COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE COMMENT
As a young Guns day at Whitehill stirs up fond memories of his own first shoot day, Jack Knott urges other syndicates to think about what they could do to encourage the next generation
Can you remember shooting your first driven gamebird? That very first day standing on a peg alongside your mentor, usually a family member of sorts, excitedly waiting for that first bird to flush and break in your direction? Do you remember at the end of the drive going over to collect the birds that you had successfully brought down? It doesn’t matter what age it happens – the emotions, the nerves and the enjoyment of the day are all comparable.
I remember my first day out shooting with fond memories. I was on the local syndicate shoot where my father had a peg, and it was the drive after lunch when he finally allowed me to unsheathe my .410 and have a go. I remember the drive and I also remember the one cock pheasant that I successfully connected with (the picture of me holding the pheasant is still hanging up in my parents’ home). These earliest shooting opportunities were an incredible experience in education and excitement, setting me up perfectly for a future of shooting in the many different forms and disciplines it takes.
It was refreshing to revisit these earliest shooting memories back in October, when the Countryside Alliance were invited to attend a highly impressive young Guns day with the Whitehill shoot syndicate near Canterbury in Kent.
The invitation to help promote and observe the young Guns day came after the Alliance had helped the Whitehill shoot recover from an unprecedented attack by a group of antis earlier in the summer. The group destroyed a number of pheasant pens and infrastructure, allowing hundreds of poults to escape.
As the leading organisation on dealing with antis, the Countryside Alliance used the Whitehill shoot example in an awareness campaign, making sure that other shoot owners and gamekeepers remained vigilant in the local area and around the country.
The young Guns day involved 10 children, with guns ranging from .410 to 12-bore, with varying degrees of experience, all accompanied by their mentors and enjoying a full day of shooting in the glorious Kent countryside.
Throughout the six drives, the mentors had an abundance of time to talk through shooting’s more intricate details, teaching the newcomers to the sport how the birds will be presenting themselves and why, and, most importantly, safe and unsafe practices. There was no immediate rush as the youngsters had all day to hone their skills, and the birds were being presented brilliantly by the syndicate members, family and friends, both young and old. The mentors were professional and patient, and I enjoyed reminiscing back to the time my father was rather more forceful with his own style of teaching.
It was an absolute joy to see the Guns grow in confidence throughout the day, with the mentors taking a backwards step, leading to the last drive where the middle of the shooting line were connecting with the birds impressively well. Congratulatory cheers rose from up and down the line, as well as from the beaters within the thick covers in front of the Guns. Beaming smiles and tired eyes from every child showed that the day had been perfect; by allowing these 10 children a full day’s shooting they had gained more experience and skills than could ever have been completed on a clay pigeon ground. Along with some incredible memories and a brace of pheasants, they headed home knowing that the first step towards a healthy shooting career had just begun.
The Whitehill shoot syndicate is a shining example of the shooting community giving something back to the sport, ensuring that the future of our sport continues to shine strongly. The day meant a great deal to the 70-plus people that attended the event, and we are already looking forward to helping again next year. It was a privilege for the Countryside Alliance to be a part of the day, and it would be truly wonderful to have the day replicated by many more shoots around the country.
The young Guns had plenty of opportunity to hone their skills
A great day was had by all