We have cherry-picked an ultimate list of top pheasant shoots in the UK for that road trip to remember forever. Something to think about for the next season?
1. Bowhill, The Borders
The name Black Andrew strikes fear into shooting men and women the length and breadth of the nation (and further afield) and so it should. But this notorious high bird drive is just one of many on offer at this stunning Borders shoot, less than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh.The shoot is run by manager Stuart Riddell and his son, Robert, who is the headkeeper. Bowhill offers 200-250 bird days for parties of eight to 10 guns, normally incorporating five drives taken from the choice of 19 in total. And this season the new early partridge days have added something a bit extra to the already impressive offering. It’s safe to say the Riddells know their trade, as Robert is now the sixth generation of keeper in the family and has worked at headline shoots such as Gunnerside and Raby. Stuart’s wife Kay looks after the administration, finances and catering which are so essential to making a shoot run smoothly. Hawthorn Sporting
2. Lechweddygarth, Powys
Robert Jones runs three shoots in this Welsh high bird heartland, and in recent years Lechweddygarth
has been gaining rave reviews – but that doesn’t mean the other two (Long Mountain and Three Valleys) are diminished in any way.
Long Mountain Shoot was the first of to be established some 30 years ago and the three shoots now cover approximately 9,000 acres. All the natural assets of this beautiful area have been harnessed to provide some of the finest pheasant shooting. While 400 bird days are available and corporate entertainment is a speciality, excellent shooting is also available to both groups and single guns seeking 150 or more bird days.
Llechweddygarth is near the quaint rural village of Langynog in the heart of the Mid Wales countryside. The overwhelming scenery, with its untamed mountains and breathtaking waterfalls, provides a picturesque setting for you to enjoy while you test yourself on the peg. A converted Scout hut provides
a warm and homely atmosphere for hospitality, where shooting guests can indulge in fine local food and quality wines. Long Mountain Shoot
3. Loyton Sporting, Devon and Somerset
OK, so technically this is more than one shoot as the West Country Loyton Sporting stable includes: Combe Sydenham, Stuckeridge (pictured), Haddeo & Loyton, Edgcott and Challacombe. We featured Stuckeridge in the October issue and it offers some superb shooting in a lovely setting.
But for many Somerset’s Combe Sydenham offers the perfect high pheasant day, with a series of well- presented birds testing the guns in every way but not generally flying out of range. This estate was once the home of Francis Drake who installed a series of cleverly engineered waterways here, which still stand today and add to the visual splendour of the day. There are 18 drives in total but four of the best are Folly, Eisengard, Bird’s Hill and the Chair. But whichever drives you shoot on your day you are guaranteed a traditional family atmosphere and the finest quality shooting and catering. Beyond that you can also base yourself at Loyton lodge, one of the finest shoot accommodations in the whole of the UK and at the heart of this slick sporting operation, run by the Barnes family. Loyton Sporting
4. Mulgrave, North Yorkshire
This visually stunning shoot has been a favourite for game shooters in the know for many long seasons, not least as a result of the awe-inspiring drives at the foot of the imposing cliffs on the edge
of the North Sea as it crashes into the spectacular coastline. Here guns line out on the rocks and struggle to hone their senses, with the noise of the sea creating an unusual distraction, while the birds are pushed from one clifftop to the next high above. As they soar overhead, guns get the chance to test themselves in some of the most dramatic scenery in the world of driven shooting. But of course, a shoot day is not just about one or two drives and the rest of the shoot is not half bad either. With hospitality laid on within the grand-ness of Mulgrave Castle, this is surely the sort of shoot where fairytale dreams really do come true.
5. Pentillie, Cornwall
While Exmoor steals the West Country sporting headlines, those who are prepared to stay on the A30 for a little longer and cross the River Tamar into the proud county of Cornwall will be well rewarded. Tony Kennedy runs the world renowned Pentillie shoot near Plymouth and here the pheasants can match some the best you will find anywhere else. If you really want to do it in style then staying in Pentillie Castle would really put the icing on the cake.
