Alastair Robertson: I was Number 1 gun, halfway up a hill

OH well, it was bound to happen eventually. I managed to run out of cartridges on the last drive of the day at a friend’s shoot.

Alastair Robertson. Picture: Donald Macleod

Running out of cartridges is one of those shooting nightmares that most people, including me until now, manage to avoid. When it happens to someone else it is all hugely amusing, like someone’s dog running amok. When it happens to you, it tends not to be so funny.

The problem with running out of cartridges is that there is absolutely no excuse. You can’t really pretend one of your fellow guns nicked them when you weren’t looking, or the dog suddenly ate them or an eagle owl swept down and carried off your cartridge bag.

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We had come out after a rather jolly lunch to the last drive of the day which last year had been a complete waste of time. All the birds had gone in the wrong direction and our host got in a frightful bate. This time I was No 1 gun, right at the very end of the line halfway up a hill and unlikely to get more than three or four shots. I should have known things had changed when Steve the handyman, who suddenly becomes a terrifically smart under keeper on shoot days, had said, “We’re doing it different this year.” Indeed they were.

Instead of all going out the wrong side, as they did last year, the birds came out the right side and executed a smart left turn uphill, straight across me, avoiding everyone else. So I blazed away, moderately effectively, while Crumpet and Waffle squeaked and whimpered on their leads desperate to tear off into the heather and find birds. And suddenly I was down to four cartridges and birds still pouring out of the wood. At which point there was nothing for it but to run downhill to my neighbour, grab a handful of cartridges from his bag of extravagantly coloured gold cartridges – very Home Counties – and resume fire.

Mercifully the drive came to an end before I could get off more than half a dozen shots. Ian the keeper pretended to be deeply offended that one of the guns had run out of cartridges, the implication being that we, or I, had doubted his ability to produce so many birds. But really he was cock-a-hoop that the drive had worked, not perhaps totally as expected (do they ever?) but well enough.

And he had swamped one of the guns (me) with birds. The dogs had a riot tearing about finding birds.

I had great fun, until I ran out, and will now have to put up with “hope you’ve bought enough cartridges” remarks, which could be tiresome. But hey ho. n