The Stockton shoot owner on hosting days, keeping keepers happy and the start of the partridge season.
How did you get involved in game shooting?
We’ve always had a shoot on the farm I grew up on and I couldn’t get out enough from the earliest age.
How did you get involved in shoot management?
From 1992 I ran the shoot while working in London but only as a family affair. When I left London in 1999 I rented the shoot next door and that meant selling days. I was worried about turning a hobby into a job, but found it was rewarding so I carried on and here we are today.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a shoot manager?
Don’t forget to enjoy it. Ultimately you are selling pleasure and if you are grumpy you fail that objective, however good the shoot is.
What advice would you give to those who are just starting out in shoot management? Get a good team around you: plenty will go wrong over the years and how the team responds will help you recover the situation. Don’t be afraid to experiment; keep moving the shoot forward or it will go stale. make sure you are pleasant to everyone all the time on a shoot day – you are a host not a bag-filler.
How do you keep your gamekeepers happy?
I don’t know if I do. my two principal mantras are (a) always be positive when things aren’t working and never apportion blame; and (b) always get the best possible equipment. If you expect keepers to put in top effort, their results shouldn’t be hindered by poor kit.
When would you say that your birds are at their absolute peak?
Late September/october for partridges and December for pheasants.
When a drive is in progress, are you also ‘mentally’ shooting yourself or just enjoying the spectacle?
I get as much pleasure watching a drive as shooting, often more. I place the guns each drive, so I’m always concentrating to see if I called it right that time and looking for tell-tale signs of what might happen next. Only rarely do I think how I’d be shooting on that drive.
How many times a season might you shoot, and do you feel any pressure when it’s on your home patch?
I did 30 days last season, four in Spain and the rest evenly split between home and away. Our family days are mostly from Christmas onwards when the commercial days are largely over and the pressure is off. I enjoy the fact that the bag is for once immaterial and my guests are invited to have fun, not criticise how I run it!