1: A new gun
Well, I guess that would be the first thing on the list, wouldn’t it? Makes sense. Want to shoot – need a shooter. But which one?
Obviously you start at the top end; Purdey, Boss, Holland & Holland, McKay Brown. But are these expectations realistic? Sadly not, I venture. Especially in these dark days.
So what’s left? Here’s a question: is it possible to beat a Beretta Silver Pigeon 20-bore as a package? It’s light. It’s balanced. It shoots like a dream and it’s affordable. Or, if you still think that over-unders are not quite the thing, how about an AYA No.2 in the same gauge? You may be saying, “Why 20-bore?”
The answer is, “What else do you need?” You can get cartridges that range from 20gram up to 36gram headbangers and put them through a modern 20-bore with confidence, so why do you need anything bigger? Unless you want to shoot geese on a regular basis, I suppose.
2: Something to shoot
We then need a quarry. And somewhere to shoot it. Oh, where to begin? Doves in Argentina. Pheasants in Hungary. Partridges in Spain. Quail in Georgia. Guinea fowl in Africa. It’s difficult, isn’t it, when the world is your oyster? Let’s keep it sensible again, shall we? What’s the best fun?
A formal battue out of neat coverts, several keepers, beaters galore, a castle in the background and lashings of chewy claret? Or a romp around the forestry, alternately walking and beating with a few mates, a few dogs and some hot sausages and soup in the middle of the day?
Either will do for me. I never cease to appreciate the intricacies of the formal day and yet my enthusiasm for the rougher end of the sport remains undimmed as well.
3: Crisp and even
What both gun and quarry need in order to be enjoyed completely is the right weather. If you know someone who can fix the weather for you as a festive gift, then you are blessed indeed. A frost and a breeze must be the ideal combination.
Frost on the ground to give the grass that essential crispness, and to give the air a nip so that you can appreciate elevenses all the better. And a breeze to give the birds a lift and a zing and a curl. That’s what I want, please.
4: Looking dapper
With a brisk nip in the air and frost underfoot we are going to need some dapper duds for the occasion. I would suggest a new suit, cashmere and silk mix, something of that order. And made by a sporting and military outfitter who really knows what he’s about, and not some immity-dimmity stitcher who doesn’t know a plus-four from a bias cut Balenciaga ball gown.
I would, as I said, buy a suit, but given that most chaps prefer to wear a suit from the last century and several chaps favour an outfit that is probably closer to the century before, perhaps I won’t. The ladies might prefer new clothes, on the other hand, so perhaps the cashmere and silk mix was not too wide of the mark after all.