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The Great Debate: Lunch stop v shooting through

Stopping for lunch by Ben Samuelson

A good lunch is a desideratum, and never more so than during a day’s shooting. Until it gets really dark in the very depths of a northern winter, it is entirely unnecessary to shoot through.

Which would you rather? A quick sausage roll and a drink standing in a soggy semi-circle or to go somewhere nice and dry where you can remove some of your outer layers and steam gently while sipping a G&T?

And that’s before the food lands. For many years on the shoot I was fortunate to attend most Saturdays, a beautiful young lady with a shy smile used to hand me a huge plate of some astonishingly tasty and rich-smelling pie every lunchtime, garlanded by half of Lincolnshire’s annual potato production, roasted to perfection. I often think that if I undergo one of those near-death experiences, it won’t be a sunny garden that’s waiting for me at the end of the corridor, but this particular young lady with a shooting lunch and a large claret.

And the meal is the best opportunity for a really good natter with your fellow guns. Having it halfway through the day enables you to get acquainted with those you don’t know, and re-acquainted with those you haven’t seen since last season, with time to hear the particularly scurrilous end of their best anecdote between drives later. If you shoot through, half the guns always have half an eye on their watches, imagining every extra five minutes will equate to an extra 20 ensnared in a bottleneck on their way home, or hours in marital purgatory for having been late for another crucial social occasion.

It might be tough to get yourself going again when the weather’s particularly unpleasant, and it might cause a bit of time pressure for the keeper later in the afternoon, but a chap really does need to stop for lunch. And if a little glass of something interesting needs to be supped along with a little nibble of something delicious, well, there’s always elevenses.

Shooting through by Giles Catchpole

Now I’m going to be a tad circumspect about this one because I know there are strong feelings on both sides. There are occasions where shooting through is the way to go. Principal among which is where the bulk of the guns are staying over. The days when Walsingham, Ripon and Stonor would descend on an estate for a week’s shooting and roistering may be long gone, but there are still occasions where a team might base itself at a house or a pub, say, and venture forth in different directions over two or three days. Why not therefore shoot hard all day before returning to base camp and having a slap up dinner?

You don’t need a big lunch when you are walking-up grouse either. Stew, dumplings, crumble and custard before another four-hour walk across the heather? No thanks. Give me a ham and pickle sandwich and a slice of fruitcake. And a roast grouse with all the trimmings at home later after a long bath with balms and unguents to ease the muscles and hone the appetite.
There are shoots too where each drive is a step along the way towards a grand finale. Very few folk get the chance now to shoot wild partridges, but in the days when it was how a proper chap spent the autumn it was often the case that each drive was part of a master-plan to congregate the birds in one part of the estate to make the last couple of drives even more spectacular. Who would not happily sacrifice a long lunch to ensure the success of those last blistering battues?

It is not as if you have to starve for the rest of the day after all. A hot sausage and a cup of nourishing broth will carry you along. Or a warm cheese straw and a spicy samosa with a tot of sloe gin to help it along? A mincey pie and a slice of Stilton? Such agreeable nibbles will well sustain the inner shooter throughout the day and then there are all the delights of a long and handsome dinner to relish later. Cheers!

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