Late Season Sport at its Best

Diggory Hadoke



Late Season Sport at its Best

We are enjoying the best sport of the season here at the end of January. The weather over Xmas was perfect; frosty mornings, a good fall of woodcock, some proper walked up days over spaniels and driven pheasants soaring over the leafless oaks at North Mymms.

I'm amazed how good our bags have been this season. The 100-bird expectation is hitting the 125 -140 bird mark more often than not and we dare not go into the big drives in the woods too much because we'll have shot the bag by lunchtime. Even more surprising is the good number of partridges still on the ground. the game crops have stood up well and, though very spooky, we are seenig four hundred birds breaking out from some orf them and the gravel workings are thick with red-legs.

The English partridges are doing well and are pairing up now so we are trying not to shoot them. some Guns struggle to identify the species in the air. The Greys typically chatter to one another while on the wing. they also tend to flush in a covey and fly lower than the French.

I wrote last year about the problem so often encountered on commercial driven shoots with un-schooled Guns shooting low birds and quartering birds. Well, for next season a few like-minded souls have taken the plunge and decided to form our own syndicate with strong focus on doing driven pheasant shooting the way it should be done. I'm a firm believer that a 100-bird day can provide ample shooting for a team if they all play by the same rules. No quartering birds so that everyone shoots only good birds, no low birds so the bag is not filled with poor quality kills by poor shots.

"Can we achieve Utopia?" the 'keeper asked me when we have discussed the issue in the past. I think it worth a try! I'll report back on our success or failure this time next year.

Still, no need to get too far ahead. We still have a week of shooting before the tax man comes a-knocking and what shooting we anticipate! An extra day to 'mop-up' with no bag limit beckons and then we have a smaller day on Wednesday and Beaters Day on Saturday.

The drives work differently this time of year as birds that have survived many attempts to shoot them work to plans that have kept them alive and they flee the drives by different routes than intended all too often. the walking Guns often reap the benefits. Those birds that do head over the guns are not messing about - they will be strong fliers and skimming the treetops.

By the end of next week, it will be time to clean the bags and slips and boots, sort out and repair all the kit in the back of the vehicle and take a deep breath before we get into the egg-collecting and rearing all over again. Before you put your gun away, remember to get it serviced or get thet niggling faulty ejector taken care of. If you don't, you'll find yourself in aspot of bother next October when you suddenly remember your gun needs sorting out - by next week. All the gunsmiths will be busy!