SHOOT­ING TECH­NIQUE: How to shoot driven par­tridge

The sight of Perdix perdix whizzing over hedgerows can send many Guns into a blind fir­ing frenzy. Fol­low Steve’s ad­vice to make the most of this very at­tain­able, yet ex­cit­ing, quarry

Sporting Shooter - - CONTENTS -

For most of us the game sea­son proper starts on 1 Septem­ber. I know ev­ery­one bangs on about the Glo­ri­ous Twelfth but at £100 a bird it is be­yond the reach of most of us – cer­tainly me! (If you want to in­vite me, though, I will kindly make my­self avail­able).

Septem­ber, on the other hand, brings forth much more at­tain­able quarry, the no­ble par­tridge, and ducks and geese.

Early par­tridges can be some­thing of a mixed bag. If you are for­tu­nate enough to shoot at one of the top par­tridge shoots, such as Gurston Down, you are more or less as­sured of a good time, but many shoots do not have the to­pog­ra­phy that lends it­self to that sort of bird.

At the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber the feath­ers on most birds are still rel­a­tively soft; at the shoot­ing school we call them ‘sprog pilots’. In mid to late Oc­to­ber they are a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion when they have hard­ened up and been pushed around a few times.

On flat­tish ground when pushed over a hedge they may well not be very high, and if you shoot them di­rectly over­head, as one would with pheas­ants, they do not pro­vide a ter­ri­bly chal­leng­ing shot, save that your pat­tern will be small and there will be a lot of gun move­ment go­ing on. You will prob­a­bly also mash the bird if you

do hit it.

Shoot your partrdige at A. Your pat­tern will be much larger and you will have a bet­ter chance of suc­cess, plus time to shoot a sec­ond bird or bar­rel. If you shoot at B your pat­tern is much smaller, you have more rapid gun move­ment and no chance of a sec­ond shot.

Out in front

It is far bet­ter to take the bird well out in front – 30 yards or so if you can and it is safe to do so. Your pat­tern has de­vel­oped much more at that range and you have a bet­ter chance of killing it cleanly without ru­in­ing it for the pot (see be­low di­a­gram). If the ground rises in front of you or on the other side of the hedge, or there is cover in front of you, you still need to be able to see day­light be­low the tar­get. Be sure that you know where the beat­ers, stops and pick­ers-up are go­ing to be sta­tioned when shoot­ing low­ish birds – you must be safe and be seen to be a safe shot. As a boy I used to get the Eley Hawk Di­ary and al­ways re­mem­ber the ‘Fa­ther’s ad­vice to a son’ verse in it: ‘All the

‘Rather than mount­ing be­hind the bird, as you mount the gun have the muz­zles mov­ing with it, at the same speed and on the same line’

pheas­ants ever bred, won’t re­pay for one man dead.’ It ap­plies just as much today as then, and to par­tridges too.

To the side

If you shoot with the same friends or team of Guns and know each other well, so that you have con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ties and they in yours, you can agree to take birds well out to the sides, ef­fec­tively over other Guns. A par­tridge 10 yards up but 35 or 40 yards out makes a chal­leng­ing tar­get and crum­ples in a very sat­is­fy­ing way when hard hit. Of­ten, be­cause they are smaller than a pheas­ant and es­pe­cially if you have had a lay-off for the sum­mer months, it is easy to over-lead them be­cause they look so fast and, be­ing smaller, fur­ther away. Rather than mount­ing be­hind the bird, as you mount the gun have the muz­zles mov­ing with it, at the same speed and on the same line, so that as you com­plete the mount you can just open the lead pic­ture up – and re­mem­ber to fire and fol­low through, it mat­ters!

Hedgerow par­tridge

Some shoots stand the Guns far too close to a hedge, ei­ther be­cause they think it of­fers more of a chal­lenge with early Septem­ber birds or, be­ing cyn­i­cal, to limit how many birds you shoot. If this hap­pens, and it is safe to do so, try to move back a bit, or have a word with the or­gan­iser so it doesn’t hap­pen. If it’s your own shoot, have a look at your Gun po­si­tions and think about how you could make the day more chal­leng­ing and en­joy­able – per­haps you need one set of po­si­tions for early Septem­ber and other ones for later in the sea­son? Just be­cause it has al­ways been done that way doesn’t mean you can’t freshen things up for this year.

At your peg

So, on ar­riv­ing at your peg, have a look around and note the po­si­tions of Guns, pick­ers-up, etc. If you have agreed with your fel­low Guns that you will shoot to one side or both, mark off in your mind’s eye the lim­its of ‘your’ arcs of fire, set your car­tridge bag open on the floor and fill a pocket. One of the nice things about shoot­ing in Septem­ber is be­ing in shirt­sleeves and a vest. Dis­pense with the car­tridge belt – they re­strict your free­dom to move. Stand­ing with the gun un­der your arm may be com­fort­able, but when the birds start pour­ing over, it re­quires too much move­ment. In­stead, stand with the butt on your hip so that you just need to drop it onto the front hand to be in the ready po­si­tion. From here, when you see Perdix perdix or Alec­toris rufa, push for­wards with the front hand, lock­ing the end of the bar­rel onto it, mov­ing with it as you mount the gun, and as the shoul­der pushes into the stock, give it lead and fire.

Train to gain

To shoot out to ei­ther side, get some prac­tice in with an in­struc­tor. Prac­tise turning and drop­ping shoul­ders, and set tar­gets up from a medi­umheight tower in a re­al­is­tic set­ting. Start with one side, then the other, and grad­u­ally in­crease the dis­tance. It is vi­tal that you ‘drop’ the cor­rect shoul­der or you will not be hit­ting much. For the ex­treme wide right (as a right-han­der) you will need to move the feet so that you do not run out of ‘swing’ (an aw­ful word, oft mis­used). Prac­tise un­til it be­comes au­to­matic. Then have your in­struc­tor fire off ran­dom ‘on-re­port’ pairs, so that you do not know which di­rec­tion they will head in and have to move and turn be­tween shots. Make your train­ing as re­al­is­tic as pos­si­ble.

If you take your bird too late you’ll be rushed and have no chance of a sec­ond shot

It is far bet­ter to take the bird well out in front

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