Phil Moorsom talks through some of the great sporting opportunities that syndicate members can take advantage of throughout the year
Variety is the best policy to keep syndicates happy
Ithink it is around this time of year that it really hits home how lucky we are to have such a wide range of fieldsports available to us in this country for the majority of the year. February the first seems an eternity ago and the Glorious Twelfth now seems just around the corner and one can start to get excited about the upcoming season.
I manage to keep my hand (eye) in for most of the year. I am a member of a small clay syndicate that shoots every other Sunday over some rough ground on quite a large local farm. We invested in several manual traps and take it in turns to shoot or trap and we all pay a tenner for a morning’s shooting. As is usually the case, one or two dedicated people do the majority of the organising and tweak some days to make it more interesting.
We always have a family day, small bore days, the odd competition and the best is the Christmas driven day followed by a long lunch at the local pub – paid for out of the year’s subs. Every six weeks or so, in order to thank the farmer, we have a crow shoot just to keep the numbers down.
One of the great perks of running our syndicate is visiting the many shoots that make up our calendar. I always make the trip to new venues for the upcoming season to have a good look around and to meet the keeper or shoot owner to make sure we are compatible. On some of our long-standing shoots I often take my three energetic terriers with me as they enjoy getting stuck into the hedgerows and may flush the odd bunny for the pot.
Personally, I love just walking around and seeing what wildlife is about. I went out for a walked-up afternoon in March armed only with a pair of binoculars and my one well-behaved terrier and managed to see a woodcock, a snipe, a brace of pheasant, a partridge, a barrel of a muntjac and seven roe deer all in the space of a couple of hours.
Every year at the end of the shooting season many of our members are keen to find alternative entertainment once the game birds are taking a well-deserved rest. Simulated days are a fantastic means of not only keeping your eye in but a great sociable event.
A well-run day should mirror a full driven one and will occasionally result in a slightly bruised shoulder, a reminder to have a lesson, a realisation that you need to book some game days and hopefully that slightly tired satisfaction that one gets from a day in the field. We usually put a couple in the calendar in different areas of the country and they are always well attended.
Keen to satisfy the desire for live quarry, we also arrange some pigeon days both over decoys and roost shooting, but as with all wild bird days it
is difficult to guarantee success. There is no substitute for having your own permissions and receiving a call from the landowner informing you that a sudden influx of ‘woodies’ is causing him grief or that a sudden explosion of rabbits in a couple of fields needs immediate attention.
Luckily, I have quite a few areas I am permitted to shoot over and I think too many people are a bit reluctant to ask farmers or landowners for permission assuming that the answer will be ‘no’ or that someone already has the shooting rights sewn up. If you don’t ask you don’t get.
Once you do get a permission under your belt, you may well be surprised how positively neighbouring farmers will react to your request. Of course, making sure you shoot responsibly on their land and perhaps offering something in return goes a long way. This could be financial, or simply a couple of rabbits (in a pie), a brace of pigeon or a bottle or two of something.
This year, we have also organised several days’ stalking for members on many of the shoots that we visit during the game season. The majority of these days are for novices who do not have their own rifle, but are keen to give stalking a go.
Not all shoots are keen to welcome novices, but if you don’t ask you will never know. Most shoots will offer a guided morning or evening stalk for a very modest sum and some will happily give you the meat to take away while others may charge the going rate. It is a fantastic experience and who knows, you may get hooked and want to do more of it in the future.
A surprisingly large number of the people I shoot with also seem to harbour a passion for fly-fishing. I have to confess that the infatuation that accompanies fly-fishing is increasingly irresistible.
I do a bit of sea fishing and lobster potting in Pembrokeshire, which I love, but the thought of travelling to various stunning, isolated rivers all over the country just sounds too good not to at least give it a try.
I have been offered a couple of lessons by a passionately eccentric fisherwoman who is a dear friend of my Mum. That, coupled with an invitation to experience the Mayfly trout season, may well be enough to get me hooked (pun intended)!
However, I am not sure how well another all-consuming hobby would go down at home.
The Rough Rovers organise some pigeon shooting outings Sim days are not only beneficial for your shooting, but are fun and sociable too
A number of guided stalks have been arranged for syndicate members
Phil is tempted to add fly-fishing to his list of hobbies