BACK IN THE POOL

 

BACK IN THE POOL

BACK IN THE POOL

With the first sprinkling of snow on the ground and trials bikes in hibernation until Buckeye in January
time to think of all winter type things like Thanksgiving, Christmas decorations (and will those bloody
bulbs still work?) and all the local pool competitions.

Last year although I played well, I couldn’t qualify for the “Big One” as I consistently finished fourth on
just about every attempt. Brenda beat me to the punch and slipped through with a good third place and
I believe was the only lady qualifyer last year.

This year it has been a different story! First attempt at the Columbine in Mancos and I’m through with
a solid third losing to the overall winner. First go at the Hollywood in Dolores after an early loss to
Travis (the Hollywood Catering Manager, or fancy name for the cook) I came back on the losers side
beating out Travis again for third place and then needing a double win in the final. It all went very well
in the first game with some of those planned but seemingly unlikely shots coming off and finishing
with a bank shot to the middle bag. Game two was going very well and I was three balls up coming to
the black but couldn’t sink it from my first attempt letting my opposition back in to clean up and win the
day. Never mind, a very pleasing second place will do.

Going well on “stripes”

A few weeks ago Brenda had a Saturday free so we were back at the Hollywood to see if she could
qualify once more. She won her first round well, and then met up with me in round two which she
also won. However either alcohol or lack of practice caught up with her and a bit of “elbow” swinging
lost her the next two games. I won a couple more but then went out when someone almost ran the
table on me dropping me out in about 5th place.

Brenda in top form against me

Today Brenda has a long weekend and is fairly determined to get it right both at Dolores and
Mancos. There has been a lot more practice over the past two weeks so a bit more of the killer
thinking, less elbow swinging, and she could easily get the result. Lets hope so as her birthday is
only a week away!

Brenda gets a bye in round 1 and I find myself playing second fiddle to someone I should have
easily beaten. Every shot that he misses leaves me with nothing!  Quite infuriating so accept a first
round loss. Round two and no sooner has the game started and I’m going well when I see I’m
missing the Black ball? I didn’t even see it go in so I have no explanation!

Brenda meets Joe, our semi-professional, and after a good run loses this one. She then meets
Ron, who I lost to in the final a few weeks ago and her day comes to an end.

Roll, striped one, …..roll

The “Oh, so nearly look”

Well we still have Mancos on Sunday so a quick 5 frames to get in the mood, cues packed, and off
we go. We draw our numbers and Brenda is 3 and I’m at the other end on 13 so I won’t be seeing
her for sometime assuming we can win a few. Seems I have a first round bye so I can watch her
first game which she creeps through with a bit of elbow swinging.

Without the “elbow” swing

Normally if you can win 3 in a row you are assured of a good finish. I win my second round after a
bit of a struggle with the black and some poor shots along the way but a win is a win. My next game is against Brandon and despite getting to the black first I can’t sink the thing so I’m relegated to the
losers side. Brenda beats out Donny and then wins again giving her the magic 3 wins.

Another good win coming

Back on the loser’s bench I’m against Farrel, who often wins these competitions, but luckily for me he
clips the 8 in so I live to fight again. Now I’m against Donny who Brenda beat earlier and anything can
happen here as although he is an impressive player he tends to hit the ball far too hard. Today is no
exception and while trying a difficult shot the black sails in shortly after the game got under way. This automatically puts me into the third place where I get to play the loser of the so far undefeated Brenda
and Brandon match.

Three wins in a row

Brandon wins so its Brenda and myself guaranteed at least 3rd and 2nd with the winner playing
Brandon in the final. A fairly close game with spouse and the crowd definitely on her side but I slip
through and will meet Brandon in the final.

Racking up for the family duel

As I’m coming from the loser’s bench I have to rack and also win two games. Game one goes well
and I avenge my earlier defeat.

