Com­plete cock-ups

Ev­ery keeper as­pires to smooth-run­ning shoot days but, as Adam Smith re­calls, the best-laid plans don’t al­ways hatch per­fect chicks

Sporting Shooter - - Keeper’s Country -

Cock shoots – though th­ese days both cocks and hens are usu­ally on of­fer – can be fraught oc­ca­sions. It’s the one op­por­tu­nity in the year to try your skill, luck, or a bit of both, at the tar­gets you’ve watched all the toffs miss­ing so reg­u­larly, and with such ease, of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by groans and some, not al­ways softly mut­tered, cri­tiques from the beat­ing line. So much per­sonal suc­cess, or fail­ure, hangs on the day, as they say.

This par­tic­u­lar day had gone pretty well and each team of Guns had had their fair share of stand one/beat one drives. Our team had just fin­ished beat­ing the penul­ti­mate drive with stand­ing for a grand fi­nale; two ma­jor drives blanked into one as an ea­gerly ex­pected end to the day. Chat­ter­ing ex­cit­edly, we walked back to the farm where the beat­ers’ trailer waited to carry us on­ward – ex­cept it wasn’t there.

Now, un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, this might have been in­con­ve­nient, but not dis­as­trous. We all thought the trac­tor driver knew that we would be back, but he’d ob­vi­ously mis­un­der­stood and driven round to pick us up from the other end of the wood. No prob­lem, ex­cept… well, ex­cept that he was so – how best to put it? – ‘in­tel­lec­tu­ally chal­lenged’ that it wasn’t worth giv­ing him a walkie-talkie or a mo­bile phone be­cause, as he so fre­quently said: “If you carry one of they things, peo­ple’s for­ever rin­gin’ you up.”

So, while he trun­dled ever fur­ther from where he should have been, and with the clock tick­ing away as the day drew to its close, we were left frus­trated and fum­ing. Even­tu­ally, hav­ing linked up with the other team of Guns and been urged to go back to col­lect us, the trailer all too be­lat­edly ar­rived.

At which point, to add fresh coals to the fires of our fury, it was de­cided that hav­ing lost valu­able time we could beat the fi­nal drive to make up for the in­con­ve­nience. So, thanks to a geri­atric with a sin­gu­larly unattrac­tive comb-over ow­ing much to the farm­yard for its ad­he­sion – I feel my spite is jus­ti­fied – we beat two, the standers stood two, in­clud­ing the high­light dou­ble drive of the day, and plans were made to as­sas­si­nate the driver.

That trac­tor driver was not a shoot­ing man, but in an­other county and fur­ther back in time the Duke, though not the most even-tem­pered of men, en­joyed his shoot­ing to the full. As a con­se­quence, he was in­clined to squeeze as many drives as day­light would al­low into any, and many, of the days when I joined the beat­ing team on his grand es­tate.

On this day we had, we thought, con­cluded with some tir­ing beat­ing from one end to the other of Braw­ford – a long and bram­ble-laced bound­ary wood. Then the mes­sage came through: “His Grace wants to fin­ish on Bulls Copse” and His Grace, as is gen­er­ally the way with such high-fly­ing aris­toc­racy, got what he wanted. Well, al­most.

The thing was that, among the shoot’s many woods, two, some way

A shoot day can be se­ri­ously dis­rupted if there is mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the beat­ers and the the per­son or­gan­is­ing

the trans­port.

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