Shoot day and the weather is terrible! Storm Desmond is in full swing and as far as I know, every other shoot locally has canceled. But not us. Brave or stupid? I hesitate to say which.
Our shoot has land at two different locations and the pheasants are released at different times. This was the first time shooting at this location this season. We had lunch laid on (unusual for us) and if we canceled, someone would be eating pie every day for the next three weeks! We thought we would give it a go. The land isn't exactly sheltered and the rain is torrential and the winds are gale force. So we sat in the shoot hut and waited for it to die down a bit. Sitting with our backs to the wall of what was a static caravan, we felt the wall bending in about five inches with gusts. Cue conversations about whose cars were in the way if the whole plot rolled over. Personally, if we were in it, I thought damage to the cars would not be the worst thing.
Eventually we realised it wasn't going to die down. So we thought let's do two or three drives, see how it goes. Set out the guns a bit differently on the first drive, thinking that the birds will go with the wind. Incredibly, they fly into the face of it, keeping low to miss the worst of it. Only one bird in the bag.
The next drive is higher, so more chance of the birds catching that wicked wind! Guns set out accordingly and off we go. The first few birds just fly over the beaters and settle again. Not looking good. Then, they started to get up and hit the wind. Really high and going like the clappers! Anybody bringing them down needed a good slap on the back, but some were coming down! We did two more drives after that. All high, fast birds. People were forgetting the weather and really enjoying themselves. The drives towards the top of the ground we had to leave. The birds would in all likelihood been hardly shoot-able and they would have carried way off our land, no doubt never to be seen again.
So it was back to the shoot hut to compare stories of high, outrageously curling supersonic pheasants being dragged down, to pour the water out of wellies and to squelch down onto a seat and enjoy lunch. The bag of 33 pheasants was magnificent considering.
We had planned to do a duck flight, but with the amount of standing water (not far from Cockermouth) and the now tired and damp guns and beaters, the enthusiasm to stand out in that weather again in the dark was not great, so, as they say, we took a rain check on that. But we ended the day with smiles all round and more memories to put in the old bank.
Were we stupid to shoot? Well you had to be careful. At one time, in a fairly exposed position, I turned to face a passing pheasant and raised my gun, to become a bit of a sail caught in the wind and I didn't shoot at it, but had to struggle a little to keep my footing. But the smiles back in the hut told their own story.
So long as every day isn't like that!