Red, then black, for the win

Three balls up, just the tricky bank on the black

The final game and I’m well ahead and get to a tricky bank shot for the black and the match. If I
make it then a no argument victory, but if I screw it up then Brandon’s remaining 3 balls are all
conveniently positioned, and barring mistakes he should be able to run them in my opinion. My
shot is worth a try but requires an offset bank. The strike is good but it does a “jaw rattler” and
hangs over the pocket edge! The crowd gasp…… but it would appear unless Brandon makes a bad
mistake I won’t be getting back to the table which indeed was the way it went.

Overall a very pleasing Sunday afternoon with a 2nd and 3rd …… maybe a 1st and 2nd would have
been too much! No matter, we are now both qualified at Mancos and I’m already good at Dolores so
Brenda just has to shoot a good one there and all will be well. Now I have to find a “very special”
present for her birthday and the week will be good despite our first snowfall last night.

TONY DOWN

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GET THAT CHARTER BOAT OUT AGAIN

GET THAT CHARTER BOAT OUT AGAIN

GET THAT CHARTER BOAT OUT AGAIN

As I drive the school bus along some of the dirt county roads it really is a nature trail with deer
everywhere, the odd fox or two and a large flock of dumb arsed turkeys wandering along beside the
road. I can imagine that after a year of living off the land Thanksgiving for surviving year one was
celebrated by catching one of these meaty birds and trying to cook same.

Once again I’ll be sending out to Messers Walmart and Safeway to hunt and gather all the necessary provisions and once more  Brenda will be doing the pilgrim bit in the kitchen. No doubt our doors will
be open to waifs, strays and others.

For such a long holiday it heralds 3 days of Christmas decorating Friday through Sunday for yours
truly and with the forecast of snow no doubt some fun time up the ladder. However, it is Brenda’s
birthday on the Sunday so my adorning all things bright and beautiful will terminate circa lunchtime.

So, back in the 1600’s Chris Jones gets a call from the Pilgrims who want to charter his boat, The
Mayflower, and another vessel, Speedwell, and try for a one way charter across the Atlantic. It doesn’t
go too well to start with as Speedwell leaks like a sieve and they have to put into harbor to caulk it up.
Off they go again but the leaky boat is still taking on water. Finally they transfer all the goodies
including the Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup onto Mayflower and she sets sail in
September from Plymouth with 102 passengers.

66 days later they arrive averaging about 2 mph for the crossing with their 180 tun ship. Like many,
you probably think there was a typing error or I slipped into “Odle Worlde English” but, No ! Tonnage,
the ton, or 20 x The hundredweight of 112 lbs had not yet been the yardstick for nautical
measurements but referred to a bloody great barrel called a “Tun“. At the same time other beer and
wine measurements included the “Firkin” and may have given rise to the expression
“It weighs a Firkin Tun !”

The large cask is called a “Tun“…….and it is firkin heavy !

The “Firkin” beer barrel

Anyhoooo, the Mayflower was rated at 180 tuns which it could carry in the cargo hold so it was no
doubt a pretty sizeable boat. After the “Land Ho!” cries and joy of finding something after 66 days at
sea they discovered that they weren’t where they wanted to be and set off south again as they were
getting desperately short on their main drinking fluid, namely beer. This didn’t work out too well so
they came back and decided on the new Plymouth.

“Land Ho !”

But we need more BEER !

” Look, Jones, I’m telling you WE are Here, and we paid to go There!”

OK then, Virginia here we come……

………or not, lets go back to Cape Cod

So, after the aborted trip to Virginia to find more beer they had another meeting and decided on the
name of their new colony. Not very original perhaps?

Their small boat is launched and Mary Chilton will be the first to get off. She of course is wearing
the standard ladies dress of the day so they make their way to a rock on the beach to serve as her
landing platform as she doesn’t want all her petticoats getting wet. She has her speech suitably
rehearsed but from legend and the fast emptying barrels of beer it seems some of the words may
have been misquoted.

“Are you ready Mary ?”

“Thanks to the skirt, ..this is one small step for a woman, and one Firkin
giant leap for mankind”

Being a religious bunch they were able to adapt the 10 Commandments so after stumbling about
on the beach and following footprints in the sand they found some baskets of corn buried in the
sand in what a farmer would call a “clamp”. Did it never occur to this group of religious men that it
didn’t get there of its own accord? and surely the baskets might have been a clue that it belonged to somebody?……… but NO! this was PROVIDENCE and provided by the Lord. Back in the UK if you
had done this you would have been HANGED.

