A small DIY syndicate, set up with friends five years ago, produces modest sport but makes a fitting memorial to a great sportsman
My dear old friend Charles Fenn was laid to rest in the churchyard overlooking the village house in which he had lived for so many years. It was an endorsement of his popularity that the church was packed to capacity with his friends, shooting companions and villagers, all of whom had come to pay their final respects to a man who had brought so much pleasure into their lives.
Charles had been one of the Guns who took part in the first day this season on the small DIY shoot which he and
I had organised and, with volunteer help, launched some five years ago. It was a steep learning curve and, for both of us, engendered a deep respect for professional gamekeepers and some understanding of the hard work and occasional heartbreak involved in the production of even the most moderate sport.
Our release pen, sited on the edge of a small wood and constructed with volunteer help, held a modest 300 birds. Fortunately, a small stream adjacent to the wood provided fresh water but we quickly discovered that topping up the feeders — both in the pen until the birds were released and then in an adjacent cover and game crop — was a time-consuming chore.
Time and effort
Grain had to be bagged up and fetched from a compliant farmer 20 miles away to be distributed at various feeding points, all of which took time and effort. However, we were fortunate to lose only around halfa-dozen released birds each year, killed in the pen by buzzards.
We tried hanging twirling CDS from branches, but eventually discovered that the only real deterrent was to suspend white paper feed bags from branches throughout the pen, and to remove buzzard perching points overhanging the wire. Once the birds reached a certain size, however, buzzard attacks stopped. Nor did we have any problems with foxes or ground vermin. Indeed, the only casualty was a frog that hit the electric wire round the pen.
A small syndicate of six Guns with one or two guests was formed, assistance in
(front row, third from right),
running the shoot was offered and we were in business. The average bag over the first few years was about 15 birds for the day, based on a main drive from game cover and an adjacent 10-acre wood, much favoured by pheasants. Little enough for all the effort involved, you might think, but the birds flew well and frequently provided some really testing shooting.
The size of the bag was immaterial. It was the creation of a sporting atmosphere, the highlights and lowlights of the day, the generosity of the local beaters who gave up their time to work their dogs and enjoy the atmosphere, which was reward enough.
However, the shoot expanded two years ago, with the addition of extra land, providing room for another pen and an additional drive. A local former keeper, energetic and enthusiastic, took over, the first pen was enlarged and 1,000 birds were released over the two pens. Suddenly, the little shoot, while still retaining all its character, was transformed.
This year, the opening day produced a bag of 50 birds, all of which were ethically disposed of among eight Guns and the team of beaters. I was picking-up and recall that, on the first drive, the majority of the pheasants flew high and fast, many speeding over Charles, who was a notable Shot, to give him some excellent sport. When the horn blew to signal the end of the drive, 10 birds lay behind his peg.
Since that day there has been another shoot, sadly without Charles, but he would have been thrilled to know that the bag on this occasion was 51 birds. Hopefully, the DIY shoot will continue for a good many seasons to come and will always be associated with Charles; a fitting memorial to a great sportsman.
“When the horn blew for the end of the drive, 10 birds lay behind Charles’s peg”
Tony Jackson former Editor of Shooting Times, lives in Somerset, stalks, picks-up with Labradors and helps run a small shoot.
CharlesTonyand other shoot members with the day’s bag