Having turned 60 acres into a successful driven shoot, a headmaster is now investing in the next generation discovers Patrick Galbraith
Pulling me from my reverie, a group of mallard lifted and circled towards us. Archie, who was on my left, got off to a superb start by dropping one at his feet, which was quickly followed by a second and then a third, each of them dead in the air.
“Do you think you might have a knack for shooting,” I asked him as we headed to the final drive of the day where I was going to try to help him shoot a snipe. “I think so,” he replied.
Looking across the bog through the rain, I dropped two cartridges into the little Spanish .410 and passed him the gun. The best advice I could give was to wait until the bird stopped zigzagging and then shoot instinctively.
As Chris started beating through the rushes, a little black dot appeared and flew low over the ground before climbing upwards and taking form as a snipe. Rosie, Chris’s older daughter, who had been shooting well all day, fired at it but it flew on to tell the tale.
“She’s being telling me how much she wants to shoot a snipe all day,” Chris told me later.
Some weeks later while chatting to Duncan Thomas, BASC’s north of England director, I mentioned I’d been shooting with Chris Hattam. “I know him well,” Duncan interjected. “The man’s efforts in investing in Young Shots are astonishing.”
Duncan added that he feels in many ways young people have fewer opportunities to shoot than they used to. “Fifty years ago you had youngsters picking up the farm shotgun and going for a wander on land they had permission on but nowadays that simply doesn’t happen,” he mused.
However, he is positive about the future of shooting. “Every year BASC runs six Young Shots days in the north and they’re always sold out,” he said. More than that, he told me he’s positive about the future because of the ‘generosity of the shooting community’, which he says never ceases to amaze him.”
It is as an observation that perfectly captures what Chris is doing at Lagg — every child who went away that day, clutching a brace of birds, had experienced something incredibly formative and couldn’t wait to have another go.
How many of us, I wonder, could invite a friend’s son or daughter along with us to shoot and in doing so pass on a passion for this precious sport?