A rough night for “Russell”
Schöffel’s Ptarmigan Pro is billed as the “ultimate shooting coat” but after a thorough test, Richard Richard Negus concludes its uses are limited
The Schöffel Oakham fleece gilet was once the uniform for a select few — mainly land agents and traders of fine wine. Today, however, the “Cirencester life jacket” — and other staples from the Bavarian brand’s range — have become de rigueur. Schöffel now graces the cloak and boot rooms of British rural types.
I hesitatingly admit that I don’t own a “Royal Ag cardigan” and have remained immune to the lure of any garments made by the 214-year-old, family-owned company. What with my Schöffel-free closet, hedgelaying day job and muddy sporting life, I was surprised when the Editor asked me to review the latest Schöffel offering: the Ptarmigan Pro. With a hefty price tag of £599.95, it is billed as the “ultimate shooting coat”.
I lifted the Ptarmigan Pro from its box and waxed-paper shroud and cradled it gently, in much the same way as I held my son when he was first put into my arms. Both the coat and my infant son reacted noisily: baby Charlie with a bawling cry; the Schöffel with a rasp like sandpaper over rough-cut wood. It would be an exaggeration to describe the Ptarmigan Pro’s Gore-tex material as deafening, but the coat’s scrunching and crackling would spook any rabbit that I might try to stalk.
Slipping the coat on, my first impression was of its snug fit. I am
6ft 2in and fairly broad of shoulder. A frequent complaint I have with shooting coats is a shortness in the arms. This design flaw often leaves you, with gun mounted, resembling Don Johnson in full 1980s, rolled-sleeve mode. Not so with the Ptarmigan Pro. I went into the garden, clutching my Lincoln, to try out the coat’s fit with gun in hand. I practised imaginary shots at towering pinkfeet and springing teal — no Miami Vice look for me, thanks to the coat’s lengthy sleeves.
I took a stroll to see if I could shoot a real pigeon in it rather than just fire at fictitious fowl. Gun in slip, I tumbled a handful of cartridges into the left pocket and marched through my village, the Ptarmigan
Pro rhythmically rasping. I crossed the road and into a stubble field. I noted the butt-pad in the right-hand shoulder lining. This is a removable gel pad and there is a little slit for it on the other side for “lefties” too.
It was too fiddly to refit in the field, so I attempted to stow it in the offside pocket. This proved to be impossible, as the left pocket was already filled to bursting with a mere dozen cartridges, the coat’s removable hood and my sunglasses. Stuffing the butt pad into the right pocket instead, I moved to unzip my gunslip. My hand remained wedged in place — the cartridge pocket is bizarrely narrow and lacks any practical depth.
I finally managed to extract myself to shoot a solitary woodie that wing- cracked from the cover. The coat was flexible and unrestrictive to shoot in, but I had nowhere to put the bird. I had forgotten to bring a game bag and Schöffel had neglected to provide a game pocket, presumably to preserve the “tailored fit”. I returned home, secreting the pigeon in my gunslip.
On the first day of the wildfowling season I planned to go out on an evening flight — a perfect opportunity to try the Schöffel in the field. The Ptarmigan Pro received a range of responses from my fellow fowlers. From “Dangerous Darren”, a tut and a shake of the head due to its dark colouring. “Photo Steve” liked it and, after trying it on, declared it to be “perfect for a driven partridge day”. “Pinhead Ian” also admired it and asked if I would gift it to him once i had finished trialling it. he thought