It would be a shame to travel all the way to this rocky and romantic outpost at the toe of the UK and not make a few days out of it. So, if you are going to spend a bit more time here then three other top notch shoots which offer a blend of testing sport and grand backdrops are Caerhays Castle, Boconnoc and Carnanton.
6. The Brigands
In the last decade this name has become synonymous with the fashion for stratospheric birds, which is hardly surprising as the flagship of the Bettws Hall empire truly offers the sort of birds that can give you nightmares and some occasional moments of sheer delight. The shoot lies in the valleys of the Cambrian Mountains and at the foot of Snowdonia National Park. This 12,000-acre estate provides drives to appeal to all manner of guns and abilities.
Established and spine-tingling drives include 720, Little Gwillems and Humble Pie, but a new addition last season was Tommy’s, which sort of has to be seen to be believed. It is also evidence of the continual evolution and striving for success which has made Bettws Hall one of the leading lights in providing high-end driven shooting in the modern era. And it would be wrong not to mention the sumptuous accommodation and catering back at the eponymous HQ. Here the every need of the visiting teams is catered for and two full teams can stay without necessarily seeing each other, unless of course tales need to be swapped over a dangerous late night tipple…
And if The Brigands is fully booked or a bit too scary then don’t forget the other Bettws shoots present in the area, namely Gregynog, Maesmawr, Vaynor and Kempton.
7. Tregoyd, Powys
This shoot near Hay- on-Wye is run by Ben Brown and his ambitious team. Recent years have seen significant investment in the infrastructure to create an improved shoot lodge, easy standing on some mountain- side pegs and better access all around the shoot. But what has not changed is the quality of the shooting. The terrain takes care of itself but Ben’s attention to detail with the quality of the birds means that visiting Guns are tested in every possible way in a mixture of woodland and open drives. And if you fancy shooting back-to-back days then you can take another day at Llwyn Madoc, which is Ben’s other shoot the other side of Builth Wells. firstname.lastname@example.org 07711677726
8. Warter Priory, East Yorkshire
Here at Shooting Gazette we have been singing Warter Priory’s praises ever since we first visited in the autumn of 2012. Headkeeper Frank Croft is an accepted master at presenting seasoned Guns with endless challenges, not to mention warm barrels. There is a genuine local feel to this shoot and everyone knows their roles well. Everything from the Wolds topography to elevenses from a custom-made shooting wagon makes a day at this 12,000-acre gem well worth the wait.
Many a reader has told us that Warter Priory is on their bucket list, and those who have shot here are always eager to recount their own experiences when it comes up in conversation. It’s fair to say this driven shooting phenomenon goes from strength to strength. email@example.com
9. West Molland, Devon
For some decades now, if the question has been “Where can we shoot the highest birds?” the answer has been “Go south west and get yourself to Exmoor”. And while there are some very strong challengers to the regional high bird crown this part of the world still boasts the highest number of top-end pheasant shoots and West Molland is just one of them. Like The Brigands (also in this list) it is part of the Bettws Hall group, but the Exmoor branch rather than the Welsh section. With that comes all of the experience, organisation, attention to detail and customer service you would expect. But the birds come courtesy of the landscape. With valleys like this Emu would probably fly well so you can only imagine what some of the best game birds in the country do with their terrain and how the guns below struggle to meet the challenge. Bettws Hall
10. Whitfield, Northumberland
While Exmoor lays claim to the title of best region for high birds the beacon of the north has a strong claim to best individual high bird shoot. With a famous system of labelling the shooting the ‘extreme’ days have become the stuff of shooting legend and if you have enjoyed this unique challenge you really do have a feather in your cap.
In the foothills of the Pennines, this 15,000 estate generally offers days in the 250-300-bird range, but bigger days are available on request. Headkeeper Stuart Maughan is renowned for his ability to show a steady stream of very testing birds during a small number of long drives on the day. Guns who are not in the action as the drive progresses will be moved and with the constant stream of high birds you are guaranteed to pull the trigger more times than normal for your birds. With a vast number of repeat bookings it might be hard to get a day here but it is definitely worth it. Whitfield Sporting