I don’t have a lot of hobbies. Unless cruising pinterest & gin sampling are hobbies? (You could replace Gin for shortbread, cheese, oat cookies, I’m always up for trying new things?!)
So the thought of the shoot season coming to an end is not one I relish! But having said that- with only three shoot days left for us(the pheasant & partridge season officially ends on the first of February) it feels like spring must be just around the corner. We’ve had some gloriously sunny, crisp days, but I always feel like the lead into February is bright & fresh with the promise of spring in the air.
One thing I guess you really notice living in the countryside is the change in seasons, beating through the woodlands you can see the catkins developing then dropping, the buds now starting to form on the trees, and soon the hidden primroses will start to bloom bringing that beautiful yellow flourish to the contrasting green field headlands & dark woodland leaf carpet.
Our shoot is a friendly, family oriented, we don’t take ourselves too seriously(well, most of us don’t!) and there’s always lots of banter. The shooting is almost secondary to the craic, most chaps will tell you they don’t care if they didn’t hit anything, they were there to just be ‘part of’ the day.
My role is as a beater, that is, to walk slowly through each ‘drive'(an area of scrub or woodland we push the birds out of in order to be shot) we do around five drives a day. We spread out in a line maybe 20 feet apart & armed with a good strong stick, tap the trees & feeders & wander slowly forward together pushing the birds towards the chosen direction, or up & out of their hiding place. Now, usually id have at least one dog to help me ‘work'(some beaters get paid to carry out this role, in our case the kids all get a share of the winners ‘sweep’ a guessing game you pay £2 to play, how many shots/birds the end count will number), but my dogs have decided to only work for our shoot captain -who happens to be my husband!
Much to my frustration, this year they have been stuck to him like glue. If he were to drive off on the beaters wagon to the other end of the drive, they’d even stand next to any man stood near me-rather than stay by my side, extremely annoying , seeing as I trained them & have 100% of the share of their day to day care!!! Luckily I have a one year old who is now pretty good at clapping & hollering to double my manpower-she’s just not quite so good through brambles & streams!
Although I walk the dogs at home on the farm, whilst beating I cover parts of it I ordinarily may not, pockets of woodland, or fields which are too far to venture to with little people in tow, I like to discover carpets of moss between the newly coppiced forests, streams which have turned bright orange teeming with iron bacteria and keeping a track of how the saplings we planted are doing!
Im always the annoying one taking photos of people, dogs, pheasants, I like to be able to look back on each season, to see how much the kids have grown,(the same can be said for certain people’s waistbands!), how many birds we shot, or how good-or bad(!) the weather was!
I hope you enjoy them too-whether you’ve ever been on a shoot or not!(If you haven’t, & would like to, go to the NOBS website, it’s packed with info! http://www.nobs.org.uk
Lots of love,