GOING back a bit. Our Boxing Day shoot seems to have moved to yet another relation, which is fine, as he appears to have rather more to shoot than the rest of the family.
Christmas had gone astonishingly well in spite of 11 extras to lunch and the Aga going out. (We salvaged the situation by dint of wrapping it in blankets to keep in the dwindling heat and cooking everything bar the turkey on camping stoves).
The next day’s armed walk of sons, daughters and friends’ children was to have the added advantage, to my cousin at any rate, of pushing birds back into his main coverts in readiness for a let shoot.
Boxing Day with us was everything it should be, hard, bright, dry and not, almost disconcertingly, remotely cold. We started off through a windblown wood on a hill which belonged to a neighbour and which was full of the cousin’s own pheasants anyway. (At least we had permission this time. When he first took the place over the two of us would shoot the wood unaware that it had been sold by his grandfather 60 years earlier).
The wood proved a terrific success for everyone but the volunteer beating squad, which declared the undergrowth largely impenetrable, except by dogs.
All the same high birds cackled out in pretty well the wrong direction for most of the guns but down into a strip of young native woodland planted along a burn precisely for this sort of shooting occasion – and a woodland planting grant, but why not?
The alternative would have been to plough up to the edge of the burn, and how much wildlife would that harbour? From this strategic wood emerged some of the pheasants driven from the previous wood, plus a couple of woodcock.
Crumpet, the cocker spaniel, covered two fields and 50 yards of ditch in pursuit of a running pheasant, which she got, to much cheering.
I am sorry to say she was after it almost before it was shot. Waiting patiently for the command to “fetch it” is not one of her strong points on these occasions. We organised a highly complex sweep down a long dell leaving guns and vehicles at strategic points. Absolutely nothing came out. But a triangle of unpromising and hitherto unproductive scrub produced half the bag.
We had a late lunch of cold ham and lentil stew and drank a great many toasts and then decided that as it was getting dark anyway we might as well quit while we were ahead.
Bag: 16 pheasants, one woodcock, a duck and a pigeon (mine).