Mark Forester has mixed feelings about end-of-season cock bird days

I cannot help but feel some trepidation when I receive an invitation to an end-of-season cock shoot. I know, I know. These events are really an opportunity for gamekeepers and shoot captains to show their gratitude to those people who have supported them during the season. However I am not an enthusiast for the reasons and experiences given below.

Too many, too few

One of my earliest cock shoot invitations saw me tagging along with nearly two dozen fellow Guns, who were divided into two teams that alternated between brushing and standing. The keeper was a popular local personality but, unfortunately, his generosity with cock shoot invitations while inebriated did not take into account the limited stock left over by his syndicate employers. As a result the whole exercise degenerated into a quick draw shoot-out at any bird that broke over the standing Guns.

I joined a similar team for a cock day in late January.  I was shooting on form for once so you can imagine my delight at having downed three high cock pheasants on the first drive. Having been advised that hen pheasants were off-limits, you can imagine my embarrassment when my dog returned with a dark Bournville-coloured melanistic hen pheasant for which I was fined a fiver. Then my yellow Labrador tore itself on a hidden strand of barbed wire and I had to pay an unwanted visit to the vet.

Sharing

On another occasion the whistle blew to start the drive and I moved to load my gun, only to realise that I had left my cartridge bag at the lodge. I dashed over to the peg on my right and the Gun happily lent me a handful of 12-bore cartridges.

I was still on my way back to No5 peg when the cries from the beating line alerted me to a cock pheasant slanting across to my right. Without hesitation, I loaded up and shot the bird, which landed at the toes of the Gun who had lent me some ammunition. He looked unimpressed and I spent the rest of the day trying to keep a low profile.

shooting in January

Is January the finest month?

January, for most of the nation, is the cruellest month. From Stornoway to the Scillies people are in credit card…

On my last cock shoot I had to share a gun with a friend when the headkeeper realised he had issued too many invitations.

He suggested that we should take turns on the pegs, with the spare man supplementing the sparse beating line. When the shoot’s top drive started  my friend and I both realised that we had been instructed to join the beating line while the other guests enjoyed some the sport. The keeper then had the temerity to collect the full beaters’ pay from us both, although we had spent the majority of our time in the beating line.

No, you can keep cock shoot days as far as I am concerned.