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

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - GAME SHOOTING -

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.

Demo­cratic

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.

Ad­ven­ture

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%

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