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Game shooting at Carnanton, Cornwall

The Carnanton estate is less than two miles from the rugged north Cornwall coastline. When Paul Young-Jamieson succeeded to the estate in 1995 he decided to rationalise the farming system and to develop opportunities for game shooting.

Action from Hanging Wood.

Paul’s father had operated a syndicate shoot for many years but time had taken its toll on the members. A one-year break meant that a new start could be made, and plans were laid for the development of the shoot, which would be fully integrated into the 1,500 acres of largely arable farmland.

The 300 acres of woodland on the estate, together with the house and gardens, are great assets that offer both a high standard of sport and impressive hospitality to visiting parties. Although Paul fronts the operation, it was evident on my recent visit that his wife Claire, headkeeper Terry Green and the staff share his passion.

On my visit in late October, one of the two regular syndicates was game shooting for the day. Everyone met for coffee in the house and drew pegs before moving off in the gun bus towards The Barn Drive. The guns were placed along the lower contour of a sloping grass field, with game crops just over the horizon. The Barn Drive had been chosen as a pipe-opener that morning because a strong southerly wind was blowing, and it really got under the birds’ tails, propelling them over the guns at a great height and speed. Every gun enjoyed some challenging game shooting and needed the morning caffeine rush to kick in to have any chance of connecting with the birds. Judging by the lively discussion between the guns after the drive’s end, everyone was now fully awake and on their mettle.

Robert Lee stretches for a Carnanton screamer.

The syndicate was then driven to one of the best-known drives on the shoot, Hanging Wood. Here, guns stood in a field below the wood, which is located on the side of an escarpment. The birds were flushed out of game crops behind the wood and created a superb spectacle as they flew up over the trees before meeting the line of guns. There was good game shooting all the way down the line and some excellent birds were taken.

There was a limited window of opportunity to shoot on Paddock, where birds crossed a steep wooded valley.

The shoot encourages guns and their partners to work their dogs when they wish to do so. Twink Carter and Sue Adams thoroughly enjoyed their opportunity to take an active part in the day, as did their labrador retrievers. The estate picking-up team stood well back from the line, which enabled guns’ partners with dogs to pick-up as many birds as they wished. The estate team then worked forward, dealing with any pricked or wounded birds first, before sweeping through the rest of the drive. Such is the pleasure of being on the shoot that Christiane Bundey had travelled all the way from Germany for the week to join the picking-up team as part of her annual holiday.

Guns in earnest discussion about the challenge presented by the morning’s birds.

After this exciting drive it was time for drinks at the gun bus. With only four drives scheduled, the guns were given plenty of opportunities to take pleasure in the countryside, savour the game shooting and catch up with each other’s news.

We moved to Paddock, which was in complete contrast to Hanging Wood and demonstrated the diversity of game shooting on the estate. Guns were placed in a steep valley, heavily wooded on both sides. With birds driven across the valley and the gun line there was only the smallest window of opportunity to shoot. Although the birds were not flying quite as high, the short space of time available to swing through and pull the trigger created a contrasting challenge.

Host Paul Young-Jamieson (left) with long-standing syndicate member Colin Henna.

This was the icing on the cake of a first-class morning, with birds flying strongly in the stiff southerly breeze. Although the temperature was unseasonably high, the quality of the birds was more typical of December than late October.

Lunch was next, which meant experiencing the hospitality of the Carnanton House team and enjoying a buffet in the main dining room, with panoramic views across the park and gardens. There was ample time to savour the food, the vista and exchange views on the day so far.

Guns enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Carnanton House.

Young Squires was the afternoon drive. Guns lined up in another wooded valley, this time with rather more shooting space than that offered by the last drive of the morning. There was no time to hesitate as a steady stream of birds was flushed across the gun line. The syndicate enjoyed good game shooting and the drive was completed in plenty of time to allow the birds to go to roost and follow their normal pattern.

The estate picking-up team, from left: Brian Salmon, Keith & Pauline Sandercock & guest Christiane Bundey.

Tea was then taken back at the house, where guns met with headkeeper Terry Green and underkeepers Lee Nobbs and Matt Ashton to express their appreciation for another excellent day. With two such enthusiastic young underkeepers on board, it is clear that the shoot is set fair for the future.

The full team of beaters, guns, pickers-up and keepers, with headkeeper Terry Green (far left).

The development of the Carnanton shoot has been a life project for Paul, something he admitted would not have been possible without the support of those around him, particularly Claire and Terry. It has been a joint project that has produced a package to relish, with many teams of visiting guns making an annual pilgrimage. The steady growth of the enterprise has been dependant on word of mouth, with no direct advertising undertaken. Syndicate days – and several let days too – are now laid on and close links are maintained with the neighbouring Caerhays and Pawton Shoots. Back-to-back days can also be arranged.

For more information, telephone shoot owner Paul Young-Jamieson on
07875 216976.

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