(click the photos to enlarge)
It has been nearly five years since I moved to Yorkshire, but it was only last Saturday that I had the opportunity to take part in the tradition that makes many people come here from Britain and all over the world – game shooting.
Shooting season for pheasants starts in October (partridges in September) and lasts till end of January, but this is not what attracts foreigners the most. The reason for this is that pheasants can be shot in many places in the world, but it is only Great Britain where you can find grouse. The grouse shooting season starts on 12 August, so called The Glorious Twelfth and finishes on 10 December. Thanks to our landlords Adrian and Bridget Thornton–Berry I had the opportunity to watch the group shooting pheasants and partridges.
It is too expensive entertainment for me and surely I would never had the opportunity to take part in it – it is not even the cost of the gun and fancy clothes (yes, you will se from the pictures that special outfit is required), but the actual cost of shooting day can be quite high. This is the reason why I was extremely happy to be a part of it on Saturday and watch the others shooting.
You would think that shooting day does not require much of preparation – so many guns goes to the place where they suppose to shoot and they just wait for the birds. (by the way fox hunting was banned in UK, first in Scotland and the in England and Wales in 2004, however there are still some fox hunting going on in the country, due to some gaps in law). It actually needs months of preparation, it has to be well organised and requires a work of many people.
Preparations to shooting season take months. Landlord employs people who breed the birds, look after them on his land, so called game keepers. Population is placed in few locations and about autumn the birds are big enough and the shooting season starts. This is what mainly generates the high cost of such day out.
We have started around 9 am and gathered outside of my landlords’ house and we were driven in 4x4 cars to the first location. It was a group of guns as well as people who take care of all the, lets call it technical background. We had seven drives in total – five before lunch and two in the afternoon, all on the private estate. We used cars but only to the certain moment, and then we had to walk to some areas, because I presume so, we could scar away the birds, as well as some areas were unreachable by cars.
Landlord and a host of shooting day was giving the instructions to each man with the gun where to stand, every few meters on each location. Each gun had their number that was drawn in the morning. It helps to organise everybody in quick and easy way – the host was telling where different number should go or which car to use. It made the whole thing work smoothly. This time it was family and friends day out so it was more relaxing and without a pressure to shoot the exact number of the birds, that client on normal let day would pay for.
Most of the guns that day were accompanied by women, however I do not think this is everyday situation especially that this time none of the women shot. They do in general, you can see women actually shooting, but that Saturday I presume they were there for social reasons. Actually the whole thing, as I thought is more about socialising, wearing fancy clothes and having lunch together rather than actual shooting. This is how I see it.
We had a lunch break about 1 pm and before the break we have done 5 drives. This time the lunch was served at landlords’ house but you may often see shooting groups having a lunch break in the local pubs or restaurants. It is this time of the year that nights are getting in quite soon in the afternoon, so after lunch we only had two drives before it got dark. Also on one of the locations we had a short break and charged our batteries with some sweets and a glass of damson gin (it was sweet, very sweet).
Also I have to mention our four leg companions – Spaniels and Labradors. The Labradors are often called the ideal dogs for gentleman's shooting companion; obviously they have to be properly bred and trained. Dogs are needed to collect dead birds from the ground after shoot in each drive. They can perfectly smell the dead birds and bring them back to the owners. Most of the birds I believe are plucked and cleaned and then sold to the local pubs, restaurants and butchers. Making sure that none of the shot birds are left behind is also important because some of the inexperienced guns may injure the bird, but do not kill it. Injured birds are not able to look after themselves, they will either starve, bleed in pain or be attacked by other animals, therefore somebody has to kill them – this is why there are also some extra people needed on the site, so they can make sure all the birds are killed fast and in least painful possible way.
Dead birds are bound together in pairs (so called brace) and hung on a special metal frame on the back of a car.
To be continued…