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User Icon     Posted on Jan 10, 2020     by Nick Solomon     

The End In Sight

Another Season Almost Done

Lined Out

Christmas and New Year are over, all the decorations are down and packed away. It’s always a bit of a depressing time of year, rarely helped by the weather.

What makes this particularly depressing is that I went on my last driven shoot day of the season last weekend and we still have over 3 weeks of season left. Why? Well, a mixture of bad planning, work commitments and cost.

  • Bad Planning – A lot of people now book shoot days 12 months in advance. Indeed, I have already been asked for my plans for 2020/21. Whether you are a driven shooter or syndicate member, planning for next season will start soon.
  • Work – We all have to work to pay for our passion, some are lucky enough (or have been smart and hardworking) to be able to cut down on the work and continue to shoot. Most of us do not fall into that category.
  • Cost – The painful bit; one thing is certain shooting will never get cheaper. The price of everything including poults, feed, cartridges, hardware for fences and pens is getting more expensive. Not forgetting payment for the hardworking keepers who throughout the year work away mostly unsighted. They deserve to be well rewarded.

So, at certain stages in our life we make decisions and this year was the year for me. This season I shot in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall and it was lovely (despite the weather). I shot with a couple of different teams starting with partridge in Northern Ireland, before moving on to ducks in North Wales on the wettest day ever. These ducks gave you one chance before they were gone! Fantastic. I returned to Northern Ireland for another great day at an estate that not only present great flying birds but give you oven ready birds, sausages and burgers on departure. In our opinion more estates should be doing this as its essential to promoting the benefits of shooting. Following this shoot I found myself back in Cornwall for a posh day at a castle no less. The scenery, birds, and food were all amazing. Not to sit still I headed back to Scotland for a small day with four friends before returning to Cornwall to host a ‘big’ birthday shoot in an effort to pay back some great friends for years of generosity. What a day! A great team, we seemed to laugh all day despite the rain. I must say a special thanks to Neil and Will.

The largest bag on any of these days was 211 birds but most were closer 150, with a couple of small 60 bird days in the mix.

So what’s my point? I have been extremely lucky to experience each and every one of these days and I shall never forget this season. I lodged in a beautiful castle in Scotland, shot great birds in Wales and Cornwall and as mentioned had the most enjoyable shoot day with my closest friends. Money can’t buy the experience of the craic enjoyed between close friends on an occasion like this. It’s simply wonderful.. This season, for me, just could not have been better.

However, even Alan Whicker (you need to be of an age to know he reviewed exotic destinations in the 70’s) didn’t travel as much as I have this season! Living in Northern Ireland does come with travel pain whether going by air or sea. By air, you pay extra for your ‘sporting goods’ as well as having to complete 4 copies of paperwork. By sea, it’s Scotland or Liverpool, not quick and both with a fair amount of driving involved depending on where you are shooting when you dock. Driven days are understandably expensive but the travel and accommodation soon adds significantly to the cost.

So, next season I will be cutting down on my shooting, spending and travelling. I will take just 2 or 3 driven days, supplemented with a couple of rough days shooting with my dogs and a couple of mates which is really appealing. I no longer yearn for ‘big bag days’ as I honestly believe it does us no favours in the long run. That said, I totally support all legitimate shooting estates and syndicates but it is essential we ensure all game is used and not wasted. Due to the upsurge in veganism and the ‘anti’ movement there will be many challenges ahead for shooting estates so demonstrating extremely high level of standards of animal welfare and ethics will be critical to the industry’s future

When and if you get to this point in your shooting lives, fear not. Having to tighten my belt means that I now enjoy shooting only those challenging birds on shoot days and I will be far fitter after a few days rough shooting with the dogs. It’s a win win!

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