Good morning everyone!
At some point last year, I set out to organise some roughshooting for my three friends and I as we had come to the conclusion, after seven dogged but almost entirely unsuccessful wildfowling seasons, that we just weren’t able to make the best of our wildfowling club membership. This is really because of distance and availability, the ducks favour locals due to their propensity to turn up at the appropriate time rather than because they’re free that Saturday. Our little group doesn’t care about big bags, and we have limited budget and availability. What we like though is to earn our game, and we prefer one rabbit that we had to ferret around for than 20 reared pheasants that were made to fly over us. Now in the South-East, that’s not an easy thing to come by, but I placed an advert on this site and a couple of options emerged.
The first was a small commercial walk-one, stand-one day in Sussex which we went on in November. It was fine, nothing wrong with it, the price was decent, but there was a lot of cavalcading around in 4x4s involved, and it was all a bit “pick your own strawberries” as far as the shooting was concerned. Good fun, but somehow, shooting a right-and-left on pheasants within clear sight of the release pen just wasn’t really satisfying. You want to at least pretend to be shooting wild game… So friendly as that was, we decided not to return it wasn’t what we were looking for.
The second opportunity however was courtesy of a very generous member of this site who I will not name as he may not want everyone knocking on his door as a result, although he may choose to reveal himself. We shall call him C. Now C didn’t know my friends from Adam and knew me only through my posts on the site, and yet he invited all four of us to join him and his friends for a day’s mixed roughshooting, and despite my best efforts to repay his hospitality with gifts of some description, ended up providing us with this day in exchange for nothing but big smiles and handshakes. In the run-up to the day, I received enthusiastic phone calls about huge flocks of mallard and wigeon, falls of woodcock, and my excitement and anticipation just grew and grew. In addition, when C. saw that I’d acquired a drilling, he tacked on an early morning stalk for a muntjac before the main event, and camera trap pictures of big old bucks duly followed! So it was an excited party of four that met up at the inn that C had recommended on Friday night.
Saturday morning saw me standing in a rainy, windswept pub car park just before 7am to finally meet C. in person. We shared the van with a couple of spaniels who were so quiet that I didn’t realise there were there until we arrived at the stalking ground. The conditions were frankly awful: very strong winds and rain. We crept and peered through some more sheltered wooded areas but there was nothing to be seen. Nevertheless, I had a chance to walk around looking for deer with my drilling, and what a pleasure it was to just break the gun to hop over ditches rather than to have to unload of a bolt-action! It also brought home the need for a sling. After the stalk, back to the pub to pick up the three others, and off we went to meet the other guns and beaters.
We met outside a church, and you couldn’t ask for a friendlier mix of people (and dogs!) of all ages and backgrounds. Over the course of the day we trudged up hills, through thick brambles, had our faces scratched by thorns and whipped by branches, all whilst being constantly buffeted by high winds. Great views over the landscape from some of the high spots, we saw a few woodcock, a fox who crept by unsaluted on the crest of a hill, and some pretty wild pheasants, as well as some pigeons flying at warp 8 on the wind who were missed by a mile. We shot a few ducks on the pond, ended with a duck flight along a lake until, as is the way with these things, we realised that we just couldn’t see a thing anymore. I’m not going to go into bag numbers and so on, because I don’t know, and I don’t really care. The point was that it was welcoming, it was proper ferreting around for some difficult game, there was no cavalcade of Range Rovers, and every bird felt earned. It was what we had set out to do, and we loved it. What’s more, we shall be back!
They say a picture says a thousand words, so here’s one of my friends A. and R. who had each just shot a duck. Look at those grins. I think that says it all.
So thanks very much to C (you know who you are) from four very grateful people whose day you made, and who you have reassured that sort of shooting we were looking for is out there!
Oh, and a drilling starts to weigh a bit on the arms at the end of a day like this. It’s really just quite a lot of steel to carry around.