Botham and co mak­ing waves in Wig­town­shire.

Is it out of the way? Yes. Is it worth the ef­fort to get there? You’d bet­ter be­lieve it. And there’s a queue form­ing...

Shooting Gazette - - This Month - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: DUNCAN IRE­LAND

We asked Liam Botham to sum up Dunskey shoot in five words at the end of our in­ter­view. It took him no time at all to reply. It is, he said sim­ply, “a unique des­ti­na­tion for shoot­ing”.

Shoot­ing Gazette colum­nists and pho­tog­ra­phers travel far and wide to re­port on all man­ner of shoots, from es­tab­lished names with solid foun­da­tions to fledg­ling af­fairs with am­bi­tious plans. There are fa­mous names un­der new own­er­ship, those own­ers work­ing hard on a shoe­string to re­verse a de­cline in their for­tunes, and there are oth­ers who seem to take a strato­spheric rise in their stride.

In Dunskey, Liam has a par­tridge and pheas­ant shoot that, with an­other tonne of hard work to add to the grow­ing pile (and a pinch of good luck), could be some­thing re­ally spe­cial. The shoot is ap­par­ently gain­ing a strong rep­u­ta­tion amongst the teams who have al­ready vis­ited. These teams will have al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced the splen­dour of the newly ren­o­vated 10-bed­room Dunskey House, owned by Alas­tair Orr Ewing and his wife, Anne Tris­tine Nguyen, and they’ll have rid­den deep into its 2,000 acres on shoot day, re­al­is­ing that the long jour­ney was well worth the ef­fort. These are the teams who will re­mem­ber what it was like to shoot at Dunskey when it was all just get­ting go­ing and will be treated to some­thing new and ex­cit­ing with each re­turn visit.

Most of all, it’s a place for those who love their sport to the core, who ap­pre­ci­ate the hard work that goes into cre­at­ing their shoot­ing and the time and ef­fort that goes into man­ag­ing an es­tate for shoot­ing 365 days a year.

One thing is cer­tain: if you are that sort of per­son, you will be wel­comed as an old friend...

Shoot­ing Gazette (SG): How did you come to be in­volved with Dunskey Shoot and what was it that at­tracted you to it?

Liam Botham (LB): “My fa­therin-law, Noel Har­ri­son, had been shoot­ing there for 40 years and asked me to take a look at it. I was aware that the po­ten­tial to take the shoot in a new di­rec­tion, one fit for the mod­ern age of shoot­ing, was huge. I think it’s unique. I don’t think there’s an­other place like it in the UK. You can be on a beach, in a glen or an open field dur­ing the day; you never feel as though you’re on the same drive twice.

“Dunskey Shoot is also a ‘des­ti­na­tion’. The whole shoot has to be unique, from the ac­com­mo­da­tion, which the own­ers have trans­formed to bring it up to the stan­dards Guns now ex­pect, to the hos­pi­tal­ity and test­ing shoot­ing.”

SG: What can you tell us about your game­keep­ers and the work they have been do­ing? LB: “I’ve brought in Michael Baker from York­shire and, credit where it’s due, he’s done an great job. On the day of your visit last De­cem­ber we were us­ing only 20 per cent of the shoot’s full ca­pac­ity. At the mo­ment we’re run­ning at 60 per cent and I want to get to 80 per cent in the next two years. When we first ar­rived we only had 10 acres of game crops – now we have 90 acres. We also have 10 new drives on land that hasn’t been used be­fore, tak­ing us up to 24 in to­tal. The wind can have a huge ef­fect on the day, and one of the things we’ve done is tried to use it to our ad­van­tage, de­vel­op­ing drives that can be utilised when the wind is blow­ing in a cer­tain di­rec­tion, an ap­proach that didn’t ex­ist be­fore.”

SG: What does a typ­i­cal trip to Dunskey Shoot con­sist of and why have you struc­tured it in this way?

LB: “I don’t have set rules here. If the weather is bad – we’re on the coast af­ter all – we’ll make changes but we’ll struc­ture the day based on the vis­it­ing team’s wishes. We al­ways try to have lunch to split the day up, say three drives in the morn­ing and two in the af­ter­noon, but we’ll shoot through if we need to. We want teams to leave think­ing they got ev­ery­thing they came for. Given its re­mote lo­ca­tion, you have to make the shoot day a very spe­cial oc­ca­sion from start to finish. For ex­am­ple, we have a fan­tas­tic chef who pre­pares lo­cal oys­ters, lob­sters or crab for elevenses, which we take in a Cat­e­gory B-listed Cable House look­ing out over the Ir­ish Sea.

“Most teams take back-to-back days in­volv­ing a two-night stay but some have stayed for three be­cause they’re en­joy­ing it so much and want a longer week­end. Af­ter the first day’s shoot­ing we’ll finish in the field and then go to The Crown in Port­patrick for a few pints to give some­thing back to the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Land­lord Craig Cur­rie is a huge shoot­ing man and it adds to the whole ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“Ba­si­cally, you’re stand­ing on the beach look­ing at Ire­land, of­ten with the seals watch­ing you shoot.”

