Alastair Robertson: Most people can’t judge distances

Alastair Robertson. Picture: Donald Macleod
Alastair Robertson. Picture: Donald Macleod
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Well I am glad someone else agrees. When it comes to guessing the height of a game bird most people get it completely wrong. Asked to guess the distance of an object, 76 per cent couldn’t get within five yards either way and one in 10 overestimated by 50 per cent.

I am not sure that this information, brought to us courtesy of estate agents Strutt and Parker, and online letting agents Guns on Pegs, is of an enormous amount of help, other than telling us that most people can’t judge distances.

In effect, the height in feet doesn’t matter. Everyone learns from experience to judge how much lead (firing ahead of the target, not the stuff that comes out of the barrel) you have to give a bird for a clean kill.

From the survey we learn that the average shot spends £5,533 a year on his or her sport, which for those who potter about rough ground, farms and hedgerows and may rent the odd day with friends strikes me as rather a lot. On the other hand, anything over a fiver usually strikes me as criminally usurious.

But when I started totting up cartridges and mileage and tips and dog food and vet’s bills and goodness knows what else, it didn’t take long to get pretty close to the 5k mark.

What we do find in the survey is that once VAT is added in, the cost of a pheasant these days comes out at around £40 (bit less for partridges) per bird. So if you shoot 200 your party will end up paying £8,000 between them even before coughing up for everything else.

The good news from the survey is that the number of women shooting is creeping up, but probably no faster than the number of women CEOs, or MPs (a constant whinge) but it’s on the move, though I can’t see a huge increase, however popular shooting becomes. Women aren’t hugely into killing things for fun and can never see the point of freezing to death in a ploughed field in January. Interestingly, the majority of shooters prefer to be presented with fully feathered birds at the end of a day’s shooting, rather than ready plucked oven ready birds which some of the bigger shoots produce; all wrapped up on a polystyrene tray – rather lowering the tone. Unsurprisingly, most people who shoot can prepare and cook their birds, or at least say they can. I know a remarkable number of men who really don’t want to have anything to do with it, but will if pressed.

Apparently we shoot an average of 16.75 days a year which is 16.75 days too many for my wife, but far too few for our working cockers Crumpet and Waffle. No mention of dogs in the survey though. Odd.