The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Make memories while you still can

As we stand at the threshold of a new shooting season, let us resolve to stop finding excuses and start making memories — while we still can, says Alasdair Mitchell

I heard the first pink-footed geese of the new season a few nights ago, bang on schedule. It is remarkable how regular they are each year on their 600-mile journey down from Iceland.

I heard their calls dropping from the darkening sky just as my red stag was chivvying his hinds around the enclosure — another harbinger of autumn. He hadn’t actually started roaring at the time of writing, but he was black from wallowing in peat and I expect him to begin vocalising any day now. We’ve just had the first white frost of the autumn, so that might push things along.

Once again, we stand at the threshold of a new shooting season. For me, the anticipation is tinged with sadness this year. One of my old friends died unexpectedly a month ago. The wife of another old friend died six months earlier. As farmers say, “they’re starting to take them out of our pen now”. BB, that great country writer, found an inscription in a Cumbrian churchyard that he used on the frontispiece of his books: “The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shape of things, their colours, lights and shades; these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts.”

Create memories

I have many happy memories of shooting that I can draw on in my dotage. But the thing about memories is that you need to actually do something to create something worth remembering in the first place. At least, that’s my excuse for spending money on fieldsports. You might as well enjoy yourself with friends and family today because who knows what tomorrow may bring. If you’ve always hankered after fishing the mayfly season on a chalkstream, or walking-up grouse, or hunting plains game in Africa… well, get it booked without delay. Don’t keep finding excuses to put it off.

Last year, after a hard day’s hind stalking, a stalker said to me something like, “It’s good that you are still enjoying being out on the hill — while you are still mobile.” I certainly don’t consider myself to be old. I may have a dodgy leg and be gravitationally challenged, but I can still clamber about the moors and mountains. It just takes me longer than it used to. And I don’t recover as fast. Yet I am determined to continue, even though the earth seems to be spinning ever faster.

Quickly passing years

The reason the years seem to pass so much more quickly as you get older is a matter of increments. When you are 10 years old, each extra year is 1/10th of your life to date. When you are 60, each year is just 1/60th, and so they seem to come around much faster than when you were a child. For a stark lesson in mortality, look at the lifespan of our beloved four-legged shooting companions. It is heart-breaking when a favourite dog dies. You remember it as a bouncing puppy, then as an eager youngster, before one day noticing that it has become a stately, grey-muzzled veteran.  Like a lot of shooters, some of my fondest recollections are based on the many exploits of my canine companions in the field. My message is simple: get out there and make more memories while you still can.