Tom Sykes joins a team of keen young shots for their first day of partridge and duck donated by local Lancashire farmers
Earlier this season, I joined a team of Young Shots as they had a day of driven duck and partridge shooting on a farm shoot in Lancashire. The day was kindly donated to BASC by the farmers that run the shoot on their land. These days work well as a transition from clays to game and, for most of the Guns, it was their first opportunity to shoot on a driven day.
The shoot is over a few farms that all do their bit to provide the different habitats needed to support partridge and duck with a mixture of well-established ponds and small cover crops. A lot of the shoot is on at ground, with the bulk of the partridge drives being on the few small hills dotted around the shoot. Different ponds range in size and cover, all producing perfect little duck drives with a mix of reared duck and some wild ones that have taken up residence.
The meeting point was on one of the farms where the shoot has converted part of a barn with added benches and sofas to make it a cosy area to meet and to have lunch. It wasn’t long before we were made welcome with coffee and a biscuit prior to the morning brief. Everybody gathered outside as the shoot captain said a few words of welcome, followed by a briefing by Duncan Thomas from BASC who was helping co-ordinate the day.
After the briefing, the Guns met the mentors who volunteered guide them through the day and keep them safe while passing on knowledge of the countryside and trying to help them put birds in the bag. The Guns were a mixture of young men and women aged from 14 to 21 from all walks of life. They all had experience with shotguns, either through lessons on clays or limited game experience.
True ambassadors of the sport
The weather forecast was for an overcast day with a steady breeze, which would have been perfect conditions. However, that didn’t materialise and we ended up with a morning more suited for a nice autumn walk. The little wind we had soon dropped and the sun broke out from behind the clouds.
Despite not being ideal weather conditions to shoot, we agreed it was better than getting wet as we set off on foot out of the farmyard across a field to an open duck pond.
As the Guns lined out, the mentors ran through the different aspects of a shoot day, as everybody waited in anticipation for the first birds to flush from the pond. The beating team included farmers, the keeper and a few extra helpers. As the beaters approached the pond, the starting horn was blown and the first duck took to the skies, producing shooting from one end of the line to the other. It didn’t take long before the Guns used the skills gained from clays to put the first birds in the bag. After the first drive was over, numerous Guns had shot their first duck.
More were soon added to the bag as we moved on to a small partridge drive. The Guns lined out eagerly awaiting their first chance at a partridge. Regardless of the poor conditions, the beating team still managed to do a fantastic job at sending birds over the Guns. It was a perfect chance to show that true ambassadors to the sport are capable of, as the Guns selected only the sporting birds that were presented to them.
A day to remember
We had another couple of partridge and duck drives before retiring back to the farm for lunch with all in high spirits. After being well refuelled, the shooting party headed back out for another couple of drives. By this time the sun had disappeared behind the clouds, making it easier to handle the birds. After a couple more successful duck drives, the day was finished with one last go at the partridges. As well as some nice shots on the partridges, including a cracking right-and-left, the show was stolen by not one but two of the keen Young Shots bagging a couple of lovely pigeon that would make any Gun proud.
After the last drive, we headed back to the farm for a welcome cup of tea. Some nice speeches were given by the shoot captain and Duncan from BASC after what was an immensely successful day. Joanna Gillingham also expressed her appreciation on behalf of the youngsters for the great sport and wonderful hospitality.
All the Guns had a fantastic day and none left empty-handed because the game was divided between everyone. It was a great privilege to see a young team of Guns given the opportunity to shoot on a superb day where everybody enjoyed themselves. Most of them left with smiles from ear to ear; they will remember that day for many years to come.
Young Shots thriving in the North
We asked BASC’s Duncan Thomas what Young Shots does to help youngsters to shoot and how to get involved.
How many youngsters have you taken out shooting?
Over the past 12 months, BASC North has provided well in excess of 600 shooting opportunities for youngsters in the region. We are staggered at the generosity of the local shooting community.
How do Young Shots get involved?
The basics are often started within the youngsters’ own social groups and family. They can send the Young Shots to one of BASC’s introduction-to-shooting days and progress to more challenging clays. When we think they are ready, and once they have a shotgun certificate, we help place them on our introduction to gameshooting days. We also have a list of Young Shots who receive regular emails telling them what we are doing, so that they can pick and choose what they get involved in.
How can shoots can donate days?
We simply can’t deliver the amount of Young Shots’ days without the assistance and generosity of the shooting community. Many shoots have donated full days for youngsters or for a single Gun: the shoot carries on as normal, we take care of all the mentoring/ loading/child protection issues and land with a team of youngsters and the shoot can relax, knowing that we have the full control of the Young Shots. Often shoots will donate a day at the start (to get the birds revved up) or at the end of the season (to mop up). We can cater for most eventualities.
What is Eley Hawk’s involvement with Young Shots’ days?
Eley Hawk has been amazing, supporting our Young Shots’ projects both nationally and locally. It provides most of the cartridges for our Young Shots — we couldn’t do it without it.
What are Young Shots ambassadors?
We started the Young Shots Ambassadors (YSA) soon after I started working for BASC. I wanted to recruit a group of competent youngsters and help them set up their own projects within conservation, taste of game or “take a mate shooting”, and they have so far exceeded all expectations. Our BASC North YSA have raised more than £20,000 for their own projects here in the north and over £10,000 for local charities. We now have almost 30 youngsters, with an average age of 15, flying the BASC Young Shots Ambassadors flag. The cash raised has paid for many projects, such as egg incubators for local primary schools; entering our Young Shots into some premier clay competitions; and supplying clay traps to Newton Rigg College. Conservation projects include duck nesting tubes and taking youngsters from inner city schools shooting. The project is to be spread out across BASC into other regions so watch this space…
What are your views on this shoot day?
All Guns remember their first ever day’s shooting or their first duck or partridge. What the shoot has done is provide a generous stepping stone for these youngsters that they will never forget. If any other shoots wish to donate a day for the next and most important generation, please don’t hesitate to contact us, by visiting www.basc.org.uk.