Yes, early season days are too overwhelming
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.