The over­sup­ply of game meat is a hot topic on shoots this sea­son, and rightly so. Phil Moor­som looks at what ef­forts are be­ing made to bet­ter utilise this healthy food source

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All about food

There is no ques­tion that in­ter­est in shoot­ing is in­creas­ing which is fan­tas­tic news for the fu­ture of field­sports in the UK. Not only does this help those busi­nesses in­volved in the in­dus­try, but it also strength­ens our col­lec­tive voice to com­bat those whose ul­ti­mate in­tent is to ban game shoot­ing as a whole.

On al­most ev­ery shoot we have vis­ited this sea­son, one of the hot top­ics has been the shift in de­mand for shot game and how it is pro­cessed. With the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of game shoot­ing, new shoots have emerged and many of the ex­ist­ing ones are mov­ing to­wards big­ger bag days as the busi­ness be­comes more com­pet­i­tive. The ob­vi­ous re­sult of this is that sig­nif­i­cantly more birds are now be­ing shot and have to be re­spon­si­bly pro­cessed. One ma­jor su­per­mar­ket chain is ru­moured to have over 50,000 pheas­ants from last sea­son in its freez­ers.

Only a few years ago, game deal­ers were of­fer­ing up to 50 pence for a brace of pheas­ants, whereas this year if a keeper is re­ceiv­ing any­thing at all for his shot birds he is one of the lucky ones. In the fu­ture, most agree that it will be the norm for shoots to pay game deal­ers to col­lect their shot birds and process them re­spon­si­bly.

The com­mer­cial shoots putting on large days sev­eral times a week must shoul­der a large part of the re­spon­si­bil­ity to tackle this is­sue. Ru­mours of holes be­ing dug or in­cin­er­a­tors be­ing in­stalled to dis­pose of shot game is manna from heaven for those lob­by­ing to ban the sport as a whole. The most ob­vi­ous and sim­ple so­lu­tion to this is­sue is for us to eat more game. Thank­fully, many of the com­mer­cial shoots have now started to ad­dress the prob­lem by pre­par­ing and sell­ing their own game ei­ther as a whole dressed bird or in pre-pack­aged pre­pared sauces.

There are also sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Coun­try Food Trust (CFT) and Taste of Game (ToG) that are look­ing at ques­tions sur­round­ing how we process our game as well as en­cour­ag­ing us to look at game meat as a healthy, tastier and cheaper al­ter­na­tive to the in­ten­sively farmed meats we are of­fered at the su­per­mar­ket. We spent an ex­cel­lent walked-up day in Devon hosted by chef Tim Mad­dams, a ded­i­cated and ac­tive sup­porter of the CFT, a char­ity cre­ated sim­ply “to pro­vide nu­tri­tious meals to peo­ple in need”. His en­thu­si­asm in en­cour­ag­ing us to ac­cept game as a part of our reg­u­lar diet was

‘Com­mer­cial shoots putting on large days sev­eral times a week must shoul­der a large part of the re­spon­si­bil­ity to tackle this is­sue’

in­fec­tious and we were very lucky to be able to taste his de­li­cious duck and ba­con cae­sar salad and pheas­ant cow­boy beans!

Get creative

On our Rough Rovers syn­di­cate we have al­ways en­cour­aged Guns to take home what we shoot and an in­creas­ing pro­por­tion of our mem­bers are en­thu­si­as­tic cooks. Last year, at our end-ofseason awards cer­e­mony (in my lo­cal pub), we in­tro­duced a Field Culi­nary Award, which was hotly con­tested. How­ever, this sea­son the com­pe­ti­tion has been taken to a new level and threat­ens to be the fo­cus of some of our days rather than the shoot­ing! One mem­ber, Mr Grady, although not the win­ner last sea­son, has raised the bar al­ready, ar­riv­ing in Powys with his new por­ta­ble stove and cook­ing up de­li­cious spiced veni­son meat­balls along with pheas­ant and veni­son sausages with a soy and honey re­duc­tion. The fol­low­ing week he pro­duced a grouse liver par­fait from birds shot in Yorkshire back in Au­gust. The odds-on favourite this sea­son, Mr Mar­ney, famed for his fo­cac­cia, made a huge state­ment down in Somerset with pheas­ant and ap­ple sausage rolls, and port and stil­ton scotch eggs with a goat’s cheese, wal­nut and fig soda bread. Need­less to say, these culi­nary de­lights are of­ten washed down with a vast ar­ray

of home­made con­coc­tions from sloe gin, dam­son vodka and black­berry whiskey to home­made ciders and wines.

To some, this might all sound a bit friv­o­lous but food is an im­por­tant fac­tor on the so­cial side of shoot­ing. Whether it is elevenses for the Guns or the beat­ers’ lunch at the end of the day, the more we get oth­ers to try dif­fer­ent game meats and recipes the more we can hope­fully trans­fer a wider ac­cep­tance of game into our homes and be­yond. Re­plac­ing chicken with pheas­ant or partridge and us­ing veni­son mince in­stead of beef or lamb mince are very sim­ple ad­just­ments to make to our diet. I have found that many friends and col­leagues who do not shoot are de­lighted to re­ceive a brace of pheas­ants or partridge in the feather and con­sider it a treat. I reg­u­larly take birds into our work­shop and ev­ery­one al­ways takes a brace.

There is also a whole barter sys­tem that can be utilised too. I reg­u­larly drop off half a dozen brace of partridge into our lo­cal pub. For ev­ery brace of partridge, I re­ceive a free pint – in fact my credit is so good at the mo­ment that we may get a meal for the whole fam­ily out of it.

I don’t want to preach to the con­verted and I know a very im­por­tant part of the day for the ma­jor­ity of us is tak­ing home what we shoot. Still, we should try and en­cour­age those who are not so ad­ven­tur­ous with their game recipes or tastes.

Christ­mas is a great op­por­tu­nity to raid the freezer and cook up some culi­nary de­light. We have de­cided on a mixed game ter­rine and haunch of veni­son for Christ­mas Eve.

It’s sur­pris­ing what you can cook in a makeshift kitchen

Some syn­di­cates have raised the bar when it comes to shoot day fare

Food plays a big part on the Rough Rovers days

Wash­ing de­li­cious meals down with more home-made de­lights

Fan­tas­tic fo­cac­cia

Duck and ba­con cae­sar salad

Pheas­ant cow­boy beans

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