The big day ar­rives

All the hard work by the Yeat Wood Farm game­keeper Andy Gray rests on ev­ery­thing com­ing to­gether in the sea­son's first shoot, says Nick Ri­d­ley

Sporting Gun - - Gamekeeping Our Shoot - Jan­uary 2019 www.shootin­guk.co.uk

The first day of the shoot­ing sea­son can be stress­ful for any game­keeper. All the hours of work come down to this. Ex­pec­ta­tions are high and all the prepa­ra­tion and plan­ning done.

The sea­son at the Yeat Wood Farm shoot starts in late Oc­to­ber. The day dawned bright and sunny, with a very slight breeze. Andy the game­keeper’s day started well be­fore dawn as he was out feed­ing the rides in an ef­fort to hold the birds in the cover.

New team

It is a new team at Yeat Wood and it was de­cided that 15 beat­ers, in­clud­ing plenty of women, and four pick­ers-up would be needed to cover most of the drives. It was also de­cided that due to the ma­jor­ity of cover crops be­ing maize, only a cou­ple of dogs would be re­quired in the beat­ing line.

It was al­ways the plan to make Yeat an in­clu­sive shoot, with the Guns, pick­ers-up and beat­ers all mix­ing and as ev­ery­one tucked into ba­con rolls and cof­fee, there was plenty of ban­ter amid the ex­pec­ta­tion.

It was also clear that Andy was feel­ing the weight of this ex­pec­ta­tion, eased by the pres­ence of ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple around him. Luke Hol­man was run­ning the pick­ing-up team and Ma­cie, Andy’s daugh­ter, who has just fin­ished a year at Sparsholt Col­lege in Hamp­shire and is do­ing an ap­pren­tice­ship with Purdy, the gun­mak­ers, was go­ing to help me run the beat­ing team. Although Yeat was new to most of the beat­ers, many of them have been in­volved in other shoots and had a good idea of what was ex­pected. The team of Guns came from all walks of life, demon­strat­ing the wide ap­peal of shoot­ing.

Re­luc­tant birds

The weather wasn’t go­ing to help Andy: the bright blue-sky and slight breeze meant that the first drive was go­ing to be quite chal­leng­ing to get any height on the birds, es­pe­cially as they would be fly­ing into the sun. The birds had been “ex­er­cised” dur­ing the daily dog­ging-in but this was the first time they would be blanked-in and hope­fully hold up in the maize cover crop.

The shoot has put down a few hun­dred English par­tridge to sup­ple­ment the more

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