ROUGH ROVERS:

A glo­ri­ous first day of the sea­son is spent walkingup pheas­ant and par­tridge

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As I have men­tioned in pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles, we are al­ways look­ing for new shoots to keep our mem­bers en­thused and to make sure our cal­en­dar con­tin­u­ally im­proves. Good, mod­est-sized driven days are rel­a­tively easy to find and this sea­son we have been lucky to get in­vited to take days on sev­eral fam­ily shoots that are look­ing to sell the odd day to bal­ance the books.

With a bit of en­cour­age­ment, we are lucky to have added sev­eral farm shoots to our cal­en­dar. These are mostly smaller walked-up and mini driven days that ex­ist­ing shoots have let out in en­abling them to put a few more birds down, de­velop their shoot and make the best of the ground they have.

One of the most suc­cess­ful this sea­son was a shoot close to home for me in Glouces­ter­shire. A good friend was of­fered the shoot­ing rights over about 1,200 acres of well-man­aged farm land. The area, mirac­u­lously, had never been shot be­fore, al­though for the last few years the farm man­ager and owner had been plant­ing cover strips ei­ther side of al­most ev­ery hedgerow in or­der to en­cour­age the wildlife. Rough ar­eas of ground were also planted with wild bird mix and as the farm prac­tised di­rect drilling, the stub­ble was left, mak­ing it a su­perb par­tridge habi­tat. Af­ter a tour of the farm back in April, I agreed that we would be happy to take quite a few days and so was look­ing for­ward to our first out­ing there on 1 Oc­to­ber.

The first day of the sea­son is al­ways a bit nerve-rack­ing for even the most con­fi­dent of keep­ers, but a new ground that has never been shot def­i­nitely upped the ante. With many of the Guns also out on their first day of the sea­son, we agreed that we would make the most of the day, what­ever hap­pened. Sadly, one of the Guns had pulled out that morn­ing with a touch of flu, so it was up to me to fill in as I was not sup­posed to be shoot­ing. My good for­tune con­tin­ued as af­ter walk­ing-up some stand­ing corn for five min­utes, I shot the first Rough Rovers pheas­ant of the sea­son at ex­actly 9.24am. Not the great­est bird I

‘With many of the Guns out on their first day of the sea­son, we agreed that we would make the most of the day what­ever hap­pened!’

have ever shot, but I put a feather in its beak and marked it down for the pot.

Typ­i­cally for the time of year, it was a still, bright day, mean­ing the par­tridge got up early and spread out into the fields rather than to­wards the four Guns act­ing as stops at the end of a tall hedgerow, flanked by corn on one side and kale on the other. How­ever, as we reached a kink in the hedge, sur­rounded by rough grass, a covey of about 35 English par­tridge ex­ploded out of the cover. Taken by sur­prise, the walk­ing Guns only shot one go­ing back, but thank­fully the ma­jor­ity of the birds did go for­ward and af­ter a short de­lay we heard plenty of bang­ing. We brought up the fi­nal 500 yards of the hedgerow and put up a cou­ple of last year’s pheas­ants that climbed over two large oak trees but were brought down com­fort­ably by the stand­ing Guns. How­ever, when we reached the oth­ers, it be­came clear that two of the Guns had com­mit­ted the car­di­nal sin of ‘browning’ the covey of English­men that had come right over them.

Hav­ing had some good shoot­ing on the first piece, I put my­self far out on the right for the next drive, think­ing I would watch the oth­ers shoot. It was ob­vi­ously my turn to be in the hot seat for the day as I had three French­men cross in front of me and then a covey of English came straight over my head. I missed them all and none of the other Guns even fired a shot. The keeper and beat­ers ar­rived and didn’t do a bril­liant job of hid­ing their frus­tra­tion with my per­for­mance. “Things can only get bet­ter,” was my only re­sponse.

It seemed like a good time to take elevenses. I am a firm be­liever that it’s best to have a break when the shoot­ing isn’t go­ing well. So af­ter a cup of tea, some aim­ing juice and a de­li­cious home­made rab­bit sausage roll, we set off to the other side of the farm where there are larger ar­eas of cover and some long, thick spin­neys.

The beat­ers and a cou­ple of Guns pushed two small fields of rough grass into a thick hedgerow that led into a tri­an­gu­lar wooded area. Al­most im­me­di­ately, birds started get­ting up and trav­el­ling the length of the hedge, lift­ing above a line of trees right over four of the Guns, of­fer­ing some ter­rific shoot­ing. A well-con­trolled and steady beat­ing line can make a huge dif­fer­ence when shoot­ing par­tridge and in­stinc­tively, when even a sin­gle bird was flushed, the line was stopped and the spaniels called in. At the end of the drive, the Guns were all very an­i­mated, grin­ning away and con­grat­u­lat­ing each other on some of the best birds shot. I had been stand­ing on the other side of the hedge and shot two spec­u­la­tive long, low (but safe) English­men that I was very pleased with and my ter­rier, Fig, man­aged to re­trieve them both.

The next two pieces we shot went al­most as well and we fin­ished the af­ter­noon with 10 English, 21 French and 17 pheas­ant.

The keeper was de­lighted with the way the day had gone and all the Guns re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated the fact that, al­though they’d had to work hard for their birds, they had en­joyed a very tra­di­tional day’s shoot­ing over some ex­cel­lent ground.

Phil bagged the first Rough Rovers pheas­ant of the sea­son!The Rovers have added a num­ber of smaller walked-up days this year

Good, mod­est-sized driven days prove rea­son­ably easy to se­cure

Cover strips along hedgerows are a great way to en­cour­age more game

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