Nice try ! but it is stealing!!

“We didn’t know it was YOUR turkey, and the unwanted corn we just
found
buried up on that hill”

A little later they found a fresh water spring which must have been a wonderful discovery and also
no doubt pissed off the former owners of the corn they had stolen who also owned the spring . Back
then and for the journey they had been drinking wine and beer in lieu of water as water of the day
was full of parasites.

The first winter was harsh in New England and by spring about half of the pilgrims had died leaving
just four women and a few teenage girls. By September some of the settlers seeds and the stolen
corn had been collected and then they had a three day Harvest Festival to celebrate their survival all
cooked by the four remaining women. This has been moved to its current position on the calendar by
Abe Lincoln and FDR’s government and not by factual events.

Had it not been for the indigenous native American Indians who were both farmers, fishermen and
hunters it would seem likely that all our pilgrims would have perished the following year when their
crops failed. Presumably after a large slice of humble pie, our early settlers learnt the skills of using
fish manure to increase the yield of their crops from their Indian friends and also learnt to fish for the abundance of lobsters (you lucky, lucky bastards!) clams, herring and of course cod.

Very soon other ships with settlers arrived bringing all manner of things including the covered
wagon which went on to be the start of Cruise America as we know it today.

Early RV’ing with Cruise America

……..and so, I await the bounty of the day, as the non cook for this festive occasion, and I know I shall
enjoy all that is presented for my gastronomic pleasure, but I’m still confused as to why I need to go shopping at 0200 on Friday morning??

Not sure about this new religion but they get a good congregation

Jones and his crew sailed back to Blighty in April 1621 and the Master passed away the following
year. Mayflower never did much thereafter and was broken up and sold for scrap in 1624.

Sold for scrap 1624

Well the away team have plundered all the goodies, the fire is lit and the bird suitably ready. Plenty of
beer is available so now time to sit back and see who comes a’knocking ?

TONY DOWN

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PHEASANT HUNTING IN THE US OF A

 

PHEASANT HUNTING IN THE US OF A

PHEASANT HUNTING IN THE US OF A

High above the Lodge at the Flying B in Idaho

The last article in the pheasant series and already you can see here in the US we don’t use the term
“Shoot” but refer to all matters as “Hunting”.

Unlike the UK here in America there are vast areas of land that nobody owns, or indeed would want
to, and these are called state lands and may be hunted with a suitable permit, however for the most
part the limits are ridiculously low with only TWO birds per day. Hardly worth going out in my opinion
but “one man and his dog” can obviously have some fun if you live in one of these States.

America does have more species to hunt than the UK which is predominately Pheasant, English
partridge, and Chukka often referred to as  Frenchmen, Frenchies or Red Legs and a spattering of
Woodcock and Snipe, and for the idle rich the Grouse. Here we have the good old Pheasant,
Chukka and Partridge often referred to as Hungarian Partridge or Huns. Woodcock can be found on
the East Coast and Southern States have the Bob White Quail, of Dick Cheney fame, and here
perhaps the (hunting) shooting is a bit more like the UK with old fashioned style and horse drawn
transport for the hunters/guns.

Quail hunting transport Southern Style

A bob white quail covey explodes, and with hunters this close together
no wonder people get shot !

There are also many varieties of Grouse, the Prairie Chicken, and Arizona sports three different
types of Quail and of course there are the standard Vermin birds of Dove and Pigeon which can
provide excellent shooting in the right areas.

Well other than the “free” land the rest is either private or commercial with large areas devoted to
Reserves, Preserves, Ranches, or Hunt Clubs where hunting can be had on either a “bird basis”
or a mini vacation.

