Raisthorpe manor, north York­shire

An am­bi­tious estate which of­fers more than just driven shoot­ing.

Shooting Gazette - - Image from the field - A shoot with hum­ble be­gin­nings which grew into an em­pire that now in­cludes sim­u­lated game shoot­ing and a fine foods busi­ness. By Martin Pud­difer.

David Medforth is a shoot­ing man through and through, and a busy one at that. The 52-year-old York­shire­man, who op­er­ates with a shrewd mind and bound­less en­thu­si­asm, over­sees not only game shoot­ing at Raisthorpe Manor but also sim­u­lated days through its clay arm, Raisthorpe Fly­ers, as well as award­win­ning Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods, which was founded by his wife, Ju­lia.

If you know and like peo­ple who can talk about shoot­ing all day long with­out hy­per­bole or rep­e­ti­tion, then David is some­one you would get along with just fine – prefer­ably in the field, for it is here that he is in his “proper at­mos­phere”.

David can trace his in­volve­ment in the sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties at Raisthorpe Manor back to his for­ma­tive years when, as a teenager, he keep­ered for his fa­ther, a farmer who used the shoot as a so­cial out­let for his friends.

“My fa­ther was a big shoot­ing man,” David ex­plained as we drove across the estate on a cold, dry morn­ing last Novem­ber.

“We held around 15 days a sea­son back then, as a syn­di­cate, with bags of around 100–120 head. My fa­ther passed away in 1985 (David and Ju­lia took over the run­ning of the busi­ness there­after) and for the fol­low­ing 10 years the bags were around the 200–250 mark. I al­ways knew there was more po­ten­tial for the shoot, though.”

A key milestone in the shoot’s mod­ern day de­vel­op­ment was its im­pres­sive shoot lodge. The ex­pan­sive lay­out you see to­day is one you could eas­ily get left be­hind in, mainly be­cause you could spend hours ex­am­in­ing the pho­to­graphs and il­lus­tra­tions on dis­play or the var­i­ous sou­venirs adorn­ing the man­tel­pieces and win­dow sills.

De­spite its charm, David and Ju­lia knew when it was first built that it was be­ing un­der-used, so they de­cided to start of­fer­ing

“What started out as just a hand­ful of traps has turned into one of the most suc­cess­ful sim­u­lated game shoots in the coun­try.”

sim­u­lated game shoot­ing un­der the Raisthorpe Fly­ers ban­ner. I was in­ter­ested to learn that if any­one had told David how pop­u­lar this new ven­ture was go­ing to be back when it was launched, he might not have be­lieved them, con­fess­ing that, as a tra­di­tion­al­ist, he didn’t re­ally think about this side of shoot­ing be­fore de­cid­ing to give it go.

The Med­forths must be glad they took the chance. What started out as a hand­ful of traps throw­ing tar­gets out across a typ­i­cal York­shire Wolds land­scape has grown into one of the most suc­cess­ful and pop­u­lar sim­u­lated game shoots in the coun­try. Not only that, as it was dur­ing elevenses on those early sim­u­lated days that Ju­lia, keen to add a touch of au­then­tic­ity to the day, served home­made rasp­berry gin liqueur made us­ing an old fam­ily recipe. Such was its pop­u­lar­ity that it led to the foun­da­tion of Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods in 2008. With their sons Oliver and Ed­ward now on board the Med­forths have not looked back, though it’s not some­thing they can af­ford to do in the fast-paced world of driven shoot­ing, and that means high stan­dards even be­fore the guns ar­rive. As far as David is con­cerned, vis­it­ing guns, what­ever their quarry, get the best he can of­fer and noth­ing else. “The lit­tle things mat­ter the most be­cause it shows that some thought has gone into things,” he said.

At the end of each day’s shoot­ing David and his team will get to­gether and talk about what went right and where they can im­prove. If a drive didn’t go well they will want to find out why and put it right. David doesn’t be­lieve in dwelling on dis­ap­point­ments be­cause the cause might have been out of his hands – such as deer run­ning through the drive that lifted hun­dreds of birds over the guns in one go. “That’s shoot­ing,” he said. “Shoot­ing peo­ple un­der­stand th­ese things hap­pen.”

All in the de­tails

De­spite the num­ber of days he hosts each cal­en­dar year – more than 110 at the last count – and the repet­i­tive na­ture of host­ing, David never strug­gles to mo­ti­vate him­self, partly be­cause of an iron will to get the de­tails right for each in­di­vid­ual gun.

“I al­ways get a buzz from any shoot­ing we of­fer here,” he said. “When you’re into it like I am you’ll be up for it even when there’s noth­ing on that day. I love the fact that we’re pretty iso­lated here – it makes the guns feel the estate is theirs for the day. Even

though we’re a com­mer­cial shoot, there are so many dif­fer­ent ways that you can run things. The hard part is the shoot­ing, the keeper­ing and the shoot man­age­ment, but the part peo­ple of­ten get wrong, which is as im­por­tant, is the hospi­tal­ity. If you can’t do it well then get some­one else in who will. Given the amount of money peo­ple part with to come shoot­ing, there’s no ex­cuse for poor hospi­tal­ity. You’ve got to be extra spe­cial across the board to say at the top, even if it’s some­thing as lit­tle as re­mem­ber­ing that a gun likes to have ap­ple juice at elevenses or a cigar at the end of the day’s shoot­ing.”

