‘What shooting brings to the community and to the countryside is immeasurable in way of conservation, jobs, investment and relationships.’ – Nick Bishop
I first started beating with my dad at the young age of ten and I remember the first day wearing my Parker with the fur hood. One of the regulars took pity on my a dug out of his boot an old Barbour jacket that was his dads and which his dogs laid on. That day I trudged around the fields waving my flag and making what I thought were daft noises. Between drives the beaters and pickers-up would gather and pass the hip flask around and even at that tender age I was allowed a “sip”. While waiting one of the men made me a beating stick from holy.
Every year I longed for the end of the summer holidays as I knew it would soon be time for the beating season. I loved the friendship, comradery and being part of a great tradition. As I got older I was “promoted” and soon I was off with older men telling them where to stand and to stay in line with me. I watched in awe as I looked out on the guns as the pheasant flew high above, watching then bring the gun to the shoulder and swing to the birds. I soon learnt it was not what the man wore or the gun he shot with but the skill that made a true shot. The regulars at the syndicate where characters in their own right… the shoot owner Dicky Nicholson was a grand shot and the Colonel was a close second. As the years went by I moved to loading and driving the guns around and then my first “guest” day on the Keepers shoot. I was so proud to be asked and to stand where the guns stood and shoot the drive I so often beated. How different those drives were from their standpoint but what a joy those pheasant were. High soaring birds flying away from the beaters taking the wind. Philip the keeper and his lovely wife Mary made everyone welcome and many a lunchtime was spent sharing homemade pickles, Sloe gin and pasties. No radios in those days it was all by mouth, knowledge and the keepers horn. Now I pick-up with my two Spaniels at a local shoot and when I have time I buy the odd day here and there and shoot pheasant and partridge. Out of season I shoot on my father in-laws farm controlling those avian pests that seem to grow in their numbers from year to year.
What shooting brings to the community and to the countryside is immeasurable in way of conservation, jobs, investment and relationships. It is not just a pastime for the wealthy as many of those who I shoot with are everyday people working in garages, schools and offices who save all year round for their days shooting. True many are also wealthy business men but in the shooting field we are equal and there are no air or graces. And when the shooting seasons is over we turn to crop protection for the local farmers and pest control for the keepers. Pigeon and general pest control must generate as much if not more in regard to equipment sales, shotgun and cartridge purchases. Some of the innovation in decoys and equipment has been staggering given it is often seen as the poor man’s shooting.
I could go on and there is much I have not had time to type…. The photos I have of my days as a beater bring back so many memories of me as a lad and those great country characters I remember with such fondness.
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