Tra­di­tional par­tridge

Shooting Gazette - - Gun Dogs - By Giles Catch­pole

The mod­ern fash­ion for shoot­ing – one might rea­son­ably say shoot­ing at – ex­tremely high pheas­ants has lead, in­ex­orably, to a trend for shoot­ing at ex­tremely high par­tridges. Be­cause if you are go­ing to stock your ex­tremely high pheas­ant shoot with ex­tremely high pheas­ants you might as well ex­tend your shoot­ing sea­son by stuff­ing it with some ex­tremely high par­tridges too. It makes sense.

What makes less sense, to me, is why folk have this ur­gent need to shoot at things which are a very, very long way away. Dis­tance is only one as­pect of dif­fi­culty, after all. Speed and di­rec­tion also make for chal­leng­ing shoot­ing and the covey is per­haps one of the finest de­fence mech­a­nisms ever in­vented.

Tra­di­tion­ally, par­tridges were driven across hedges or, at a push, over shel­ter belts and they would come for­ward in cov­eys which would flare dra­mat­i­cally as they spot­ted the guns wait­ing beyond or below them. Those were English par­tridges, of course, which were smaller and faster and gen­er­ally more dy­namic than their French cousins and as the reared French­men have pro­gres­sively pop­u­lated our low­land shoots in­creas­ing height has sup­planted speed and vigour as the def­i­ni­tion of sport­ing­ness.

How­ever, there are still es­tates – and more im­por­tantly, there are still keep­ers and own­ers – who will make cre­ative and imag­i­na­tive use of to­pog­ra­phy, cover crops, hedges and shel­ter belts and, cru­cially, peg place­ment to present par­tridges that will chal­lenge the best. Lit­tle packs of birds pushed steadily across a tallish hedge just often enough to make quick and ef­fi­cient reload­ing a proper skill, which flare and fizz above the line with a bit of sun be­hind them will bam­boo­zle even ex­pe­ri­enced guns.

While noth­ing can com­pletely recre­ate the thrill of wild birds star­burst­ing across a Nor­folk hedge, re­ally skil­ful pre­sen­ta­tion of reared par­tridges can achieve a thrilling level of chal­leng­ing shoot­ing without the need to have them launched of some vast es­carp­ment. And if you want to shoot them far, far away as well, just shoot your neigh­bour’s birds for him. And in­vite him – or her - to shoot yours, ob­vi­ously. Oth­er­wise, it’s just showing off.

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