Bar­ney Strat­ton

The Stock­ton shoot owner on host­ing days, keep­ing keep­ers happy and the start of the par­tridge sea­son.

Shooting Gazette - - Shoot Briefing -

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!

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