‘Tis The Season For Family: Multi-Generational Shoot Days

December 13, 2016

With my offspring well and truly sprung, my world no longer revolves around the vagaries of the school calendar. Except at Christmastime when the festive season brings an increase in young people in the shooting field.

It matters not whether they’re there to hold a gun, load for a benevolent relation, or wave a flag with vigour in the beating line: this is the future of our sport. And Christmas shoots should be family affairs.

Family days don’t have to be bag-busting days to be big successes. And often, it’s the small days that net the best fun as it’s about the laughter, learning and bonding and not the numbers. On one small day last season, eight guns spanning three generations,  assembled partners, spouses, grandparents, children and general hangers on amassed a field of 32 people…more than twice the size of the beating team. On finding his beating team trebled for the afternoon drive, the sanguine keeper observed his biggest job was making sure he finished with the same number he started with. (Photo by Anna Prideaux)

B&W anna family portrait

And ‘family’ on these days is defined in the loosest of terms. We all know someone who used to shoot, but for whatever reason hasn’t taken to the field in ages. Or the person who’s always asking questions, obviously interested, and just needs that entrée. What better time to share the camaraderie and fun of a day’s shooting than in the festive season?

Of course, there are a few caveats and basic graces to be observed and remembered (festive season or not). Debuting a new dog, a novice gun and a keen audience in combination is a recipe for disaster. And one that will be recorded for posterity. As ever, dogs should be well trained or on a lead. Sometimes even both.

Accept that four year olds in fluorescent snow suits stood on the peg will mean neither peace and quiet nor endless streams of birds pouring over you. They do, however, make effective stops and human flags provided you can position them accordingly. Manage your expectations accordingly (and yes, that is the voice of experience).
Let the shoot know how large the field will be…even the best catered shoots aren’t prepared for a field of 32 without notice. And finally, let the keeper know that you appreciate that you’re making his day harder (even with the extra beaters). If you’re lumbering him with fluorescent children, a cavalcade of hangers on, and novices needing commentary and coaching, you’re making delivering on even a modest bag more challenging.

Some of our most enduring memories are made at Christmas. The clarion of a child’s voice echoing out in the crisp air with ‘nice shot’ can puff out the chest of the most experienced of shots. And there’s nothing like witnessing your children’s firsts in the field. So if not at Christmas, then when?!


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