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A beau­ti­ful black labrador pre­pares for a day pick­ing up at a West­coun­try pheas­ant shoot

Michael Hockin, founder and owner of the Brown­stone Manor Shoot, near Hol­be­ton in South Devon, has a the­ory about what makes a great shoot. “It’s 60% about the shoot­ing, 20% about the peo­ple you are shoot­ing with and 20% about the land­scape,” he sug­gests.

As we are tuck­ing into roast pork with veg­eta­bles, stuff­ing and per­fectly crispy crack­ling, he might have re­vised his per­cent­ages to in­clude great food. The lunches, cooked by the bril­liant San­dra Val­lance, are leg­endary at Brown­stone. And they are served in the es­tate’s own “pub”, the Dog and Duck, cre­ated from a barn in the grounds and warmed through on this cold, wet day with a roar­ing wood­stove fed from the es­tate’s own tim­ber.

Guns, beat­ers and pick­ers up all eat to­gether, guns at one ta­ble, the beat­ers and pick­ers up at an­other. It makes for a very con­vivial break in a day’s shoot­ing or, if the guns “shoot through” with­out a break, as on the day the West­ern Morn­ing News was there, the per­fect, re­lax­ing end to the day.

But the meal is just the ic­ing on the cake at Brown­stone, name checked along­side some of the West­coun­try’s most fa­mous shoots in a new edi­tion just out of a clas­sic ref­er­ence guide to the UK’s shoot­ing es­tates, Great Shoots by Brian P Martin (Quiller £35).

Michael and his son Chris­tian, who run the shoot to­gether, are rightly proud of Brown­stone’s ap­pear­ance in Great Shoots. And on Tues­day last week, there was an op­por­tu­nity to give a group of their friends, many of whom have shot at Brown­stone for more than two decades, a day to re­mem­ber.

A day’s pheas­ant shoot­ing has to be or­gan­ised well in ad­vance. So when the day dawns with the rain ham­mer­ing down and the west­erly winds ris­ing, can­celling is not an op­tion. So it was that 10 friends of Michael’s donned wa­ter­proofs, pulled on caps and headed out for the first drive of the day, the aptly named Al­ston Heights, where the birds fly from a steep, slop­ing and well-wooded hill over beau­ti­ful lakes cre­ated from a dammed stream.

The land­scape may make up only 20% of the en­joy­ment of the day in Michael’s cal­cu­la­tion of what makes a good shoot. But it has taken 100% of the ef­fort he and the fam­ily have put into cre­at­ing the Brown­stone shoot, turn­ing it from a bare arable farm, when he bought it, to the tree cov­ered, pond and lake-dot­ted oa­sis for wildlife that it is to­day. Re­cently the RSPB’s direc­tor for the South West, Nick Bruce-White visited Brown­stone and praised it – and other well-run pheas-

STEVE HAYWOOD

PHO­TOS: STEVE HAYWOOD

Shoot owner Michael Hockin on Main Drive.Below, a shot bird is re­trieved from the lake

The game shoot­ing sea­son is in full swing. Philip Bow­ern spent a day at the Brown­stone Manor Shoot in South Devon, named in the new edi­tion of the book, Great Shoots

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