On Thursday I had the pleasure of joining five other ladies on a Walked Up shoot with the fantastic Tim Maddams down in Devon. Those of you who know Tim know about his love of the Countryside, game and fine food and we certainly experienced all of this and more that day!
We started the day at the local Social Club with sausage baps and a good cup of coffee. Surprisingly we were joined by a journalist from one of my favourite magazines – The Field, and a photographer who wanted to capture the events of the day. I made it in plenty of time for breakfast and a good catch up with the ladies. Many I had met before or have spoken to online through the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club members page. It was fantastic to finally meet them in person. Before long Tim was ushering us out to the cars with glasses of Port for us all. There really is no better way to start a days shooting!
The Gamekeeper went through the ‘rules’ of the day. For many ladies, including myself, this was our first Walked Up shoot so there was a lot to take in. We all jumped into cars and followed Tim to the first location.
I hopped in with a good friend in her Mini Cooper which must have been a funny site parked up next to the other four by fours in the field!
We had several Walked Up drives through game cover crop and along hedgerows. On the first walked up drive we saw a couple of birds although we only shot one. The thing to remember is the birds will be fast and low. Unlike with driven shooting, where you can be selective of your birds, with a walked up shoot you want to take every bird you can as you will not see all that many. Plus a lot of work has gone into finding the ones you do see and you don’t want to waste all of that effort. As long as it is a safe shot and the bird is a good distance away then take it!
Believe me you will miss more than you hit as they are surprisingly quick and unlike with driven you do not get a long time to prepare.
We stopped for elevenses and this is where Tim really is in his element. There was a beautiful spicy ‘Duck Shot’ made by Tim himself with local meat and apparently, squirrel stock! It was delicious and just what we needed on a cold day. We also had some truffle cheese, local homemade pheasant salami and pork scratchings. We rounded everything off with espresso truffles and a little snifter. Tim must have known I was coming as he had Rum and not just any Rum but Blackberry Rum. Perfect!
The afternoon consisted of two mini driven drives one of which was rich with birds where I managed to bag myself a brace of pheasants. The second drive I was a walking gun and wow did I walk. I had to clamber up a steep slope into a field of turnips before trekking to the far side before we could start. Poor Tim had to keep stopping to wait for me but I blame the short legs, those pesky turnips that were forever tripping me up and the heavy gun and cartridges I was carrying; but eventually we got there. Our job was to push the birds from the top field down over the trees to the guns below. Any birds that went behind or to the side were mine and any heading towards the guns were for them.
This was great fun and married two of my loves in one – walking and shooting!
We ended the day with a duck drive which was spectacular. I do love duck they fly high, are fast but also very predictable. It was easy to know where they would be at that time of the day and the dogs did a good job of getting them up in the air. The first bird I picked up was on the edge of a very large group that had flown up off the pond. I kept on him and slowly pushed ahead before pulling the trigger. Bang! It was a perfect shot and that duck was definitely my days ‘Bath Bird’. I thought about that shot all of the way home and it was the first one I told my husband about when I got in.
With numb fingers and cold toes we headed back to the Social Club for a three course shoot lunch cooked by the talented Tim himself. I had walked 12.5km so I certainly think I had earned my supper that day. It was just beautiful and the main used up some of the pheasant and mallard shot by a previous party. Game meat is so tasty and incredibly healthy and to finish off a days shooting by eating some of the birds like we had shot was just perfect.
As I left I took a brace of duck and a brace of pheasant for my own consumption and a brace of pheasant for some friends. I want to encourage more people to enjoy and eat game. She loved them and will be buying more game herself in future. Win!
I had the most amazing day and the bag, although to some would have been small, was just perfect. We worked hard to find our birds, walking over tricky terrain, through bogs, brambles and over barbed wire fencing so when we did find our birds it made it all worth it. To me Game Shooting is about feeding your family and having fun whilst you do it. I like to work hard for my birds as I feel so much more deserving when I do get them, which in turn makes eating them so rewarding.
I really have loved walked up shooting and can’t wait to go again!