Raisthorpe manor, north Yorkshire
An ambitious estate which offers more than just driven shooting.
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.