When I was in Arizona I used a local Hunt Club where you could book your “hunt” and specify what
you would like to hunt/shoot. Experience of this sort of operation showed that it was better to take
an afternoon session and book an area close to the giant holding pen. The reasons for this soon
became apparent as you could only harvest those birds in your assigned area and within the 3
hour time limit. So if a morning hunt had taken place with a lot of birds released and people using
their own less than perfect hunting dogs you could guarantee that many of the birds were still in
there and slowly but surely birds that hadn’t been shot would all start trying to make their way back
to the release pens as others called them in. Those birds left out after the afternoon session often
fell prey to predators who were happy being in a target rich environment!

To get the most enjoyment out of this style of hunting, unless you have a well trained friend, then
your best bet is to use a guide and his dogs. Very soon a rapport will develop and once the guide
knows you are not going to shoot him or his dogs the shoot/hunt takes on a very different
perspective.

There is little to beat well trained pointing dogs

The dogs used in just about all bird hunting operations in the US are the pointers and although
perhaps not the softess mouthed dog their hunting ability is truly amazing! The two favorite types
are the English Pointer and the German Short Hair. For the most part these working dogs appear
as less than perfect examples of the canine world with bones showing through and clear pink or
yellow expressionless eyes. A bit like having a conversation with a drunk, “the lights are on but
there is nobody home!”

A classic “point” from a bag’o bones English Pointer

A bit like Mister Data, the eyes are expressionless and look right through
you

The lights are on, but is anyone home ?

Now in the UK if we are trying for walked up then we would like our faithful friend to hunt within 20
yards of us as we move forward through our area. As labs and spaniels are traditionally flushing and retrieving dogs, although once in a while you will find a labrador that points, we don’t want them
getting “out there” as they will flush countless birds way out of range and ruin everything. You can
therefore imagine what I’m thinking the first time I’m working with these goofey pointers and after
watching the guide fit their collars he lets them go and they disappear at high speed covering huge
areas of the patch where the birds I ordered have been put. I’m mentally thinking that any minute birds
will be airborne and flying out of my area and it will be a giant waste of money. With dogs running
aimlessly this way and that I trudge off after the guide expecting the worst and then the dogs are
gone! Shortly after the vanishing act there comes a “bleeping” noise from deep cover and the guide
changes direction and we close in on the “bleep”.  There are the two goofs, rock steady, one with paw
in the air and tail up like a flag and the other nose down and tail straight out. Very soon I deduce the
bleeps are coming from their collars and when the dogs stop moving the pendulum stops swinging
and the bleeps start. VERY clever, the UK shooter is IMPRESSED!!  The guide motions where he
wants me to be, I check my area, and then on command one of the dogs flushes the quarry, bird up,
gun mounted, simple swing, bird down ……. no reaction, dogs still rock still, I reload, another
command, 2 birds up, I swing, 2 birds down and the dogs retieve all three………. suitably impressed
we move on!   Today I ordered 10 pheasants and we finished up with 22 in the bag!!

A pair of pointing Brittanys

From 30 mph to dead stop in 3 paces

Now that’s a point !!

Like all good things the Prescott Hunt Club that I had become happy with gets sold out from under the manager who had set up a wonderful site and it gets sold off as 10 acre ranchettes! I then tried other
venues in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona but couldn’t find anything that I enjoyed as much so when
my son Edward, himself an excellent shot,came out to visit we took a trip to Mexico for some quail and
duck shooting.

Ducks being ducks I won’t cover that here but just describe the quail hunting which was different to
say the least! Either dogs don’t like Mexicans or vice versa but whatever the reason the Mexicans are
the beaters, flushers and retrievers. They will send scouts out to various fields and then deploy the
beaters in a very close line with Edward and myself on either side of them. The birds are flushed or
kicked out of their hiding places and we shoot them and then the eagle eyed Mexicans go and find
all the downed birds…… quite amazing!

An afternoon on Quail in Mexico with Edward

The Dakotas and Nebraska were looked at as possible venues but after much research I decided to
try the Flying B in Idaho and I’m very pleased that I did. They have a wonderful long season from mid
August through until mid April, release about 60,000 birds over their land and have a good weather
factor most years. They have their own kennel with English and German Pointers and breed their own replacement dogs and also train them. The purpose built hunting lodge wants for nothing and
everything from arrival to departure is five star and is included in the package which costs around
$1000/day but overall is worth every penny and then some! Perhaps the most wonderful place I have
ever shot/hunted at and having found it I would now never go anywhere else.

