It is only natural to be reluctant about giving away your top spots for rabbits or pigeons, but there are other actions that are hard to excuse says Alasdair Mitchell, writing for Shooting Times
Stories of selfish Shots
There is a story about a business tycoon who held the lease on a famous grouse moor. One day, he rang the keeper and asked for a day’s shooting to be laid on for a certain date in the near future. Slightly flustered by this sudden addition to his carefully planned shoot calendar, the keeper asked who the other Guns were. “Nobody,” replied his boss. “It’s just me.” Taken aback, the keeper said it would be difficult to get a decent bag on each drive if only a single butt was occupied. The tycoon said, testily, that he’d give his chauffeur a gun. Would that do?
I am assured this story of selfish Shots is true, though I have heard it in various permutations over the years. I suspect it’s one of those tales that may have been embellished to make a more general point. Selfishness in shooting comes in many guises. Some of it is perfectly understandable. Many rough shooters are reluctant to divulge their favourite spots for rabbiting. And pigeon shooters tend to keep quiet about their best farms for decoying or roost shooting. But there are less excusable actions by selfish Shots.
For example, I know of an occasion when a coastal landowner dug a flightpond just behind the sea wall. The foreshore was known for its wildfowl and there was a well-subscribed wildfowling permit scheme in operation. Matters came to a head when the landowner’s keeper accused wildfowlers of poaching ‘his’ duck. The fowlers had been placing themselves so as to intercept duck travelling to the flightpond.
Now, the wildfowlers were entitled to be where they were. Moreover, the birds were truly wild, of course, and the flightpond was being fed precisely so that it attracted them, and by so doing altered their flightlines. When official conservation bodies started asking questions about exactly how many ducks were being shot over the flightpond in question, and what the impact might be on local wildfowl populations, the landowner realised that a public row was not in anybody’s interest. Calm relations were duly restored.
The fact is that game and wildlife are free to move as they wish. Legally, they belong to the owner of the land on which they happen to be when killed. Yet we all know that what may be legal is not always right in all circumstances. Anybody who feeds a flightpond needs to be mindful of its potential to act as a duck drain.
Another field of contention is deerstalking. Some Scots bemoan the way stalking leases are snapped up by people based down south. It is tempting to see this as anti-English prejudice, but in reality the situation is more complicated. In rural areas right across the UK, grumbling about supposedly wealthy incomers is an established custom that borders on being a sport. There’s always somebody willing to outbid you for shooting, it seems, and it rankles when they are outsiders.
This happens even within that most egalitarian form of shooting, the wildfowling club system. One large club in particular is notorious for allegedly snatching ground from local clubs. I don’t know all the facts, but this sort of friction exists in shooting sports just as in all walks of life.