Issue 15 September 2020

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On The Wing

Mark van den Boogaart with an Australian's account of English shooting.

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Shooting|August 2020

I’ve spent many happy hours carrying rod and rifle, mostly .30 cal rifles and light weight, saltwater spinners, though when it comes right down to it, I favour carrying a shotgun above all others. Back home in Oz if I’m carrying a shotgun, it’s generally loaded with pig medicine; solids and buckshot.

Consequently, when we are in England, I make sure to spend at least a couple of days in the field gunning for birds on the wing. Over our numerous visits I’ve come to realise its rough shooting that I find most appealing. Be it from behind a blind or walking through field, everyman gunning best suits my style.

Our quarry.

With a visit to England scheduled for Christmas 2019, I let good mates Steve and Toby know when we would be in country, and they got to work putting a plan together. This time around they had something a little different in mind, a farm shoot. It would be a real mix of flushed game, a couple of drives, some speculative walks and maybe a little time spent behind some natural cover.

Like the shoot, the game would be mixed, primarily pheasant and partridge, and maybe pigeons. By way of gun I would be offered a left hand Yildiz Pro Black Sporter, so if nothing else at least I’d have something nice to carry around for the day.

...for this shoot I’d be kitted out in tweeds, moleskins, shirt and tie...

The tradition of English shooting is something to admire, and whereas I usually wear boots, a cotton shirt, jeans and snake proof gaiters, for this shoot I’d be kitted out in tweeds, moleskins, shirt and tie. I was also told that we would be riding around in farm vehicles between shoots, so I wouldn’t be too far out of my comfort zone.

As the day of the shoot arrived, I made my way to the farm I met up with old friends. After a quick catch-up we all headed over to meet with the farm owner, and Shoot Captain.

As always, the Shoot Captain’s instructions focused on safety and explained how we might encounter game over the course of the day. His last instruction however reflected the fact we were on a working farm as he told us that a resident fox had been causing havoc with the domestic fowl, so if we saw ‘im, we were to shoot ‘im.

Stepping up into the tray of one of the farm utes, we headed to the first shoot of the day. It turned out to be an unplanted field that bordered a golf course and the local section of motorway.

Now, I mostly hunt blocks where you may not see, or hear another person for the duration so the closeness to civilisation is something that always takes me a little time to get used to when hunting and shooting in England.

On the peg, waiting.

Looking around, we saw pheasants madly dashing in and out of the bordering hedge row, while up on the fringe of the field there was what looked like a good Muntjac Buck so there was plenty of game about.

Our plan was to walk a line of drainage ditches that provided cover in the otherwise empty field while the dogs got to flushing game. The dog team was an eclectic assortment of fur including a fine English black Labrador, an overly active Jack Russell and something that reminded me of a Poodle.

Whatever their differences they were keen eyed and happy to work. Along for the ride was the farm owner’s Spaniel; however, the old boy seemed entirely comfortable staying with the ute.

Turning towards the bird, I was now unfortunately facing the Shoot Captain...

Walking on the right of the ditch, the dogs, to my left, were busily working the cover and surprised a hen Pheasant. The hen, then surprised the hell out of me by cutting behind. Turning towards the bird, I was now unfortunately facing the Shoot Captain so I was forced like a 85kg ballerina to pirouette back to my right.

I emptied both barrels in the general direction of the Hen, and watched it continue on its way. After the shots, the silence was broken by the kind words of the Shoot Captain, who said something like, you ain’t got a rifle there you know, swing it! Suitably chastised I began to practise my swings while crossing over to the next field.

Moving on, we contoured the drainage lines with the dogs continuing to flush the odd bird, including the first cock of the day. The path was leading the shoot toward a small stand of trees where, on arrival we spread out in a shallow picket and watched the dogs get to work.

This time two hen Pheasants broke cover and I managed to drop one. With the pressure off I allowed myself a smile, and kept my eye out for other chances.

As the morning progressed, we slowly built a tally of birds, and while I was hardly the main contributor I had myself a brace of hens and a single cock Pheasant that unfortunately got two barrels. The first pigeons of the day were also amongst the bag after a chance to shoot off a Peg.

Driving around in a ute with a shotgun is second nature.

The pegs were arranged across a field overlooking a double row of hedges and a small border crop. Unfortunately, while Pheasants were about, they were scuttling across the field, rather than flying so a number passed safely to the other side. The Pigeons were on the wing and a couple fell to the guns. Being Winter the numbers were a little down though it was not hard to imagine with a full crop it would be a lively shoot.

The coffee was warm, the cakes were plentiful and most importantly the flapjacks were chewie..

With an ever increasing bag we headed back to the farm for something to eat before heading over to the farm’s northern fields. The coffee was warm, the cakes were plentiful and most importantly the flapjacks were chewie so after some conversation, the inevitable retelling of stories and a bit of a laugh at the token Aussie it was time to get back into it.

The northern fields were set up for small driven shoots. Our first set of pegs faced up towards a hedge. Soon enough the sound of Pheasants could be heard with the birds on the wing. While I missed a couple, I did manage to pick up another up for the day.

As a group, when then split up. Along with another gun, I moved into a pocket amongst some tall trees on the very border of the field. It was a great position, however our sight lines where short, so quick shooting was called for.

As luck would have it, the first Partridge of the day appeared and giving it a barrel, I tailed it. Before getting a second shot in, the partridge took a direct hit from my partner.

The Yildiz does its job.

Looking over, he reminded me I needed to shoot faster, so we called that one my first Partridge with an assist. We then headed towards our final shoot area for the day. Re-joining the others, we got the dogs into a browned off crop with the hope of sending up some game.

Amongst the stubble the dogs managed to get amongst a number of Pheasant, a couple of Partridge and the odd Pigeon, all of which made for very fast shooting. While a couple escaped, plenty fell to the guns. I had another chance on a Partridge, however it was too low and too fast for this Aussie.

Picking up the fallen birds, we began our walk back. Looking over the bag, whilst not an exorbitant total, there was enough for a brace or two for those who wanted it, with the rest staying with the farm. Truth be told, totals and scores have never really mattered to me and I was happy to experience another new hunting adventure, try out a new gun and spend the day exploring new territory with good friends, both well known and newly met.

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on (modified )

Shooting|August 2020

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