Writer, zoologist and gundog enthusiast, Pippa blogs on life in the countryside

Third driven shoot of the season

Game cartWe had one of our best shoot days ever yesterday.   As you can see our little game cart was bursting at the seams.  There were enough birds for every gun, beater and picker up to take home two brace each,  and some left over for  stocking our freezer! 

Every shoot day I manage to forget something.  This time it was my camera.  I took some pictures with my phone,   but you’ll have to excuse the quality.

It was one of those days when everything just ‘came  together’.   We had some great dogs in the beating line.  The best shots got the best stands on   every drive, and the weather was perfect for the dogs (mild and damp makes for great scent).

The day went smoothly apart from the part where we were pursued by an angry tenant farmer because a beater had parked in front of some important machinery in the yard!  

The justifiably annoyed and delayed fellow came steaming across the field to let us know just what he thought of our inconsiderate behaviour,  in his very smart and very valuable tractor.   Onto the windscreen of which,  Himself managed to drop a large and very dead pheasant,  from a height known to be hazardous to glass.  Happily the windscreen withstood the onslaught,  and said farmer was able to see the funny side.

The farmer,  who fortunately is a very reasonable and forgiving chap,  was plied with sausage rolls, apologies, and cake,  and has hopefully  forgiven us. 

Himself made a mental note to add ‘thoughtful parking’  to the list of reminders in his ‘pre-shoot’ talk.   The ‘pre-shoot talk’  is a stern speech himself delivers before the start of each shoot day reminding all participants of their responsibilities.   Shoots in the UK have an exceptionally high safety record and we take our role in this very seriously.    Our team are all very experienced shots,  but listen uncomplainingly to being reminded of safety instructions and their duties.

Two Soggy Cockers

We had an exceptional bag of a hundred birds,  mostly pheasant,  some duck and a woodcock and all the guns had some good shooting.  

On a small shoot like ours that is not always the case.  The guns draw lots in the yard at the start of the shoot day, to be allocated their peg numbers. 

Not all pegs are equal,  some provide better shooting on average than others,  and it  is down to luck on the day, as to which pegs a gun draws.   Less than half the guns usually get more than half the shooting,  partly because some are much better shots,  and partly due to the peg the gun has drawn.

But yesterday,  everyone has some great shooting,  and we were able to finish the day with that lovely ‘job well done’  feeling.

The  dogs worked their little socks off and we all retired happy and exhausted to the pub for slow roast belly pork and scrumptious vegetables.

It is too mild to hang the pheasants for long and we prefer our pheasants not too ‘gamey’  so Himself and I will be busy plucking and gutting this evening.   Not my favourite job,  but well worth the end result. 

I am going to try some pheasant legs (which can be tough) using a new recipe based on Jamie Oliver’s Rabbit Bolognese.  I jotted down the ingredients and method whilst watching him on TV on  Tuesday.   He cooked the rabbit overnight in a very slow oven with lots of garlic, tomatoes and vegetables.    

I’ll let you know how it works with pheasant!

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