The fantastic Lodge at the Flying B

Cindy flushes me a perfect shot

I did once join a hunt at the Flying B sponsored by a shooting magazine but sadly the shooting of
some of the party gave cause for alarm with one clown shooting over my shoulder and dam nearly
deafening me, another swinging right through me at fleeing partridge and another blasting a sitting
bird right in front of the pointing dog’s nose. All credit to the dog that it never moved but I’m afraid this
cowboy style shooting is NOT for ME !

At that range with full choke the bird will only be fit for soup

As my Grandfather always said, “Never be in a rush”. What we are talking about here is footwork and
smooth mounting of the gun. A novice or inexperienced “gun” will often forget about the front foot, and
mount and fire far too quickly! This is either a desire to impress everybody or the fact that nobody has
given our hunter some simple rules. As you walk in to the point, check where everyone else IS and
the other dogs. If the bird flushes close to your feet, put your feet in a good position to swing with the
front foot forward by about 18 inches, as you push the gun forward you will be picking up the line of
flight and now count to 3.  Swing smoothly through the bird and if safe, with the right amount of lead,
fire!

From what we can see in the following photo the hunter was “too keen” ! The gun mount was POOR
and has been rolled into the shoulder and his footwork would indicate an “off balance” shot at ultra
close range. The shot was “lucky” for the hunter and very “unlucky” for the bird and in truth there
won’t be anything worth putting on the table! This one is SOUP !!

Plucked in flight !!!

From that point on I shot “solo” and teamed up with Jim and his dogs and formed a very strong bond
and a great hunting team.

My favorite guide and good friend Jim, with a heavy game bag

Walking in on yet another point

I shot with Jim on all my future visits and had a lot of laughs as he recalled a lot of his guiding stories
with some rich, but badly schooled shooters/hunters. Shooting with Jim I scored the highest one day
total of 87 birds shot and as I was the only person with a gun there can be no argument as to who
shot what.

The afternoon “bag” on my 87 bird day !

Edward joined me on a future visit and Jim was very impressed with his etiquette and fine shooting
style especially downing a bird or two that father had missed!

A mixed bag of Huns, Chukka and Pheasant  on our first afternoon hunt


Overall I enjoy working with pointers perhaps more than I ever thought possible and some of Jim’s
dogs have to get a mention.

Above the Lodge Jim lets Brush and Cindy out for the hunt

The first is “Brush” a very non discript looking bag of bones english pointer who would retrieve both
on sight and smell. One of the few dogs I have ever seen observe the shot and watch and if he
suspected you had hit it he would be off in hot pursuit and perform some of the most amazing
retrieves I have ever seen. The most memorable of these retrieves was from an early flush of a big
rooster that took off before the point and came towards me. With plenty of time I mounted the gun for
this classic driven bird shot, applied the requisite lead and fired. Nothing happened! I was so
surprized I couldn’t believe I had missed such a perfect shot and never fired the other barrel. Brush
looked up at me with a knowing look and went after the bird which was now climbing and a 100
yards away. The bird flew a good 1/4 mile crossing the valley floor before attempting to land on the
very steep rubble strewn hillside where it fluttered after a bad landing and then expired. We watched
Brush run the full length of the valley, cross the river, and climb up the steep rock filled hillside setting
off numerous avalanches on his climb including falling back a couple of times himself. He was NOT
going to be cheated out of his retrieve and eventually returned with the bird as though nothing had
happened. Sadly these working pointers are not known for their longevity and often pass anywhere
from the age of 4 on.

