The first shoot day on a new estate is always nerve-racking but the support of some older beaters and altered drives make it a success
he moment finally arrived and I had my first shoot day on the new estate I am keepering. Thankfully, a few of the old beaters turned up to help out; the rest were new to me and the ground but they all did a fantastic job. Having a good team of regular beaters pays dividends and having steady, trained dogs is also a bonus. Unfortunately for me, my bitch Rose was in season and my dog Marcus was lame so I had to run the day dog-less. This makes beating feel very odd.
Radios are vital in the beating line and, due to the topography and heavily wooded areas on the estate, they struggled, so perhaps we need to invest in some licensed radios. The wind was around 25kmh in a southerly direction, which for a couple of drives would be in the birds’ faces or crossing the drive. Taking the wind into account, we had to move the pegs around and move my flags/stops into different places to try to funnel the birds in the correct direction.
On a couple of the drives the birds preferred to fly through gaps in the trees so flags will be placed in front of these gaps next time to help spread them evenly over the line. The drives consist mainly of woodland with large blocks of bramble, laurel, bracken and rhododendron. These blocks make shooting game in early October a struggle due to the amount of cover still standing.
I topped a few rides in the brambles a few weeks ago to help the beaters get through them, but the laurels need major work to make them easier to access. As it was the first day, the birds tended to sit very tight in the cover at the end of the drive and this made it difficult to stop large flushes occurring.
The plan was to shoot four or five drives with consistent numbers being bagged from each one; some of the drives needed other woods blanked into them to bulk up the numbers to allow this to happen. Forty to 50 a drive would be needed to reach the bag on the day. Running it this way allows all the Guns to get some shooting instead of having a quiet drive and a busy drive.
We only release a very small number of partridges on the shoot and I was pleased that each drive held a covey or two, which flew well in the wind. People struggle with holding partridges but using my release technique and keeping them quiet tends to make them hold well for me. They are more loyal than pheasants and once they have established where they want to live they rarely will move from that area.
The birds have all eased up on their feed intake over the past few weeks as they are eating the various forms of wild foods that the woods provide — acorns, beechnuts and walnuts that have been smashed on the roads are all being utilised. Feeding the day after a shoot is always a nervy time but the feed rides looked good at the time of writing, with heavy rainfall keeping the birds tight after being shot yesterday.
There are a few tweaks I shall implement on the next shoot day — moving positons of flag men, moving pegs and beating lines accordingly — but overall I am pleased with how it all performed first time round. We ended up shooting a total of 204, which was what we were aiming for and, because we released the birds first week of July, they were all well feathered and fit. The surplus game that was not taken by the Guns or beaters will be going to the local game dealer and I will fill my freezer with a few.
The next shoot day is in a week’s time so it will all be happening again, so wish me luck for the rest of the season.
“We only release a small number of partridges but each drive held a covey or two, which flew well in the wind”
Some drives and pegs have been moved so that the birds funnelled out evenly over the Gun line