The English­man in

Patrick Gal­braith vis­its Lit­tle Staughton, thought to be the coun­try’s old­est syn­di­cate, and en­joys a day among those who make it spe­cial

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - GAME SHOOTING -

When he was 21 years old, Ge­orge Pecks’s fa­ther called him into the pantry, handed him an al­ready well-used English side-by-side and said: “This is yours. Look af­ter it.”

Sixty-five years later, Ge­orge, who was sit­ting be­hind me on a shoot­ing stick on a bright day in Cam­bridgeshire, had used that very same gun to wipe my eye for the sec­ond time in a row.

It was the first time I’d shot on the Lit­tle Staughton syn­di­cate. Ge­orge, on the other hand, told me over lunch that he couldn’t be­gin to re­mem­ber how many times he’d shot there over the past six decades.

“It’s a very dif­fer­ent sort of a shoot now,” he re­flected, as I poured him some wine. “We are usu­ally aim­ing to shoot about 100 birds, made up of pheas­ants and ducks. Back then we were shoot­ing 150 head, but it was all wild par­tridges and hares. In those days a brace of par­tridges at the butcher cost more than the av­er­age farm­hand was paid for a week’s work.”

Nowa­days, of course, many shoots can’t give their birds away. Lit­tle Staughton, how­ever, isn’t one of them. Chris Jor­dan, a game dealer who man­ages the shoot and whose fa­ther keep­ered it be­fore him, runs the game cart with mil­i­tary ef­fi­ciency. It was very pleas­ing to see each and ev­ery bird be­ing treated in a way that en­sured it would be fit for the ta­ble, from the mo­ment it was plucked from the sky.

As the port was served af­ter lunch Ge­orge said that he hears grey par­tridges are “re­ally mak­ing a come­back due to en­vi­ron­men­tal schemes”.

“So you don’t find shoot­ing redlegs quite as much fun?” I asked. He looked at me as though I was the big­gest fool in the county and said wist­fully: “The two are in­com­pa­ra­ble.”

First peg

Seven hours pre­vi­ously, I was stand­ing in a farm­yard be­hind an old trac­tor on my first peg of the day. We have all been sub­jected to the lyri­cal wax­ing of those who fell in love with the pas­toral beauty of some big-name shoot they were at last week­end. That is all well and good, but I’ve al­ways liked a farm shoot that truly co­ex­ists with an agri­cul­tural en­ter­prise. Drop­ping three pheas­ants into some bush­e­sas they soared over a cor­ru­gated shed evoked that sub­lime child­ish ex­cite­ment that I be­lieve is unique to field­sports.

On the way to the next drive, Chris

— whomi first spoke to last year af­ter he called to put me right on an ar­ti­cle we’d writ­ten, claim­ing to have found Bri­tain’s old­est syn­di­cate — told me Lit­tle Staughton has al­ways been “a vil­lage af­fair”. “There’s no di­vi­sion be­tween Guns and beat­ers here,” he said, echo­ing a sen­ti­ment I’ve been very pleased to hear on shoots up and down the coun­try this season.

Af­ter a mixed drive, dur­ing which I shot a lone mal­lard but

“Coveys of greys broke from cover. A cou­ple of shots were fired, re­sult­ing in a lone lit­tle English­man tum­bling among the stub­ble”

Shoot cap­tain Chris Jor­dan (right) andfam­ily

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