Yes, early sea­son days are too over­whelm­ing

Shooting Gazette - - The great debate - By Ben Sa­muel­son

Ican re­mem­ber my first few days’ shoot­ing. My fa­ther took me to quiet places, at quiet times of the year. He stood with me at the quiet end of the line. I hit a few. I missed rather more. What he did not do was to take me to some mas­sive par­tridge day at the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber. I did not have to deal with mas­sive squadrons of French­men pierc­ing the sky, nor did I feel like ev­ery eye was upon me – be­cause it wasn’t. Those early days in Septem­ber are won­der­ful, ex­cit­ing oc­ca­sions, but the pres­sure is al­ways on. Keep­ers are ea­ger to see jus­tice done to their labour for the past eight months, not wasted upon a well-mean­ing novice.

Pick­ers-up have new dogs for whom they would like some work. There is noth­ing worse than know­ing that a picker-up stand­ing be­hind you is qui­etly fum­ing as bird af­ter bird is missed. Ac­tu­ally, there is. There is the knowl­edge that the dogs are even more frus­trated by the per­for­mance of the in­ept gun stand­ing in front of them. You can hear them think­ing: “The hu­man with the noisy stick keeps lift­ing it up as the birds fly to­wards him, makes it go bang. So why don’t the birds come down for me to col­lect? Why is this one more use­less than the oth­ers and why do we need to stand be­hind him, Boss?”

There’s also the thing about gun fit. I do most of my shoot­ing in the north of Eng­land, and there­fore am used to shoot­ing while wear­ing a Gore-tex® lined jumper and a thick coat. I shoot with my fa­ther’s gun nowa­days, which doesn’t fit me madly well, but I only hit what I do be­cause of a con­sis­tent dis­tance be­tween my shoul­der and the butt of the gun, which tends to get mounted in roughly the same place. If some­one starts in early Septem­ber in their shirt­sleeves, it’s likely to do some very odd things to their gun fit and mount.

Our sport needs a steady flow of novices com­ing into it and few things have given me greater plea­sure than in­tro­duc­ing my son to the field. But I would never have dreamt of drop­ping him in quite as deep as one of the first days of the sea­son.

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