I can’t take game for granted

Why it’s up to me to do all I can to con­sume my share of shoot­ing’s har­vest.

Shooting Gazette - - Sporting responsibilities - By Martin Pud­difer.

Ihave a con­fes­sion that I am proud to make. I love our sport. I love food. I love the fact that as a re­sult of our sport there is a tasty, healthy and abun­dant sup­ply of meat that all of us, wher­ever we are in the coun­try and whether we shoot or not, can en­joy dur­ing the sea­son. At this time of year you’ll find me skip­ping be­tween one of sev­eral lo­cal butch­ers in my mar­ket town home, ask­ing each aproned fel­low be­hind the counter if there is any game to be had. Some­times my en­quiry is greeted with a nod and then a fresh tray of oven-ready par­tridges or pheas­ants is draw from the preparation area in the back, some­times a dozen, some­times two dozen birds to choose from. They come from lo­cal shoots in the area, each look­ing as ap­petis­ing as the last. Oc­ca­sion­ally I ar­rive too late and all the game is gone. I could be sad about that and leave the shop a lit­tle like J.R. Hart­ley, but I am en­er­gised by the fact that there are plenty of peo­ple in the lo­cal vicin­ity who en­joy game as much as I do.

I must also con­fess to be­ing a lit­tle clumsy when deal­ing with birds in the feather af­ter a day’s shoot­ing. Try as I might, I make a com­plete mess of things. I at­tempt to pick out ev­ery last bit of meat from the car­cass and it all gets eaten, don’t worry about that – you have to put my bas­set hound on lead when I bring the birds in from a day in the field – I just wish I was a lot ti­dier than I cur­rently am. If you’re able to help me in my quest for the perfectly dressed bird please get in touch as I am keen to im­prove. One thing I have learnt in the last few years is how to hang game prop­erly, or rather, not to hang them at all. A farmer friend told me a few sea­sons ago that a brace should not be at­tached to the hook in the garage but in fact wrapped care­fully in a car­rier bag, taken straight to the fridge and stored therein for a cou­ple of days. Ini­tially I baulked at such a sug­ges­tion but he was right; the way the birds’ in­sides break down when they are laid in a chilled area is markedly dif­fer­ent than when hung by the neck – and they cer­tainly taste bet­ter. Jose Souto agrees, as you may have read a few pages ear­lier. Per­haps I should start lis­ten­ing to my friend about my shoot­ing, too.

As a food lover I nat­u­rally hate waste, even go­ing so far as to ad­mon­ish my­self if I find there is a tiny morsel of mush­room in the back of the fridge that now re­sem­bles wa­ter­cress. I’m very lucky to be of­fered a brace of birds – in the feather and oc­ca­sion­ally oven­ready – when vis­it­ing shoots up and down the land. I will al­ways be happy to take a brace but on the rare oc­ca­sions I can’t I’ll al­ways ask if some­one else will have it, and thank­fully there’s al­ways some­one who will. I eat what I shoot and I hope that I can say, hand on heart, that I eat as much game as pos­si­ble dur­ing the sea­son. I’m not say­ing my freezer has to be burst­ing with game, per­haps that I just need to make an ex­tra ef­fort to take it home when of­fered or even en­cour­age oth­ers to try what I know to be good eat­ing when out at a restau­rant. I’m lucky in that I know a great lit­tle place near us which takes the game off a shoot I have vis­ited thrice with my farmer friend. It’s heart­en­ing to know that the roast pheas­ant I have al­ways or­dered each time may very well be that corker I plucked out of the sky a few days ear­lier and about three miles away. Bet­ter still, hope­fully one of my fel­low din­ers will try a piece and or­der it the next time we swing by. As a key link in the chain be­tween field and fork it’s my duty to tell peo­ple as much as I can about the food source I love. I have to use it or risk los­ing it.

I’m very lucky to be of­fered a brace of birds when I visit shoots up and down the land.

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