Killing two birds with Double Stones
Matt Cross joins a Yorkshire syndicate, where even a campaign of harassment and sabotage has failed to dampen the happy team spirit
The older girl asked again: “How old is he?” The younger one muttered something unsatisfactory. “How old is he?” she insisted teasingly; she was not letting the youngster off the hook. Eventually, the teenager cracked and a number was disclosed. A deep sigh followed, accompanied by a shake of the head and homily on the dangers and true aspirations of older boys.
I had joined the beaters for a couple of drives at Double Stones, a syndicate shoot in Yorkshire. The first drive I had chosen to beat on was a duck drive. Ducks don’t need a lot of beating so, with the team underemployed, there was time to chat. As the ducks spiralled up into the sky, beaters leaned on their sticks, discussed the day so far and dispensed wisdom to the naive.
You can tell a lot about a shoot by its beaters; an unhappy shoot has unhappy beaters and a well-run one has a cheerful crew. The team at Double Stones were happy and friendly, there was no nervousness about a stranger joining them for a couple of drives, they welcomed me and got on with their task. That is the character of the place.
I first visited Double Stones in the spring when they were facing a campaign of harassment and sabotage. Even under the intense pressure, there was a happy, democratic feel and such obvious promise of good shooting that I knew I had to come back in the season.
When I arrived, a late burst of good weather had given the chance for farmers to take a second cut of silage. The tractors were in the fields “rowing up” ahead of the bailer and the air was full of the warm scent of cut grass. With pheasant season yet to begin, the day I joined was on mixed partridge, duck and grouse.
We began with partridges. The birds were driven off the moorland over a small tumbled crag with a pumphouse at its foot, then over the Guns, who were lined out along the walls and tracks. The partridges had been shot a couple of times, so they were thoroughly stirred up and ready to fly well. The beating line brought them swinging round off the moor and sent them over the Guns at a good height. The beaters had done their bit, the Guns did theirs and soon the pickers-up and dogs were busy too.
North Yorkshire is fabulous shooting country and the next drive made the most of it. I joined syndicate member Phil Cawthorne
On a partridge day
On a pheasant day and his cocker spaniels, Ruby and Sapphire. We were in what I would have called a wee glen but what the Yorkshiremen call a ghyll, a tight valley along a stream.
Just reaching our peg was a small adventure. We crossed a deep stream on a bridge of stone slabs beneath a lonely tree. The bridge seemed like something ancient and perfectly in its place. Then we slithered and slipped down the ghyll’s steep sides and hopped the narrow stream.
On a spot of flat ground was our peg, underneath an alder tree still in leaf.
The birds didn’t reach us in great numbers, but they were excellent birds when they came, flying as
The duck drive tested the Guns with high birds38% When do you generally find youshoot better?62%