Coun­try Di­ary

A small DIY syn­di­cate, set up with friends five years ago, pro­duces mod­est sport but makes a fit­ting memo­rial to a great sports­man

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - TONY JACKSON -

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

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