Learn­ing from the best

As some­one with plenty of years’ ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt, David is a man of prin­ci­ples who has plenty to say about game shoot­ing, but there was never a hint of holier-thanthou in his voice. He’ll tell you that your views are just as valid as his, he just loves find­ing out what oth­ers think about the sport he loves. He is proud to be a tra­di­tion­al­ist and even in an age where the tra­di­tional route into the sport isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the most com­mon, once you are in and want to get on then some­times it pays to tread the path most trav­elled, lis­ten­ing to those who have been in­volved for a long time. Prac­tice is a good ex­am­ple.

“The sim­u­lated shoot­ing here goes hand in hand with the driven shoot­ing be­cause if more peo­ple shot sim­u­lated they’d shoot game a lot bet­ter. Sadly there are some guns that don’t re­alise the value of shoot­ing clays in the sum­mer.

“There’s no ex­cuse for poor hospi­tal­ity, even if it’s some­thing sim­ple like re­mem­ber­ing that a gun likes a cigar at the end of the day.”

Speak to Ge­orge Dig­weed, or any of the top shots, and they’ll tell you that you can never have enough prac­tice. I’m not say­ing do it ev­ery week – just a cou­ple of times be­fore the driven sea­son starts in or­der to get your eye-in. New­com­ers need to un­der­stand what game shoot­ing is all about and that’s why the sim­u­lated days are so valu­able, you have to try and repli­cate a game day as much as pos­si­ble.”

Do it the right way and you’ll be in for a good time at Raisthorpe Manor. “We have what I would call Class One drives, those which you know will de­liver. We only shoot four drives each day here. The last time we shot five drives was a Jan­uary day about five years ago. The Raisthorpe Manor way is to do four good drives, where ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing the num­bers, is right, and where you don’t go round dis­turb­ing too much drive. Back when I was “of the drive...”, I also reg­u­lar loaded at Gar­rowby when Harold Carr had it. I learnt a lot from him – what to do and what not to do on a shoot day.”

One of the things I no­ticed about Raisthorpe Manor was that it hasn’t for­got­ten its roots in its

pur­suit of ex­cel­lence. You could have been shoot­ing for six months or 60 years but you would be treated with the same courtesy on and off the peg. Given its ori­gins as a farm shoot, Raisthorpe Manor is still will­ing and able to of­fer drives for those who are still get­ting used to shoot­ing game and it feeds into those stan­dards in shoot­ing David holds so dear.

“OK, there’s drives and then there’s drives on this estate, 27 in to­tal, and you can make a one out of next to noth­ing if you re­ally wanted to. But it takes imag­i­na­tion. You have got to take the birds were they want to go not where you want to go, be­cause the more you force it the less the birds will do what you want.

There are so many ways of do­ing drives - like many of those we shot on this day - us­ing all of the land avail­able to us there, so there’s lit­tle rep­e­ti­tion and some­thing for every­one.

“I’m watch­ing for how I can help guns even be­fore they’re out on the peg. If I no­tice some­one isn’t con­fi­dent with their shot­gun, even when it’s in its slip at the lodge, I might ask if they want a lit­tle help and guid­ance with it, per­haps from a loader.”

A ques­tion of dis­ci­pline

“Raisthorpe Manor will still ap­peal to peo­ple who were shoot­ing here 20 years ago. I look af­ter ev­ery­body to the best of my abil­ity – that’s all I can do. They’re all good days, it’s just that some are a lit­tle bet­ter than oth­ers. There’s a bit of pol­i­tics creep­ing in to shoot­ing nowa­days where peo­ple want to be seen in the right places, but I’m not both­ered about any of that.

“I think we’ve lost a lit­tle bit of the tra­di­tions that made the sport spe­cial. There’s too much of this ‘let’s see who can hit the high­est bird with the big­gest car­tridge’. That kind of thing wants ban­ning, in my view. If they want to do that they should go to a shoot­ing ground or go on a sim­u­lated day. A game day to me is not about keep­ing score. I don’t even count car­tridges here. Our job is get­ting birds over guns, not to worry about how many car­tridges they fire. Just re­lax, get stuck in and en­joy the day. It’s all about shoot­ing our quarry in the right way. It keeps your adren­a­line in check and re­tains dis­ci­pline.”

That dis­ci­pline ex­tends to how the shoot is man­aged dur­ing the close sea­son, too. With so much go­ing on across the estate – the farm grows wheat, rape and potatoes – and with the sim­u­lated shoot­ing tak­ing place just as the par­tridge chicks are hatch­ing, it takes a close eye to make sure none of the myr­iad threads be­comes frayed. As ever, ex­pe­ri­ence has taught the team well.

“We used to start our par­tridge sea­son on Septem­ber 1, but as we’ve got a big arable area here, which means a later har­vest, we de­cided to push things back just to give us some breath­ing space. It’s amaz­ing what wait­ing 10 days be­fore the start of your sea­son can do. My team doesn’t stop dur­ing the close sea­son, and those 10 extra days in Septem­ber be­fore you start feels like a month. Given the amount of work that goes in, it’s got to be right.”

The wolds land­scape aches to show chal­leng­ing birds.

Elevenses at The Nest is a real high­light.

Only the best in­gre­di­ents will do.

Guns can ex­pect to get the best sport­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at Raisthorpe Manor.

Raisthorpe Manor’s sim­u­lated of­fer­ings are some of the best in the coun­try.

Cowold was an­other ex­am­ple of the va­ri­ety of sport avail­able on the estate.

Head­keeper Tony Rankin (right) with un­der­keeper Al Kestell.

David Medforth lives for his shoot­ing.

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