Greedy shot or Good sport?

There is a marked dif­fer­ence be­tween a good shot and a good sport. By T.J.V. Thomp­son.

Shooting Gazette - - Next Month -

Iwas talk­ing to a fel­low pickerup a few years ago about the per­for­mance of the team of guns vis­it­ing the shoot that day. My col­league, who liked to give his dogs plenty of work, was might­ily im­pressed by them but I had to par­tially dis­agree. Ad­mit­tedly, they were de­cent per­form­ers but were not par­tic­u­larly dis­cern­ing, with a cou­ple of ‘star’ shoot­ers blast­ing away at some hedge-hop­pers that many would have felt em­bar­rassed at shoot­ing on a for­mal driven day. This once again brought to the fore the ageold ques­tion: is a good shot al­ways a good sport?

About 20 years ago I bought a gun on a 100-bird day. I had been to the venue be­fore and had al­ways en­joyed the days, meet­ing some in­ter­est­ing peo­ple (in­clud­ing a vet­eran for­mer Bri­tish skeet cham­pion who was a true gen­tle­man in ev­ery con­ceiv­able way). On the day, most of the guns were un­known quan­ti­ties, al­though one chap was quick to put him­self in the lime­light as he re­galed us with tales of his prow­ess. As the day pro­gressed it be­came clear he wasn’t ex­ag­ger­at­ing, and his 20 bore con­sis­tently pulled down some ex­cep­tion­ally high mal­lard in an ad­mirable dis­play of marks­man­ship that Mr Av­er­age such as my­self could only dream of.

At lunch we had around 50 head in the bag and the keeper had planned a cou­ple of busy drives for us to fin­ish off the day in style. Over lunch the crack­shot told us he had booked a week of dove shoot­ing in Ar­gentina, ex­plain­ing the pro­jected daily tally per gun was 500 doves. I wasn’t the only one to feel this was a tad ex­treme but said noth­ing as we all have dif­fer­ing feel­ings on the sub­ject of bags. Any­way, we reached the next drive where the crack-shot was num­ber nine, the walk­ing gun on the outer edge of the home wood. He dis­ap­peared off with the beat­ers who were blank­ing in the outer edge, while the rest of the team went to our pegs in a one-acre clear­ing of pic­turesque park­land in the cen­tre of the wood.

I knew from ex­pe­ri­ence we would have a 20 minute wait for the blank­ing-in ma­noeu­vres to be com­pleted so I was sur­prised to hear the reg­u­lar crack of a 20 bore from out­side the wood. Sin­gle shot after sin­gle shot echoed through the trees, at which point I over­heard the crack­shot’s shoot­ing com­pan­ion say that his friend took his shoot­ing “very se­ri­ously”. We found out just how se­ri­ously when only around a cou­ple of dozen pheas­ants came for­ward, out of which us mere mor­tals downed fewer than half. The horn sounded and we went back to the trans­port where we found the crack-shot stand­ing over a pile of pheas­ants that the keeper and the shoot man­ager were brac­ing up and load­ing on to the game cart. “What do you think of that?” asked the crack-shot, a beam­ing smile spread­ing across his face. “I had 40 shots and got 38 pheas­ants; I think it’s the best drive I’ve ever had.”

I later learned from a cou­ple of the beat­ers how the crack-shot man­aged this feat. His in­struc­tion was to take any sport­ing birds go­ing back as the hedge was dogged-out, but the chap shot ev­ery­thing that broke cover, re­gard­less of whether it was go­ing back or for­ward into the drive.

The beat­ers weren’t par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with the safety of his shot se­lec­tion ei­ther. With his mag­nif­i­cent con­tri­bu­tion, the team had al­ready ex­ceeded the 100 bird tar­get, so the shoot man­ager had the un­pleas­ant task of call­ing an early end to pro­ceed­ings and tak­ing our money. Sev­eral guns were rather tetchy, as they had barely got their bar­rels dirty all day and still had to pay for the priv­i­lege (but the crack-shot was de­lighted when he recorded on his game card that he had shot more than 50 per cent of the bag).

The amus­ing part came when the crack-shot asked if there were any more let days avail­able and he booked him­self in for the three re­main­ing days. Sur­pris­ingly no­body else dis­played any in­ter­est when the shoot man­ager of­fered them the chance to buy a gun on th­ese dates…

Around 10 years later I found my­self as num­ber nine on that very same drive. I had the same op­por­tu­nity as the crack-shot but I re­frained from

“The chap shot ev­ery­thing that broke cover... the beat­ers were not im­pressed.”

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