Small bag days offer the greatest pleasure
Ihave been shooting with the same team of Guns, more or less, for three decades. We take a handful of days together each season. We were a roving syndicate before the term had even been invented. But we soon tripped over a few estates which were so lovely that we stopped roving and just shot there each year instead. And the day which is most keenly anticipated and eagerly bid for is the smallest of the lot. Now it might be said that small days are attractive because they don’t cost as much as a bigger day. And that’s true. A small day that is not costing you the price of a family skiing holiday is perhaps easier to enjoy because it is free from the taint of selfishness.
However, it is the case that this little day I am referring to is also notoriously the best fun. Everyone seems to be having a good time. I did once ask the headkeeper whether they were having as much fun as we were and he said everyone on his side of the fence enjoyed it hugely.
“With a small day,” he said, “we don’t really have to worry. We can always find you enough pheasants to make the bag so there isn’t a lot of pressure. If we should be behind at any point I know that I can always take you to a bigger drive and I can be sure that your team will knock down enough to get us back on track.”
It also helps that the estate itself is one of the grandest in England. It is easy to enjoy oneself with the Palladian front of the west wing as a backdrop and the deer browsing in the park. And we have time for elevenses and we have time for lunch. And time is priceless.
I’m not going to tell you how many we shoot and I won’t tell you what they cost because that really isn’t the point. I try not to calibrate the quality of a day’s shooting in numbers. I try to measure the happiness factor. And when you are only expecting to shoot a handful of cocks, each one is ascribed a significantly greater quotient of pure pleasure that any one of the dozens knocked down in a busy drive on a bigger day.