Driven game shooting is notorious for being seen as a closed shop. But this introduction shoot day opens it up to all, says Richard Faulks
Have you ever wanted to get into game shooting and wondered where to begin?
Well, that’s just what Johnathan Cox, head keeper at the Buckhurst Estate in East Sussex, is trying to solve for many keen clay, pigeon and wildfowl shooters. Driven game shooting is notorious for being seen as a closed-shop to many of those who love their shotgun shooting. Perhaps the only way for many to spend a day on a peg is if they’re lucky enough to be invited by somebody that is a syndicate member on a local shoot, by a farmer, or even somebody who owns a country estate… you’ve got to be very lucky to manage the latter though!
Introduction days for game shooting
- Johnathan’s shoot day – for people that haven’t shot game or have little experience before – is designed and tailored to open this impenetrable world to all and for a very reasonable price (£250 per Gun for a 60-bird day with 10 Guns).
- There have been a wide range of shooters on these days in the past, though all will have shot before, whether it’s been at clays, rough shooting or pigeons.
- Less confident shots will be assigned somebody to stand with them, to guide them through the key points; safety being the main one, followed by shoot-day etiquette – nobody likes a greedy gun that poaches birds from their neighbour – and judgement on shootable birds, which ones to leave and which ones are both safe and a sporting challenge.
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Johnathan says: “I’m very keen to get as many people as possible into the sport, whether they’re young or old.” Buckhurst Estate is a renowned driven bird shoot and covers 2,300 acres, which leaves plenty of opportunities for pheasants and partridge to wander off and disappear. “Dogging in” is a big part of a gamekeeper’s life along with feeding. Keeping the birds where you want them is a constant battle and it’s vital that the boundaries of the estate are patrolled. “Killing two birds with one stone” (pardon the pun) is possible on these shoot days – the drives used are mainly on the peripheries of the shoot and birds are pushed back into the main drives and the centre of the shoot.
Johnathan says that “these types of shoot days are treated with the same standard and approach as a large bird day. It also gives us the chance, with it being a smaller bag, to experiment with the smaller drives”. Days begin with a light breakfast of bacon rolls and coffee in the shoot hut, followed by a briefing for the day. Safety is stressed and as you’d expect, ground game certainly off limits. Then it’s off to the Gun bus where beaters and Guns travel together.
People from all walks of life
One of the great things about shooting is that on any given day in the field you’ll meet people from all walks of life, backgrounds, ages and professions – today is no exception. In today’s lineup there are:
- Land agents
Policeman Ian Jensen and stockman Warren Weddell are both beaters and helpers on shoot days and this is their first proper shoot day at Buckhurst, too, and fairly typical of the kind of shooter interested in these “intro days”. More experienced shooters than Jason, having shot on farmers’ rough shoots and other beaters’ days, but, nonetheless, very excited about the shoot day. Talking to them afterwards, it’s clear that they’ve both had a great time. Ian said: “It’s a privilege to shoot on an estate like this and you want to savour every bird that you get and shoot the kind of birds that you talk about over dinner. It’s also been a good opportunity to work my dogs from a peg as they’re regular beating dogs.”
Fantastic way to end the shoot day
The last drive of the day is a duck drive. Guns are told to take non-lead cartridges before they’re led down to Buckhurst’s beautiful lake where the Guns line out on the dam. As is the way with ducks, once they’re up and flying, they circle and return to the lake from all directions and at all heights which makes for exciting but challenging shooting. A real bird to shot average wrecker but a fantastic way to end the shoot day.
In the shoot hut, everybody is served venison stew, which gives them time to run through events. The total for the day is 84 birds, partridge, pheasant and duck and some good shooting. As Jason tells me: “It’s nice to do a day where you’re on it all day and I’m beside myself with glee, especially with some of the shots I’ve had today, it’s just amazing really.”
So if you want to know how to get into game shooting and want more information call: 01892 770220 or 07974 936260