot is consistently rated the best by those in the know. Famous headkeeper Brian Mitchell was at Miltons and Chargot before he arrived at Castle Hill some 25 years ago, and he has also written a fascinating book about his experiences, Think Like a Pheasant. He said: “The quality of the birds is looking better than ever this season and I think that’s a result of hard work from everybody involved and excellent advice from St. David’s vets. The French common cross/bazanty strain really cross the valleys well and I’m looking forward to beating the guns again this season!” Because it’s so good days here are hard to come by, but if you know the right people you might get lucky one day…
COMBE SYDENHAM, SOMERSET
Once the home of Sir Francis Drake, Combe Sydenham offers traditional pheasant shooting of the highest order and is part of the stable of Exmoor shoots managed by Angus Barnes at Loyton. Often windy, around 20 drives in steep valleys and narrow gulches bring birds slip-sliding across or soaring above guns, making for testing but not impossible shooting. Regulars suggest that Eisengard and The Chair drives are better than most. Efficiently keepered and professionally managed, it still retains a family feel and victuals equal the sport.
Contact: Valerie von Stockhausen Tel. 01398 331174 or email: email@example.com
This shining light in the northern shooting stable has long been regarded as something of a Mecca for the high bird brigade. With a famous category system, the ‘extreme’ days have become the stuff of shooting legend, and if you have enjoyed this unique challenge you really do have a feather in your cap. In the foothills of the Pennines, the 15,000-acre estate generally offers days in the 250-300 bird range, but bigger days are available on request. Headkeeper Stuart Maughan is renowned for his ability to show a steady stream of very testing birds during a small number of long drives on the day. They have also had a superb grouse season with 2,500-brace accounted for by early October.
Contact: Stuart Maughan on Tel. 07501460017 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Run by Mark Coleman, an ambitious sporting agent whose stable also includes Stoke Edith, Glanusk has a history of driven game shooting stretching back to the 1880s. The estate, owned by the Legge-Bourke family, sits in the shadow of the Brecon Beacons, and the shoot makes excellent use of the wooded hillsides and rolling fields below. Powys has long been home to some iconic names in Welsh game shooting, and Mark hasn’t stood on ceremony in his endeavours to make the most of his land: less challenging drives are out, high birds are in.
Contact Mark Coleman Sporting
GURSTON DOWN, WILTSHIRE
Keen eyed readers will spot that Gurston featured in our top partridge shoot feature in the September issue of Shooting Gazette but after our recent visit in early October it’s obvious the pheasants here are equally deserving of mention. The chalk valleys to the west of Salisbury look like good shooting ground and under the nurturing eye of Rob Hitchings so they prove. Rob’s uncle David Hitchings started the shooting here way back in 1966 and this shoot still retains the air of a family day, and that is perhaps the cleverest trick of all. The hospitality is spot on and the whole team clearly love what they do. Happy days indeed.
MULGRAVE, NORTH YORKSHIRE
This visually stunning 5,500-acre shoot has been a favourite for game shooters in the know for many seasons, not least as a result of the awe-inspiring drives at the foot of the imposing cliffs on the edge of the North Sea as it crashes into the spectacular coastline. Here guns line out on the rocks and struggle to hone their senses, with the noise of the sea creating an unusual distraction, while the birds are pushed from one clifftop to the next high above. As they soar overhead guns get the chance to test themselves in some of the most dramatic scenery in the world of driven shooting. With hospitality in the grand Mulgrave Castle this is the sort of shoot where fairytale dreams come true.
Contact: Mulgrave Estate
While Exmoor steals the West Country sporting headlines those who are prepared to stay on the A30 for a little longer and cross the Tamar into the proud county of Cornwall will be well rewarded. Tony Kennedy runs the world-renowned Pentillie shoot near Plymouth and here the pheasants can match some of the best you will find anywhere. But it would be a shame to travel all the way to this rocky and romantic outpost at the toe of the UK and not make a few days out of it, so why not try Boconnoc as well? Sounds like a good trip doesn’t it?
