Game­keeper

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

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - GAME SHOOTING -

TAlex Kee­ble

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.

Wild food

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

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