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The shooting lunch: why it should always be light

Giles Catchpole tackles the big lunch question

shooting lunch

A shooting lunch

From whether a man ought to wear a tie in the field to whether all Guns should take a brace of birds home, the sporting world is full of great debates. I thought I’d bravely focus on the shooting lunch. Let me say at the outset that I am acutely aware that there are rational arguments marshalled on either side of this vexed question. Nonetheless, here goes. (Read our advice on alcohol, guns and the law.)

The shooting lunch

There are certainly circumstances where shooting through might — perhaps should — be the preferred option. If a party is assembled for the purpose of shooting and all involved are staying at someone’s home or at an agreeable inn before and after the main event, then by all means let’s shoot all day. We can make the best of the light and the weather then repair to the house or hotel for a slap-up feed and all the roistering and sluicing that implies. Count me in. (Are these the best shoot lunch ideas of all time?)

But if some or all — by which I mean mainly me — have to leave after lunch, then shooting through becomes more complicated. I am no advocate of drinking to excess by any means, but if I am confronted by a hearty meal after a day’s shooting with some fine wines alongside, it seems a shame to have to forego the latter on account of the forthcoming drive home.

Risk of drowsiness

And I find that abstinence is the only answer, not just because of the drink-driving laws but also the risk of drowsiness after a long day in the fresh air.

This is of scant concern to those who have only to crawl into the back seat of the Bentley and mutter “Home please” to the coachman before passing out, but it’s a serious issue for the 99.9%.

This is not to imply that I would be bashing the bottles large if lunch was in the middle of the day, but I do like a glass with my meal and I’m confident that modest consumption — followed by more fresh air and exercise — will leave me fit enough for the journey later.

Nor let us forget that some of us might have to go on to dinner elsewhere after a day’s shooting. Who has not found themselves setting out for a sumptuous meal of an evening with the waistband still straining from the lunch that finished less than a couple of hours prior?

Bare minimum

Obviously, my decision would be different if we were walking-up grouse. The last thing I need during a day on the hill is stew and tatties, and crumble and custard before heading back out into the heather. For such an expedition I tend towards a short length of cured saucisson, perhaps a couple of apples and a drink from the burn; not least because on the hill you carry what you need and I don’t need to be carrying any more than the bare minimum. That’s me done and I’ll make up for it at supper.

As a matter of fact, even at a winter shoot, while I prefer a midday lunch, I’m no great fan of huge meals. I think the cleverest shoot lunches are those that are light — so as not to undermine the swing in the afternoon — and quick, because time is of the essence in the deep heart of the game season.

Only recently I enjoyed one of the cleverest lunches I’ve ever had. Every course was as small as it was delicious: game soup, sea trout mousse, smoked venison salad and poached pears. Each element was scarcely bigger than a serving spoon. A few mouthfuls of scrumptious things and a glass of exquisite wine and back on pegs in under an hour. Not easy to pull off, I grant you, but just about ideal. (Next up, you might like to read our advice on the best gift ideas for shoot hosts.)