Maybe the best gun dog I have worked with ….. “BRUSH”

The other beast who I became friendly with was “Lawman”, quite the ugliest ungainly German short
hair I have ever seen. His legs were too long and his face was mishapened with a sort of “S” bend
nose and upper jaw. When I first saw him in his crate I started laughing and I think he took it
personally and thereafter seemed to want to show me he really was a very good dog. One day we had stopped for a coffee break by the truck and the dogs were just milling about around us and then as we
are talking and smoking Lawman goes on point by some rocks and the other dog honors. Gun
reloaded, and over to the point. Jim orders the flush and I down a partridge and a hen pheasant with a classic left and right. Lawman and friend depart and we walk back to the truck. The dogs return, each
with a bird in their mouth, and Lawman with mouth full of bird goes on point again coming up to the
rocks. We naturally assume it’s the scent from the last flushed pair and call him in but he WON’T
move! He just stands there head cocked sideways and mouth full of bird. Reload once more and
wander over not expecting anything and on order another cock pheasant is flushed from the same
hiding spot……………. It gets shot and retrieved while I’m still shaking my head in disbelief especially
as I had time to take this picture of him on point with a bird in his mouth before loading up and
bagging his second point!

Lawman on point with a bird in his mouth ????

Overall I enjoy “hunting” in America and working with pointers but I’m not keen on all the “orange”,
autos, and pump guns with their tight chokes and would say that from what I have seen I prefer to
shoot alone or with people I have seen in action, and NO, I won’t be hunting quail with Dick Cheney !

Orange, pumps and autos, ……. not for me !

Oh to be, at the Flying B

TONY DOWN

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  • 11/22/2010 11:20 PM Steveo wrote:
    Again big thanks for sharing those memories,I was fortunate to have had one of those German short hairs,the prettiest point I’ve ever seen,amazing instincts and breeding…
    Well the trials riding is getting decidedly cool now, with a dusting of the white shtuff being a few hundred feet up the mountain, from the salt chuck.
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PHEASANT SHOOTING UK STYLE

 

PHEASANT SHOOTING UK STYLE

PHEASANT SHOOTING UK STYLE

A Saturday in November….. and then it snowed!

One of my other passions, as some of you will have guessed is pheasant shooting, so here are a
couple of articles on the topic from both sides of the pond, explaining the differences between the
two styles of harvesting this colorful and good eating bird.

This one will be from the UK perspective and I’ll cover most aspects on the subject ranging from the Saturday afternoon out with your faithful friend through to the formal syndicate and commercial driven
shoot.

As a boy I was lucky enough to have a Gamekeeper as my Grandfather so from an early age I grew
up with all facets of the backstage work required to present birds on the day of the shoot. Most
shooting takes the form of a formal driven shoot with anything up to 10 drives a day. All shooting
takes place on private land and is therefore owned by somebody who may, or may not, wish to use
his ripean shooting rights and shoot his own land or in some cases he will rent this “right” out to a
collection of sporting gentlemen who would pay for all aspects of the shoot.

Gamekeepers must keep the birds happy

Pheasant shooting starts in October and runs through January with NO shooting of game birds on
Sundays. If you are lucky enough to be invited to join a syndicate then the outlay can be considerable
to pay for your chosen sport. Normally a local farmer with a shooting interest will start a syndicate and
get around 10 guns to join in. Depending on what the “guns” are prepared to pay then chicks will be purchased and then put into release pens in suitable woods around the farm. Of course our little
feathered friends need to be fed  and watered on a daily basis, kept safe from all nature’s predators,
and be given the right conditions to flourish as they grow. This will include the right temperature in the
woods, sunny areas, dusting bowls and  grit areas essential for digestion. Then as they mature they
must be looked after, continuously attended to, let out to roam the woods during daytime and then
locked back in their pens around roost time after feeding.

A feed zone for the young birds, note the Albino

Apart from diseases the Poacher and the Fox are the biggest menace on the shoot! A fox if able to
get into a release pen will kill every bird in the pen just for pleasure which is no surprise that fox
hunting was such a popular sport in the UK to keep this pest in check.

