Q.

Who is the headkeeper and how long has he been in the role?

A.

The topography at The Brigands is certainly ripe for presenting some of the very best and highest driven pheasants in the world. However, without a dedicated and experienced gamekeeper at its helm the land would just be beautiful countryside without the added sparkle. We have a new headkeeper at The Brigands this year, Billy Evans. He comes with an impressive pedigree, having grown up with the business from birth; he is the son of Bettws Hall owners Gwyn and Ann Evans. After completing two superb seasons at Gregynog Hall it was time for a new challenge.

The scenery at The Brigands is as spectacular as the high end sport.

Q.

How many underkeepers are there and can you tell us a bit about them?

A.

It’s not just the headkeeper who makes a shoot. The four underkeepers are, of course, essential and they are all full of enthusiasm, passionate about shooting and determined to present the very best birds. Three of the four underkeepers have all been through a local college and done work placements with us. They went to college one day a week and the rest of their studying was either done on the game farm or on the shoots. We have actively encouraged this and welcome hard working and dedicated college placement students within the business.

Q.

Who looks after the guns on the shoot day?

A.

Anthony Pryce has been a director of Bettws Hall for many years now (Anthony was an underkeeper at Bettws Hall and headkeeper at Kempton) and is generally responsible for running the days at The Brigands. His wealth of shooting knowledge is invaluable on this estate, but he also works on our other Welsh estates to ensure the days work well.

The topography at The Brigands is ripe for producing the highest birds.

Q.

What acreage is the shoot and how many days is it shot?

A.

The Brigands covers a vast stretch of ground in the Cambrian Mountains which lies within the Snowdonia National Park. I suspect the shoot is about 10,000-12,000 acres in size but we have never really totted it up before. One valley seems to roll into the next and in many instances we look to the top of a mountain range and explain there are more drives are on the other side!

Either way, its big country and the scenery is just as spectacular as the birds. We shoot at The Brigands about four days a week and with such a multitude of drives to choose from there is little danger of over-shooting. We try and offer our guests the birds they are looking for; some want the really high ones, whilst others want a mix of the more manageable ones. We don’t want to overwhelm people and our guests must be able to hit and kill birds cleanly, whichever drive they happen to be on.

The 400-bird days at The Brigands certainly keep the picking-up teams busy.

Q.

What are the other land uses on the estate?

A.

Traditional hill farming is at the core of The Brigands and the land upon which the shoot is made up. In nearly every field there are hill sheep and on the mountains too, which really brings the valleys to life and adds to the charm. There are also suckler herds of Welsh Black cattle within the shoot which are a joy to see.

On the very, very inaccessible ground there is a mix of commercial forestry, where the fastest trees in the northern hemisphere grow, and ancient oak woodland filled with the flora and fauna. We use both of these to their full potential, enabling us to present a huge variety of birds for all abilities.

The Brigands is one of the best sporting destinations in the whole of Wales.

Q.

Is there much use made of cover crops?

A.

Finding flat or even relatively flat bits of land where we can drill cover crops at The Brigands is not easy. Generally, the birds are flushed from the mountain sides which are steep and inaccessible to tractors. We therefore generally rely on the natural cover of bracken, gorse and undergrowth, to flush the birds from.

There are however exceptions to these rules. The farmers here, who have worked the land for generations, take their adapted tractors on their hills and can drill little pockets of kale for us in the key places. But it is rather like watching a piste basher going up and down a ski slope!

Q.

What’s a typical daily bag and how much is it per bird? Has the price risen this year?

A.

We generally offer 400-bird days at The Brigands before Christmas and then smaller days in the New Year. We find this really works well and enables everyone to have lots of shooting and really see The Brigands at its best. The cost per bird is £39.50 plus VAT and this includes all of the hospitality throughout the day, such as the champagne, elevenses, soup, canapés and a fantastic three-course lunch.

Shoot days at The Brigands are run like clockwork to ensure guns get the most from their day.

Q.

Where do your typical guns come from and where do they stay when they are shooting?

A.

Guests join us at The Brigands from all over the world to experience the high Welsh birds and dramatic scenery. However, the majority of our guests are UK-based and they travel far and wide for the best birds.

Many of our guests stay with us at Bettws Hall in our lodges which are located within striking distance of The Brigands. The lodges have been lovingly renovated and offer luxury accommodation in the heart of Wales. The food is sublime and our 21-day Celtic Pride fillet steaks are renowned. From here, our guests can then also shoot at Vaynor Park, Maesmawr Hall and Gregynog Hall, which are almost on the door step. This makes them the perfect venue for back-to-back days or for a group looking for a longer trip.

Q.

Has the extraordinary rain this year caused a lot of problems on the shoot?

A.

On average we have over 100 inches of rain at The Brigands each year, which I think classifies us as a rainforest. But, like everyone else, this year we have seen a lot more. From our experience of The Brigands we ensure the birds released there are seriously hardy and used to rain, and lots of it.

We reared the birds in traditional coops again this year, which have huge runs and night shelters. This enables them to feather up well and get used to the temperatures as they are taken off gas early. The summer rain was tough, but it has certainly made the birds used to the climate. Fortunately, we don’t have many game crops here so we haven’t really been affected. The kale has come where we wanted it to and the natural cover seems to have gone mad with the rain.

Many guns shooting at The Brigands stay at the newly rennovated shooting lodges nearby.

Q.

Are there any further development plans for The Brigands or the whole Bettws Hall operation in general?

A.

The Brigands is a constantly evolving shoot as new drives are added and we experiment with patches of ground within the estate. Last year’s new drive, Humble Pie, is still the talking point, but the Marsh is back on form again this year so we will see great things from here too. Changes and tweaks to Welsh Haven will create a stir and our new drive, Devil’s Chair, is set to impress.

Will Criddle is the shooting manager at Bettws Hall and sells and coordinates all of the days which are run on the eight estates within the portfolio. For further information on the shoots and the team visit the Bettws Hall website: www.bettwshall.com

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