Sim­ply the best

Gold-medal per­for­mances in the field.


Sev­eral very se­ri­ous pheas­ants were plucked from the strato­sphere

This year’s Top Shots fea­ture de­parts from the usual heap­ing of plau­dits at the feet of our shoot­ing gods and god­desses. In­stead, we are cel­e­brat­ing those sin­gle, glo­ri­ous mo­ments that are re­mem­bered long af­ter the sea­son has be­come a blur of muddy labs and damp tweed. As ever, we have taken coun­sel from our net­work of keen beans who col­lec­tively ob­served much of the finest shoot­ing in this sa­cred isle and fined down their of­fer­ings, ex­clud­ing the ab­surd – such as “the ex­traor­di­nar­ily tricky squir­rel” – and feats of gun­nery per­fec­tion wit­nessed only by the trig­ger puller.

Read­ers will doubt­less have their own con­tenders for “the shot of the sea­son” and we encourage them to share them with us via the Let­ters page. Here, how­ever, is our list of mem­o­rable mo­ments that war­ranted that ul­ti­mate ac­co­lade, the neigh­bour’s touch of the cap, last sea­son.

Our ex­perts write…


Af­ter con­sul­ta­tion with Mil­tons’ head­keeper (of nearly 30 years), we de­cided the fol­low­ing made the “out­stand­ing” class.

Mil­tons has a drive called Col­lies Head, where the birds are on the limit of ef­fec­tive range. Years ago a he­lium bal­loon was sent up from the val­ley floor on a wind­less day on a tether and the string ran out at 250ft – and some of the birds were well above it.

Look­ing at the OS map, I see nine con­tour lines ’twixt the gun stands and the flush­ing point, so that’s 90 me­tres. In other words, it’s a re­ally high drive and not the sort of place to use Im­pax No 7.

Well, we had a man called Basil Kinch shoot­ing in late Oc­to­ber who was cleanly killing these birds with im­pres­sive reg­u­lar­ity. I gather his son was of the same ilk, too.

Later in the sea­son, when the birds were tougher and stronger, our old friend Nigel Mustill was on No 1 peg (ar­guably the most dif­fi­cult as the birds have an evil, sub­tle curl to them) and I have never seen a

man ac­quit him­self so well. Sev­eral very se­ri­ous pheas­ants were plucked from the strato­sphere.

Fi­nally, Peter Sch­w­erdt did shoot a stu­pen­dous pheas­ant from No 4 peg at Howe Wood – ar­guably our “sig­na­ture” drive – in mid Jan­uary. How high it was I know not but it was one of those that the keeper and I thought re­ally was safe. Nat­u­rally, we heard all about it for the rest of the day from Mr Sch­w­erdt.


With some re­luc­tance, I would have to nom­i­nate an un­be­liev­able hen pheas­ant on Howe Wood at Mil­tons shot by Peter “I’m amaz­ing” Sch­w­erdt, us­ing a 12-bore loaded with Al­phamax 3s.

I saw it com­ing and turned to my loader and said, “Well, that’s not com­ing down.” The gun to my right had a fiver bet with his loader and two oth­ers, who are renowned high-bird shots, also con­curred that the bird was safe. Sadly, Mr Sch­w­erdt was on top form and killed the hen and those that fol­lowed (not quite as high but still ex­cep­tional shots). It was one of the very high­est birds I have ever seen killed. We were a strong team shoot­ing the best that Mil­tons could of­fer. Sch­w­erdt was killing them con­sis­tently, as were other mem­bers of the team. Car­tridges were gen­er­ally No 4s of vary­ing load sizes and all were us­ing 12-bores.


At Mil­tons, Ex­moor, on 6 Jan­uary, Rex Everitt at Howe Wood, No 5 peg, shot at (and brought down) the most ridicu­lously high pi­geon with his 34gm No 4s. Other guns had ig­nored it as “too high” and when Rex shot it there was that no­tice­able de­lay be­tween the bang and the im­pact.