RIPLEY CASTLE, NORTH YORKSHIRE
This shoot is one of the most famous in the country for the quality of the day and the sheer enthusiasm of Frank Boddy, the beating heart of the operation. Days often start and finish at the Boar’s Head in the centre of Ripley, and guns will be treated to an astonishing array of drives in woodland and rolling countryside. Topographically, the Ripley Castle shoot includes the following ground: Ripley Castle, Mountgarret, Eagle Hall and Ashfold Side and Hardcastle and Heathfield Moors.
Robert Jones runs three shoots in this Welsh high bird heartland, and in recent years Lechweddygarth has been gaining rave reviews, but that doesn’t mean the other two (Long Mountain and Three Valleys) are diminished in any way. Long Mountain Shoot was the first to be established some 30 years ago and the three shoots now cover approximately 9,000 acres. The overwhelming scenery with its harsh, rugged, untamed mountains and breathtaking waterfalls provides a truly picturesque setting for you to enjoy while you test yourself on the sky-scraping pheasants. A purposely-converted Scout hut provides a warm and homely atmosphere for hospitality, where shooting guests can indulge in fine local food and quality wines.
Contact Long Mountain
WARTER PRIORY, EAST YORKSHIRE
Here at Shooting Gazette we have been singing Warter Priory’s praises for a number of years now. And headkeeper Frank Croft and his team continue to deliver the highest level of shooting amid a friendly atmosphere which belies the sheer scale of this giant operation. There is a genuine local feel to this shoot and everyone knows their roles well. Everything from the Wolds topography to elevenses from a custom-made shooting wagon makes a day at this 12,000-acre gem well worth the wait. Many a reader has told us that Warter Priory is on their bucket list and it is one of two on this list which also featured in our top partridge shoot feature in the September issue.
DUNCOMBE PARK, NORTH YORKSHIRE
Helmsley is the market town at the epicentre of this northern shooting powerhouse, and there are many excellent shoots in the area. People travel from far and wide to enjoy a few days of neck craning and wallet-busting sport every season and it’s really not hard to see why. But the closest shoot to Helmsley is the magnificent and historic Duncombe Park. The shoot featured in the October edition of Shooting Gazette, and it is run by Mount St. John Sporting, a rapidly expanding agency in this part of the world. Headkeeper John Masterman is the maestro and you are guaranteed a good day’s sport here.
Contact: Mount St. John Sporting
URRA, NORTH YORKSHIRE
On the exposed northern edge of the North York Moors National Park lies the rugged and beautiful Urra estate. Here the harsh landscape makes for some breathtaking pheasant shooting, with steep sided valleys, wild moorland fringe, and strong winds bringing wild weather in straight from the North Sea. The shoot is run by the Reeve family and headkeeper Sean Mason is looking forward to some 60 days this season. It’s a family run shoot with a clear emphasis on offering visiting teams the best day’s sport in an informal and friendly environment.
Contact: Dominic or Patrick Reeve Tel. 01642 778000/778117 or email: email@example.com
In the last decade this name has become synonymous with the fashion for stratospheric birds, which is hardly surprising as the flagship of the Bettws Hall empire truly does offer the sort of birds that can give you nightmares and some occasional moments of sheer delight. The shoot lies in the valleys of the Cambrian Mountains and at the foot of Snowdonia national park and the 12,000-acre estate provides endless drives to appeal to all manner of guns and ability. And if Brigands is booked or a bit too scary then don’t forget the other Bettws shoots in the area: Gregynog, Maesmawr, Vaynor and Kempton and the new arrival this season, Plas Dinam.
Contact: Bettws Hall
Oliver Pope is the sixth generation of his family to run this marvellous 1,700-acre Dorset estate and its famous shoot with equally famous shoot lodge (see pages 70-71 of this issue). Drives like Wrackleford Plantation and Great War provide superb sport and quite remarkably Oliver told us in early October: “Our oldest gun shot with us last week, aged 96, and he still shoots better than many of our other guests.” Headkeeper Mark Valder has been here for more than 30 years, having started on a YTS scheme, and underkeeper Tom Rushton is gaining experience all the time.