The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

What’s better? A big last drive or a big first drive?

Should the tempo of a day in the field build up to a crescendo or wind down gently? Our debaters discuss the benefits of a big last drive versus a big first drive. Have your say by voting in our poll.

Big last drive

By Ben Samuelson

It shouldn’t really come as any surprise that a lot of shooting folk are also worshippers at the gentle church of cricket. Both involve a lot of very civilised waiting around with the soothing balm of a glass or two of something being applied to ease the pain. Both can be enormously frustrating, especially as at the precise moment you think you/the test team’s top order are getting the hang of it, the wheels come off with almost indecent haste. And both require a bit of time before one really knows where middle and leg is…

It’s all very well Giles suggesting that a day’s shooting should start with some sort of pyjama game frenzy, but surely it’s far more appropriate for a chap to be bowled a few sighters – to be able to watch a couple from the other end while practicing a forward defensive or two of Geoffrey Boycott-like solidity?

As the day goes on, so the tempo should build, leaving the final drive to be the one to which it all leads. By that stage, the guns should be fully warmed up, physically, mentally and socially, and everyone’s eyes should be well and truly in. There’s no point sending over aerial armadas of birds while everyone is still a little steady from dinner the night before.

And finally, having the big drive at the end of the afternoon allows keeper, host and guns to know how hard to go at it. If there is a target quietly in folks’ mind for the bag, everyone can use their Duckworth Lewis-like knowledge of how the rest of the day has gone to know whether to make the most of the last drive or to send the beaters and dogs through at a fast jog. You couldn’t do that if you’d been all 20/20 about the first drive…


Big first drive

By Giles Catchpole

I know many guns want a grand finale before tea with plenty of lead in the air to round off an exciting day. Indeed, when we draw our pegs I’ll warrant we all do a quick calculation to see where we will be in the line by the sixth drive. Of course we do.

The home team on the other hand would really like to get started with a goodly bang. Since the guns turn up at 9am for coffee and expect to move off at 9.30am, the keeper has an hour to blank in three woods and a bunch of cover crops so that the first drive is stuffed to the gunnels with birds. And if the guns get properly stuck in, a third of the bag can be tucked away right there. And then everyone can relax. The rest of the day has options. We could try the new drive. If it works spectacularly we are in even better shape. If it falls flat on its face we can always squeeze in Jubilee as a back-up or do one of the bankers before lunch anyway.

If you have come a long way, facing a heavy first drive can be difficult. This is why I now try to assemble my guns nearby the night before a shoot, so we are only minutes from breakfast to assembly and everyone can relax and shoot well from the outset. Time was when I would tell the guns to take it easy on the first drive. “We don’t want to be finished by elevenses, now do we?” Well, we won’t be, I can tell you, because keepers can always slow you down. They’ve got drives that will shred anyone’s average. Or an early whistle. Or an earlier, longer lunch. Slowing down is easy.

Playing catch up is next to impossible and leaves everyone feeling rushed and harried and vaguely embarrassed at trying to kill everything in the gathering gloom to try to make the bag. Go early, go big is my advice. Then relax and be selective.