THE TRADITIONAL WINDOW
and the birds have had enough practice to show themselves well without having got too canny about the way the shoot runs. There might well be a cold snap to bring them in from the hedgerows where the gleanings have been consumed and the hoppers are now a gourmet experience for a hungry bird.
Yet it is not wholly a land of milk and honey, so for the astute shoot manager who wants to keep on top of expectations it is important to offer achievable bags. Whether it’s a syndicate or commercial shoot, don’t be suckered in the balmy days of spring to agree to bags that become tricky when conditions are against you in the dark and dank days of December. The beacon of light that shines through December is Christmas, which provides a window when commercial pressures recede and are replaced by the old fashioned values of having fun. It is a good lesson that shooting needs to be stripped back to essentials of camaraderie, inclusiveness and enjoyment rather than quantity and quality: for the two weeks either side of Christmas this is often the case. Many commercial shoots suspend hostilities in the battle for supremacy over numbers and kills-to-cartridge ratios and put on days for fathers, sons and daughters when it’s all about bringing the families into it. Lines of gnarly beaters find themselves flooded with out-of-control children intent on whacking every passing shrub into submission, before coming together in a shrieking mob in the final stages of the drive just when being disciplined is so important. The experienced keeper grins and bears it as he knows their reports to Dad on what fun they had will influence Dad’s perception of the success of the day and hence how much he will tip.
“Christmas provides a window when commercial pressures recede.”
With the leaves finally off the trees, the pheasant shooting becomes even more fun.