Small bag days of­fer the great­est plea­sure

Shooting Gazette - - The great debate - Giles Catch­pole By

Ihave been shoot­ing with the same team of Guns, more or less, for three decades. We take a hand­ful of days to­gether each sea­son. We were a rov­ing syn­di­cate be­fore the term had even been in­vented. But we soon tripped over a few es­tates which were so lovely that we stopped rov­ing and just shot there each year in­stead. And the day which is most keenly an­tic­i­pated and ea­gerly bid for is the small­est of the lot. Now it might be said that small days are at­trac­tive be­cause they don’t cost as much as a big­ger day. And that’s true. A small day that is not cost­ing you the price of a fam­ily ski­ing hol­i­day is per­haps eas­ier to en­joy be­cause it is free from the taint of self­ish­ness.

How­ever, it is the case that this lit­tle day I am re­fer­ring to is also no­to­ri­ously the best fun. Ev­ery­one seems to be hav­ing a good time. I did once ask the head­keeper whether they were hav­ing as much fun as we were and he said ev­ery­one on his side of the fence en­joyed it hugely.

“With a small day,” he said, “we don’t re­ally have to worry. We can al­ways find you enough pheas­ants to make the bag so there isn’t a lot of pres­sure. If we should be be­hind at any point I know that I can al­ways take you to a big­ger drive and I can be sure that your team will knock down enough to get us back on track.”

It also helps that the es­tate it­self is one of the grand­est in Eng­land. It is easy to en­joy one­self with the Pal­la­dian front of the west wing as a back­drop and the deer brows­ing in the park. And we have time for elevenses and we have time for lunch. And time is price­less.

I’m not go­ing to tell you how many we shoot and I won’t tell you what they cost be­cause that re­ally isn’t the point. I try not to cal­i­brate the qual­ity of a day’s shoot­ing in num­bers. I try to mea­sure the hap­pi­ness fac­tor. And when you are only ex­pect­ing to shoot a hand­ful of cocks, each one is as­cribed a sig­nif­i­cantly greater quo­tient of pure plea­sure that any one of the dozens knocked down in a busy drive on a big­ger day.

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