Westley Richards’ managing director discusses dangerous game, deer management and his distaste for elitism.
What was your season like last year?
most of my sport is international big game hunting as opposed to game shooting in the UK. I am lucky enough to go on at least one or two safaris a year. In recent years I have hunted in tanzania, South Africa, Alaska, texas and Austria. I’ve hunted a lot of different species and feel that each one brings its own challenges. I do a small amount of bird shooting here with friends, which includes wildfowling and driven partridge/pheasant. Over the years I’ve shot just about every quarry species in this country and have then progressed elsewhere in the world.
What is your favourite story with dangerous game?
During a relatively recent safari to tanzania the client fell ill on the very first day of the safari and so offered that I take his brand new Westley richards .577 double rifle out with me. typically we encountered two good bulls in the thick tall elephant grass common to this area. With some very careful stalking the professional hunter and I were able to approach to within 13 paces and shoot a nice buffalo. I then thought to myself this client had spent all that money on a brand new rifle and I was the first person to get an animal down with it! In fairness he could not have been happier and was pleased that the man responsible for getting his rifle built was the one responsible for the first successful hunt with it.
Who got you into the shooting world?
I’ve been doing it since I was 11 but got into it seriously when I was about 15. Years ago, a friend of mine gave me some large calibre rounds, .450 Nitro express etc., and this really sparked my interest in big game rifles and hunting. A few years later I bumped into the late Simon Clode, the then owner of Westley richards, at an arms show in London. He offered me a job, but I’d just accepted a place at university. After university I went back to him and he gave me a role. I’ve now been doing this for 20-odd years. I initially did four-and-a-half years here at Westley richards, then seven years at e.j. Churchill before returning to Westley richards where I’ve been ever since.
Sometimes the passion burns brighter if it is something you’ve found yourself?
that’s true. I think so many people force their children into doing things, especially in this day and age. they start them very young and then by the time they’re 20 they are bored with it. If you come into it yourself you normally have a passion for it.
I really enjoy the big calibre rifles and the manufacture of them. my speciality is the building of these, putting some truly unique projects together. I am also very keen to change how the industry will be perceived going forward and I’m working on some projects now that are looking to the future both here in the UK and internationally. You need to engage with a younger generation of clients so that companies like Westley richards can continue to build best guns and rifles for another 200 years. It’s not just about the guns, though - you need to show what sport is out there and how lucky we are to be able to partake in it.
What was your first shooting trip?
When I was a kid I remember bunking off school to go and shoot on my friends’ farms. We often decoyed pigeons, shot rabbits and, if we were lucky, shot the occasional game. Since those early days I have done all sorts of shooting and consider myself non-elitist, rather a have-a-go-guy. I am actually into all aspects of the sport. even though I am now managing director of Westley richards, my best buddies are the people I started out with and I still have as much fun lamping with them as I do chasing dangerous game internationally.
roe stalking is your favourite sporting pursuit at home?
Yes, I love roe stalking because it is a singular pursuit, often for a specific animal. I think it is the most spectacular trophy in britain and we are privileged to have such an iconic deer species on these shores. the management of deer is more important to me than the actual killing. the ground I have now has some fantastic quality but I have been careful to remove older bucks, poor quality and young heads this year. I manage does in a similar way, taking care not to remove key genetic stock that has bred with the better bucks. I have left a lot of great heads this year and hope to see the benefit of this in the future. Years ago I would have been far less selective and was solely focused on hunting. However, as I got older and more experienced I become more interested in the management of things and how you can improve a place.
“It’s not just about guns - you need to show what sport is out there and how lucky we are to be able to partake in it.”