SG: Which is your favourite drive at Dunskey Shoot and why?

LB: “Well we have got four or five unique drives on Dunskey Shoot but one of my per­sonal favourites is Benji’s, which is named af­ter my son. Some of the big­gest names in the shoot­ing world have come away from it and said it’s the best drive they’ve ever shot. Ba­si­cally, you’re stand­ing on the beach look­ing at Ire­land, of­ten with the seals watch­ing you shoot. An­other favourite of mine is Har­ley’s. It’s down a deep ravine that leads onto the beach and there’s a lot of re­ally good snap shoot­ing to be had there.”

SG: Which type of Gun/team of Guns would Dunskey Shoot most ap­peal to?

LB: If Guns want to en­joy a fan­tas­tic pack­age – the sport, food, scenery and ac­com­mo­da­tion – then Dunskey Shoot is the place to come. If you’re a team of Guns who likes to turn up, shoot and then go again, don’t come here. We can show some spec­tac­u­lar, test­ing par­tridge and pheas­ant but if you’re spe­cial­ist high shoot­ers this shoot isn’t for you, ei­ther. I think those days are dwin­dling. I want teams of Guns who want to en­joy them­selves, un­der­stand about shoot­ing and ap­pre­ci­ate the scenery, to­pog­ra­phy and birds.”

SG: The house must be a huge as­set...

LB: “The house is run sep­a­rately to the shoot but is at the dis­posal of Guns on shoot day.

“If you want you can even hire the whole house from Alas­tair and Anne, who’ve done a fan­tas­tic job ren­o­vat­ing it. There is a break­fast room, a liv­ery, a lounge, the din­ing room, a shoot room, a gun­room with lock­ers, ev­ery­thing you want.” SG: How are the coast­line drives pegged and driven?

LB: “We have the coast­line right across the es­tate; we’ve just ac­quired some more farther along, too. It’s ab­so­lutely stun­ning. Each of the six coast­line drives we have is dif­fer­ent. That look you see in peo­ple’s eyes when they see the light­house, the coastal views and the Ir­ish Sea…it’s very cool. I don’t peg on any drive on my shoots. I’ve never pegged in my life be­cause as you can im­age the weather can be un­pre­dictable.”

SG: What’s the big­gest chal­lenge you’ve faced and how have you over­come it?

LB: “Fa­cil­i­tat­ing change. Mak­ing peo­ple un­der­stand what you want to do is al­ways a bat­tle. Try­ing to ed­u­cate them about how the shoot has to be man­aged to make it a suc­cess, such as mak­ing sure we have enough drives. We are in a beau­ti­ful area and changes to the land­scape are al­ways hard to make, es­pe­cially those in­volv­ing our wood­land. We’ve had a lot of sup­port but there have been some ob­sta­cles that we have had to make sure we dealt with in the right man­ner. There are a huge amount of tweaks to sort through but we’re get­ting there. The re­sponse we’ve had from ev­ery vis­it­ing team has been pos­i­tive.” SG: What hap­pens to the game at Dunskey Shoot once shoot day is over?

LB: “At the mo­ment our game goes to dealers but I’ve also been work­ing hard over the past 18 months to get game into ready­made meals in su­per­mar­kets. This for me is the big­gest is­sue game shoot­ing needs to ad­dress, and the whole shoot­ing com­mu­nity needs to buy into. There’s no point us ex­port­ing 70 per cent of birds we shoot in this coun­try. We need to make a de­mand in this coun­try for game. The only way to do that is to make sure it’s read­ily avail­able and ac­ces­si­ble for every­one. I ar­ranged to have a sur­vey con­ducted by an in­de­pen­dent body, a sur­vey of 1,000 peo­ple na­tion­wide, about game meat. The things that stood out as rea­sons why peo­ple didn’t eat game was ac­ces­si­bil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity: it’s sea­sonal and it’s too ex­pen­sive. Why is it too ex­pen­sive? You go to pubs and restau­rants and it’s one of the most ex­pen­sive things on the menu. I can’t un­der­stand it. Shoots are pay­ing for their game to be taken away, which is crazy.

“Our sport hasn’t grown the game mar­ket as the de­mand for shoot­ing has grown. Ev­ery­body has to wake up to that fact. We’re deal­ing with the health­i­est prod­uct out there and it should be the most af­ford­able meat on the mar­ket.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the shoot­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties at Dunskey Shoot, email: [email protected]

A flurry of birds for Gun Pete Rymer and stuffer Mike Fitzsi­mons.

Liam Botham, the shoot host, with labradors Misty, Oak and Aspen, and ter­rier Henly.

Care­ful co-or­di­na­tion be­tween Robert Sur­man and stuffer Alec Jar­dine.

John Lloyd aided by Shaun Ed­mund­son takes his fi­nal shots of the day on the coast.

Dave Warne (front) and John Brown (rear) are kept busy.

The lunch is ex­cel­lent and the com­forts of Dunskey House are ap­pre­ci­ated by all, but two more drives and some chal­leng­ing shoot­ing of­ten await the party.

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