On the same day, Charles Bowes was on No 3 peg at Col­lies Head shoot­ing his 20bores. The first bird of the drive was a real skyscraper of a cock and Charles’s first shot killed it right in the en­gine room. A spec­tac­u­lar shot. And then he didn’t hit an­other bird for the next 51 shots.


If I had to choose one shot that stood out for me last sea­son (and I de­clare a per­sonal bias) it was a hen pheas­ant killed by my wife, Fitri, on the Macmil­lan Bridge drive on 16 Novem­ber. This was the first drive and we had waited un­til some fog lifted. At ground level vis­i­bil­ity had in­creased to more than 100 me­tres but the fog was still swirling over the trees. Fitri was back gun­ning and sud­denly a hen bird ap­peared out of the fog around 40yd up, go­ing like a rocket and curl­ing. The front gun never saw it. In a flash Fitri had the gun up and killed it stone dead with her 20-bore.


The shot of the sea­son for me was watch­ing Miss Vic­to­ria Young-jamieson kill a high pheas­ant on her fa­ther’s Car­nan­ton shoot in Corn­wall. It was so high it needed breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus but came twirling to the ground, shot in the head with her first bar­rel af­ter it had been missed by the whole line.


One of my best friends, Liane Burton, is a keen clay shot who started to shoot game last sea­son. I in­vited her to share my peg on the last drive of the day at Lady Clarissa’s Naw­ton Tow­ers. The birds here are re­ally high and I started to have reser­va­tions – had I per­haps thrown her into the lions’ den? But be­fore I could say a word, Liane lifted her gun, ad­dressed a cock bird out in front and brought it down with a clean, sin­gle shot, turn­ing to then take on the high, slid­ing hen

A par­tridge took the same line at a sim­i­lar al­ti­tude and he was able to shoot it with his first bar­rel

soar­ing over on our right. The hen was right up there and any sea­soned game shot would not mind miss­ing but, once again, she killed it per­fectly, first bar­rel.


The most out­stand­ing shot I wit­nessed last sea­son was a par­tridge shot by Brian Neave on a lit­tle par­tridge shoot on the North Kent Downs. It shows some very nice birds and on one par­tic­u­lar drive, some ex­cep­tional birds. On this par­tic­u­lar oc­ca­sion, I had just men­tioned to Brian that a par­tridge had taken off from the drive the last time we had shot it and flown over a co-host who had looked at the floor in a valiant ef­fort not to see it.

We were half­way through the drive when a par­tridge took the same line at a sim­i­lar al­ti­tude and Brian was able to shoot it with his first bar­rel. That was com­fort­ably the high­est game­bird that I saw shot last sea­son in our area.


You will not be sur­prised that James Percy and his brother, Ralph, pride them­selves on con­sis­tently bring­ing down ex­cep­tional birds both at Al­nwick and Lin­hope.

On this oc­ca­sion, a spec­tac­u­larly high hen pheas­ant, rather than cross the val­ley on one of the drives at Lin­hope – de­scribed by an Amer­i­can as “mega” – fool­ishly flew down the line where three of us, in­clud­ing me, each fired two bar­rels at it and missed. James then folded this pheas­ant in full view of all of us.

At the time, I could not un­der­stand why on this oc­ca­sion he was so de­lighted as it’s in the Per­cys’ DNA con­sis­tently to wipe peo­ple’s eye the whole time. It turned out that two months ear­lier at Burn­cas­tle, Ralph had wiped James’s eye on an equally high pi­geon, some­thing I had en­joyed wit­ness­ing at the time but sub­se­quently for­got all about as I knew it was no more than a lucky pel­let.

Not so James. This pi­geon, he told me, had sent him into a mas­sive de­cline – so much so that when he re­turned the eye­wipe with this hen pheas­ant it was as if he had dis­pelled a de­mon. He was so de­lighted that a huge grin ap­peared, which he wore for the rest of the day.

Please don’t tell me these Per­cys don’t take their shoot­ing se­ri­ously. They do – which is ex­actly why they are so good.


