“What we gain most from the shoot is the sense of community and friendships gained from running the shoot every weekend our cottage on the estate is filled with people from the age one one to chaps in their seventies all with an interest in the shoot.” – Naoimh Noelle McConville, Ballyward Shoot

love-of-shootingI saw your request on Facebook for new people to be the faces of shooting for the 2016/17 pheasant season, so thought I would share our story.

Established in 2012 at the age of 24 by myself Naoimh and now husband Gavin, Ballyward Shoot are organically growing our pheasant and duck shoot to become one of the well known estates for small driven days in Northern Ireland.

Gavin always an avid gundog trainer (getting his first dog at 8) introduced me to shooting. I was always into hunting with the horses but as I got older I preferred my feet on the ground! We decided we would start a small walked up shoot on my families estate. Our first season was a huge learning curve, as we built the pens without any help nor seeking any professional advice. My family had no interest in the shoot so we had to go on our own instincts and knowledge from seeing it done on other estates.

The first season was challenging in rearing birds, game keeping and it was difficult to get a team of guns and indeed beaters to support us. As the season went on the people who came to the shoot gave us positive feedback and perhaps the benefit of the doubt given it was our first year, and all booked for the following year! We where fortunate to met a few guys during this season who had various backgrounds but all interested in helping two keen young people establish the shoot.

As the shoot has gone from strength to strength this year we have released 4,000 poults and are rearing them for the season ahead. We both work full time and rely on our under keepers and apprentices to help us midweek . What we gain most from the shoot is the sense of community and friendships gained from running the shoot every weekend our cottage on the estate is filled with people from the age one (our youngest beater Alyssa came at 3 weeks old with mum Amy) to chaps in their seventies all with an interest in the shoot. We have the guys who help with the vermin control, the gun dog men , the under keepers and the school boys who are interested in game keeping who come for the weekend to help out. It’s satisfying seeing them learn about game keeping and conservation. The kitchen table is always filled at lunch time with tales, stories and advice – all around shooting and gamekeeping!

The shoot for us was initially motivated as a sideline commercial venture however as it has grown it is a labour of love and sincerely adds more value to us as a sustainable long term project. Every season we expand pens, woodland maintenance is ongoing and the wildlife has only increased since the shoot has begun due to vermin control and our interest in balancing the shoot and conservation. We take our clients needs and expectations very seriously and are dedicated to becoming the best small shoot in Ireland in the coming years. We want to build and grow the shoot to offering clients good quality game with a friendly and hospitable shooting experience.

We would love to be part of the campaign to show that new shoots can be started and that there are young people ( under 30 ) who have a long term interest in the countryside, conservation and gamekeeping who are dedicated to long term projects to improve the countryside.

To be part of our shooting campaign, email us at shooting@countryside-alliance.org and tell us why you have a #loveofshooting.

Follow the campaign on Twitter @CA_Shooting