With the wing shooting season now upon us, many will be turning their minds to how to afford to buy some great shooting. For some it will be the start of their annual pilgrimage to a treasured driven shoot whilst for others it will be a succession of expensive days with loaders and 5 star service. For a lot of people however, even the thought of a paid driven day is a bucket list event, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy some of the most fantastic shooting available and for a fraction of the cost.
I’ve been fortunate to enjoy all forms of driven shooting, less grouse, and have shot on small family shoots along with big bird days on expensive estates. However, its rough shooting that I enjoy more than anything. There is something more romantic about being out with your dog, and maybe one or two human friends, walking the edges of fields or through a small wood, hoping to flush up a bird than standing in a line awaiting the flurry of birds soaring overhead. When it does come, the rough shoot bird will almost certainly catch you off guard, and you adrenaline will surge whilst you try to regain the advantage as you swing your gun towards, and hopefully in front of, your prey. At the end of a long day of rough shooting, where there is always ‘one more hedge line’ to work, you will hopefully have a few birds for the pot. You might be lucky and have a rabbit or two to go with them.
Possibly my favourite shooting trip of the year is a trip to see a good friend, Gav, in Scotland. He doesn’t shoot but lives in the countryside and is a friend to most of his neighbouring farmers. We normally time the trip to coincide with the influx of geese, whose flight paths criss cross above his home. Gav loves to accompany the hunting excursion and has everything organised for our arrival by enlisting the services of a now mutual friend, Scott, who shares our love of hunting. Our day starts early and may begin with a deer stalk before switching to the shotgun and dog for the rough in search of winged quarry. A day may produce pheasant escapees from a nearby estate which holds driven shoots throughout the season, or wild duck, woodcock, pigeon, and of course geese. We could, and have, set up hides for the geese but these days we are happy hoping for a low flight of some passing noisy Canadians. Geese, that is, not people! If we are really lucky we may come across some rabbit. I say lucky as the area is highly populated with hares but rabbits are far more scarce.
The trip always produces plenty of meat for the freezer, but more importantly its a Mecca for me now to simply enjoy the countryside and catch up with a good friend. It costs nothing, less travel expenses and occasionally an AirBnB if Gav is running tight on space due to other family commitments or I’ve brought compatriots to share the experience. What’s more, we normally leave a farmer a little happier by removing some pests, and it goes without saying we share the spoils of our efforts before we depart. It is, without a doubt, the best shooting trip of my year.