Another season closes in the UK and I think one word sums it up: WET. Right from the get go we should have known it was going to be one of those years. The glorious 12th became the thrilling 13th with the way Sunday fell. It should have been obvious that any season starting on the 13th would be unlucky.
Our now annual walked up days in the Yorkshire Dales went well, with all four teams surviving their days, unlike previous years where the rigor of walking the hills in search of the king of gamebirds took their toll. Fog put paid to a couple of the driven days, but the bulk of the grouse programme went well, wet at times both underfoot and from above. Even with two new moors brought into the fold and more days grouse than ever sold, we were into partridge before we knew it.
Early September brought a speedy sojourn to chase some quail in Croatia. The first day, just to make us feel at home, it rained, their first in months. The shooting however, was superb. You never quite know what you will find when chasing migratory birds, as it’s all timing and Mother Nature. This time we hit the proverbial motherload with more birds than we’ve seen before.
After a quick trip north in mid-September to host a stand at the Midland (our first time at this show) and a great couple of days meeting friends old and new, it was straight home and on with business. With days ranging from 50 birds mini-driven up to numerous hundreds there was something for everyone, even our regular team of muzzle loaders (yes its a step back in time even down to the period costume).
Concerns over acres of unharvested crops and continuous rain proved valid, but as always the band of geniuses and fixers commonly known as keepers somehow managed to ensure we never lost a day. As always pheasant follow on fast on the heels of partridge, and despite the rain all went well. I do, however, think its the first time I’ve worn chest waders on a shoot day. The worst hit shoot was great favourite Bicton. Straddling the Hampshire Avon, this compact shoot only has nine drives: six have been under varying levels of water since late October and we’ve actually taken to offering a few of the guns thigh waders so they can get to their peg. Typically British determination not to be bested by the vagaries of the weather has led to plenty of banter and a renewed appreciation for webbed feet: from the shoot’s point of view, all they can say is ‘thank God for ducks!’
Although the team who offer our wildfowling on the Ouse washes might beg to differ. Grazing in the summer and flood storage in the winter, the area we shoot over has platforms built six foot above ground level: in December these were three foot underwater. The two day trip planned for the beginning of December was canceled, first time I’ve called off duck shooting for too much water!
Christmas came and went and the programme of walked up days picked up pace. Running on three new venues in the South of England, guns encountered just about every species possible, all the normal winged vermin along with pheasant, duck, partridge, woodcock and snipe (the most challenging of the game birds made it’s way into the odd bag). As the season wound down complete with five inches of snow in a single day (somewhat of a shock on the back of a mild winter), there were some superb late season birds, including a grand finale of stunning high Dorset pheasants.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have honoured me with their business this season, your continued custom is very valued.
It won’t be long till our foreign programme begins with trips to Bulgaria, Germany and Belarus in the next few months, along with a return to fishing and stalking and warmer weather if not a hosepipe ban. Before you get out the flip-flops and suncream, take the time to book next season’s fun before the glorious 12th sneaks up.