An extra slice of sport
It is hard to beat those informal, tag-on moments of a shooting day, particularly when they involve a crack at the duck, says Blue Zulu
Would any gentleman care for a go at the dooks?” It is not a question posed much in the south, where covert Shots are too well trained to the marital recall whistle, abandoning their companions early for the horrors of a formal dinner party.
In the more civilised parts of the realm, however, a shooting day isn’t quite over after tea and fruitcake. With the right gamekeeper, there is always the chance of an extra slice of sport, sometimes a chance at a buck but more often a crack at the fowl.
It would be much easier, of course, for keepers not to make the offer, as game has to be hung and dogs need feeding. But most of them went into the profession through a passion for sport and if there is a chance of adding to the bag, and the Guns are keen, they are often up for the challenge.
It is an invitation I never refuse. I love the change of pace, from the rigid formality of the covert, where you have to decide which birds are yours, to the free-for-all of flighting, where if the shot is safe, you take it. There is no need for a battery of kit either, just a belt of steel cartridges, and while you might not be the best of shots on archangels, it is a chance for those brought up on the foreshore to even the odds with the high-bird professors.
For flighting requires fieldcraft: the knowledge of how ducks come into the wind; how to wait until they are committed; and the hearing and night sight to continue shooting after the game Shots have given up.
Last season a handful of us took up the headkeeper’s invitation after most of the party had retired. The Hiluxes swept into the yard, the underkeepers still in estate tweed but now topped with camo coats. The formality of the relationship, always maintained during driven days, evaporates and you are now a hunting party, on firstname terms, as you clamber out to open the gates that lead to the water.
22 • SHOOTING TIMES & Country magazine
on this occasion we were heading to a river with a good head of wild mallard and the occasional teal. as such, there was plenty of room for everyone and we were blessed with an absence of lemons: nothing ruins a flight faster than a bloke who fires too early, before the ducks are dropping in; or the man who is too scared to shoot at all, allowing the fowl to settle on the water and then exit against
“It is a chance for those brought up on the foreshore to even the odds with the highbird professors”