Fishing and Shooting: “I only have to appear in plus fours and Crumpet starts turning cart wheels”

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TO MORAY for my annual grown-up shoot with grown-up people; by which I mean people who really know how to shoot, not just muck about.

Jo asks me every year and every year I shoot worse than the year before but he doesn’t seem to mind and everyone else says nice, if meaningless things like: “We all have our off days.”

Occasionally Jo blows up if he thinks you are not paying attention, which is fair enough. I once managed to start a drive facing the wrong way; which was a mistake.

Crumpet was invited too as she wasn’t on heat, which she had been last year. It is extraordinary how dogs know you are going shooting. I have only to appear in the kitchen in plus fours and she starts turning cart wheels.

It’s the unspoken ‘walkies’ with a huge W. The sight of a gun, even the air rifle, sends her completely bonkers with excitement; crouching down, yelping and leaping in the air.

When we got to Jo’s road end I let her out to chase the car and work off some of the pent-up energy, otherwise there would be no controlling her in the first drive, even though I had brought a giant dog skewer for pegging her lead into the ground.

Just as we neared the house and in full view of the kitchen where everyone who was staying was still having breakfast, the half-dozen semi-tame cock pheasants that peck round the lawn scuttled across the drive and Crumpet went after them in an excruciatingly public display of bad manners – all hugely appreciated by the audience in the kitchen. There is nothing like someone else’s dog misbehaving.

Half-way through the first drive I decided to let her off the lead. Theoretically you shouldn’t send your dog off to pick up birds until the drive is over. But enthusiastic pickers up have a habit of letting their dogs hoover up every bird in sight, leaving nothing for the Crumpets of this world sitting patiently by their masters and mistresses waiting for the drive to finish.

So I let her go to try and beat the other dogs to the bird, otherwise she’d have had a very boring time of it. The next door gun who had brought his huge and very masculine golden lab all the way from Hampshire complained there was nothing left at the end of each drive for his own dog to pick up.

It was not clear whether this was directed at Crumpet or the pickers up dogs so I gallantly assumed he was talking about the pickers up and cursed them enthusiastically. Crumpet wagged her tail in vigorous agreement.