Friday, November 14, 2008
The week began with our first day Pheasant shooting. On the day of a shoot my first task is to get out just after first light and do a tour of our boundaries with the dogs, chasing any birds back that may be considering a day away from the place. Beaters, Guns and dogs arrive between nine and nine thirty, and after a quick cup of coffee the day begins. The first drive involves a walk up the road for the beaters, to bring back a piece of water meadow towards the guns who are placed along the river, it is ideal ground for, Duck, Geese, Snipe and always shows Pheasant and Pigeon but is the wrong ground for Partridge. The second drive involves a lot of walking for the beaters who must blank in two fields, and tap out hedges up towards the top piece of game cover. On a good day this is quite a senior drive, on a bad day a dead loss and a lot of walking for nothing. The quality of the top game cover makes all the difference, too thin and patchy and it is very cold place for a Pheasant to be. The birds fly high from this drive and if we shoot Partridge it is this drive that will have produced them. The third drive is back down in the water meadows to bang out some Spearbed and woodland that produces little before stooping for elevenses. The next drive is a straightforward knocking out of a piece of woodland with game cover running alongside, this drive invariably produces the bulk of the Pheasants, many of which fly particularly high from this drive. The last two drives are down in the water meadows alongside the river and around the house. These two drives will have Woodcock in them at some point in the winter along with the odd chicken or flightless Duck.
Throughout the day the weather was atrocious, the final bag of fifty-one head made up of forty-seven pheasants a brace of Partridge and a brace of Jay. With fairer weather we may well have shot seventy plus. I would have expected to shoot half a dozen pigeon and the same number of duck but for the high south westerly wind that also carried upwards of forty partridge and as many pheasants away from the guns, we also put up one fox and numerous Deer. The standard of shooting was high amongst all six guns despite the weather, the standard of beating mixed as a core group become ever more surly and unruly when given direction by the keeper.
Shooting done and dusted by 1pm, a good lunch was had by all. The dozen beaters emboldened by spirits and fine food embarking on a brain storming session that produced solutions for The credit crunch, world peace, stocking policies for trout, successful bread making and John Sergeant’s limp during the Cha Cha Cha.
Jays apart, all the game shot was taken home and eaten, bottles recycled and excess food fed to dogs. A great day, despite the weather, enjoyed by beaters and guns alike and a great advert for shooting.
Otis attended his first shoot and drew mixed reviews.
The eggs in the hatchery are developing well, the few dead eggs each morning removed by pipette in a matter of minutes. The Brown Trout in the river are in full spawning mode at the moment with most of the usual spawning shallows showing half a dozen Redds. Spawning activity attracts the attention of the Herons who will stab away gormlessly at fish they have no hope of devouring, one hen fish of four pounds or more still kicking up in her redd full of spawn with two puncture wounds in her back that will ultimately finish her off but hopefully not before she has spawned.On the dry days that followed our Shoot, Grayling were rising to a trickle of small Olives that hatched in the middle of the day, the few Grayling fishermen that ventured out over the past week caught fish on the surface and on the nymph. They are great measurers our Grayling Fishermen, and from this year’s measuring it is apparent that the fish are fatter for a given length than in previous years, in contrast to the Brown Trout.