Shooting Gazette - - Letters -

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.

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