The most mem­o­rable shot for me was Nick Baikie on a grouse in the High­lands. We were on the side of a munro and a pack lifted and went straight off the sum­mit. I was at the top of the line and they were very high over me and Nick was four or five butts far­ther down the hill. The grouse went level out over the glen but were jink­ing as well. At what seemed an ex­tra­or­di­nary range, Nick fired and the grouse fell dead on the other side of the glen, where it was picked. It was one of those shots you re­mem­ber all your life.


Bob Miller, owner of Gunnerside and now in his eight­ies, had a covey of scream­ing down­wind, late-sea­son grouse com­ing to him. He bowled over the first two well in front, changed guns and took an­other two be­hind – all dead as co­conuts.



I can­not think I wit­nessed any par­tic­u­lar shot last sea­son wor­thy of merit apart from see­ing some birds shot by long-range fluke shots that I do not think we should be en­cour­ag­ing. How­ever, I did my­self wit­ness one ex­tra­or­di­nary feat by a well-known and re­spected grouse shot who had best re­main name­less.

Grouse were com­ing to his butt wide on his left. He shot at one of these in front and missed, raised his gun, turned, and with

his sec­ond bar­rel shot at the lead­ing grouse be­hind and killed that as well as an­other one that was some 5yd be­hind the first.

He then reloaded and there were four grouse cross­ing the line some 40yd out in front, trav­el­ling from left to right. The gun shot at the front grouse, missed it, but killed the sec­ond and the third grouse some dis­tance be­hind the first one he ad­dressed. The re­main­ing two grouse then crossed each other as he shot and he killed them both. The gun in ques­tion was very hon­est and owned up to miss­ing the first bird of this covey. In essence, then, he shot four car­tridges, missed twice but killed six grouse.


Un­doubt­edly the finest shot I saw made in low­land Eng­land dur­ing the 2017 to 2018 sea­son was from John Hamblin on a scream­ingly fast, down­wind, strato­spher­i­cally high wood­cock.

The wood­cock had flown out of a long belt on a high es­carp­ment over a wide val­ley. Nine guns were ar­ranged in a broad horse­shoe around the point of the belt and some dis­tance from it. The bird con­tin­ued to lift as it ap­peared over the gun­line at No 3 peg. Hav­ing flown into the teeth of a very strong west­erly and sus­tained hos­til­ity, Old Woody flew past the guns only to curl back over No 4 and straight down the re­main­der of the line in a huge arc. “Hambo”, at No 7, saluted the bird with his first bar­rel, crum­pling it with the sec­ond, where it was col­lected by the right flank of the beat­ing line, stone dead, about 150yd from the guns.


Ge­orge Juer, my col­league at Purdey’s, shot a duck on a species day that he had no right to have hit. Why? Well, partly be­cause it was so mon­strously high but mostly be­cause it was over his neigh­bour’s head. To make mat­ters worse, he’d shot a stag­ger­ing right-and-left at mal­lard on the same peg the year be­fore. On that oc­ca­sion, we all de­nied see­ing it but this time we could not avoid ad­mit­ting it was an ex­cep­tional shot.


Ste­wart Den­ton was shoot­ing grouse at Gunnerside when he shot three with his first shot about 60yd out the front and then killed a sin­gle with his sec­ond shot in front. He turned around and shot three out the back with his sec­ond gun with two shots.

Bradley Poin­ton is one of the best young shots I have seen all sea­son, con­sis­tently good and I saw him kill 14, all cleanly, with 14 shots, and he’s aged 17.

Char­lie Jenk­in­son is an­other crack­ing young shot (16), who’s start­ing to shoot as well as his fa­ther. I saw him shoot a stun­ning bird at Ozle­worth that fell dead 10yd in front of him. A crack­ing shot.

An­other un­for­get­table per­for­mance was by Dave Kem­p­ley, who shot four of the high­est birds I have ever seen shot at Mur­ton Grange last sea­son – and all on the same drive.

If you wit­nessed an out­stand­ing shot last sea­son that you wish to share, please send de­tails to field.sec­re­

In essence, then, he shot four car­tridges, missed twice but killed six grouse

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