I just need to start by saying what an absolutely magical day I had, it was completely fantastic and made me realise just why so many of us enjoy this superb sport and way of life.
Having decided in January that this year I would throw myself out of my comfort zone and try something completely new I ventured to Holwell Manor in Dorset for my first driven pheasant shoot. I spent the evening before prepping and loading up the car so I was ready to leave bright and early.
The day started as most good days do with a nice strong cup of coffee, biscuits and a good chit chat with fellow guns. As it was my first driven shoot I was peg sharing with a close friend so she could show me the ropes and support me throughout the day. We both caught up with the Shoot Captain to check how he would like the peg shared; in my head I always thought we would both be there with our guns and would each take it in turns to shoot on the drive. As it turned out we shot a drive each and then for the fifth drive one of us was back gun. So it is always polite to speak to the Shoot Captain on the day as it is their shoot!
I would definitely recommend a peg share for your first game day. It s nice to have someone there for company and to help point out what is a safe and sporting bird to take. I think I would have found standing on peg quite lonely my first time.
As we were waiting to head out to the first drive my nerves and excitement were building. I felt like an imposter in someone else’s world and I just couldn’t wait to get my first shot and first bird out of the way so I could relax a bit and feel like a real game shooter.
The horn sounded as the beaters were nearing and all around me it was silent as we awaited sight of the birds. You could feel the excitement in the air like electricity it was just astounding. Then bang, the first gun in the line started, I watched as their bird dropped and just couldn’t wait for my turn. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to bag myself a bird on this drive but never mind there were two more drives left for me.
We stopped for elevenses back at the shoot room and we all reflected on the first two drives. Elevenses was just fantastic, a glass or two of champers; sausage baps and a cup of soup! Shoot days are definitely not for the faint hearted, there is a constant stream of fantastic food throughout the day and you really need to fight to keep up! After all it would be rude not too right?!?!
I bagged my first bird on the drive straight after. It was a nice clean kill and the picker up gave her to me at the end of the drive so I could mark her and take her home. We then all shared a little glass of fizz in the field to celebrate my first bird. In game shooting there is a saying about your ‘bath bird’; essentially it is the one bird that you think about when at home in the bath at the end of the day. And I can safely say my first bird was definitely my ‘bath bird’; I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I finished the day on a high as I managed to get three further birds on the final drive as back gun. There were even some whoops and cheers from guns in the line when I managed to kill a bird that they had missed. To finish the day with four birds in total was just astounding given it was my first day; I was so happy to have finally bitten the bullet (pun intended) and given game shooting a go. I really have caught the shooting bug and cannot wait to get back out in the field!
The day ended with dinner in the shoot room followed by cheese, chocolates and with plenty of wine. It was a fabulous way to end such a special day.
We even left with a brace of oven ready birds and I mean oven ready; no plucking, gutting or prepping! It was very kind of the keeper to treat us so specially and save us all a rather long and laborious job. Although I do still have my first bird hanging as I would like to prepare her myself. There is something special about knowing you have fed your family on something you have killed, prepped and cooked yourself. Gives a whole new meaning to bringing home the bacon!