Fox hunting as it was

Sometimes you might get lucky and find a piece of land that an owner doesn’t shoot and maybe that
will give you the freedom to get out with your own dog and see what can be found, this is what we call
“rough shooting”. As this small patch of land no doubt borders a farmer’s crops or woods you might
get accosted by the farmer or gamekeeper initially to make sure you know what you are doing and
have permission to shoot and sometimes this may be the start of getting invited to farmer’s shoots
which are a mixture of walked up and driven.

“I say, YOU fellow, do you have permission ?”

Out with the “best friend” for a bit of Rough Shooting, sorry Duke

When I was at RAF Coningsby I took over the Station Shoot and although we never put down any birds
there were a few thousand acres at our disposal which of course were adjacent to farmer’s fields and
many of their birds would venture onto our land and thus become “our” birds. I had one piece of land
on the approach to a runway which was used as a dump site and burning area and this was between
two farmers fields. By allowing the farmers to shoot across these couple of acres when they had their
shoots got me invitations to some of their offerings.

On the syndicate shoot the host would suggest all the details which would include cost of birds, gamekeepering, feed costs, and the cost of beaters on the shoot days. Back in the 80’s this would
work out at around 1600 pounds each member for around 4000 birds. As a UK average if you can
shoot 30-40% of the birds released then that is about right for the shoot as a good many will fly onto neighboring property, some will be poached, some victims of road kill and predation and others will
go we know not where! However, if we put down 4000, and shoot 30% that should give us 1200 birds
over 8 shooting days which means we should average about 150 birds per shoot.

Bearing in mind the Pheasant is not indemic to either UK or USA it is amazing that they do take over
areas that they enjoy and feature on many Christmas cards. I believe they are from China and
Mongolia and were originally brought to Great Britain by the Romans and then brought to America
by the early settlers. Types of pheasant that may be encountered on any shoot are the common Ring
Neck with its distinctive white ring of feathers on the cock bird or rooster as it is called in the USA. The Mongolian looks identical but does not have the ring and can sometimes be a giant bird. There are
green and black pheasants and the tougher Melanistic which can often be found in marshy areas
and near water. On our syndicate we would release 10 Albino birds, three of which were ringed. If you
shot one of the 7 without a ring then ALL syndicate members paid you 10 pounds each, but if it was a “ringed” bird you paid THEM 10 pounds each….. fair odds I think ?

The Christmas card Ring Neck

The Mongolian

One of the many colors of Melanistic

A normal syndicate shooting day will start at the main farmhouse with a few libations of sloe gin or
similar and the drawing for “pegs” which we believe is where the expression “The luck of the draw”
comes from. At this stage our “gentlemen” will be attired in collar and tie, Tattershal shirt, waistcoat,
and traditional plus fours and brogue shoes. On this shoot we have 10 “guns” so the pouch is offered
and we all draw a number for the first drive and then get the briefing which may be something like this:
” No shooting before the whistle is blown, no low shots, no ground game with the exception of foxes
and no shooting after the final whistle. We are shooting 10, 1 & 10 will walk with the beaters and we
will be moving up 3 on each drive.”……… now what that means is that with 8 standing guns at their
pegs in an arc, then in theory the majority of the birds should fly over pegs number 4, 5 & 6 thus giving
them the best shooting and hence the “luck of the draw”. At the end of the drive we will move up 3 so
anyone on peg 2 will now become 5 and so on and number 7 will become 10 while number 8 will
move to the number 1 slot. All sounds fine in theory but sometimes the birds don’t cooperate and it
seems one or two people are getting all the shooting on every drive!! ….and indeed I have been on
both the good and bad end of the stick.

Standard shooting attire

Out in the parking lot the beaters are all off in the farm tractor trailer with dogs various and all
dressed in full waterproofs of traditional barbour suits and wellies. The host usually surveys the guns transport and suggests you, you and you go with John, you two with Tristian (usually the London
Lawyer whose Range Rover has never been off road)…… and the rest with me.”  Now everyone is
getting into their posh green wellies, donning barbours or the improved Musto gortex jacket which I
favour, cartridge bags, guns (no automatics, pumps or belt fed 12 bores here!) and slips and of
course the goofy ill behaved labrador.

“……..Tony and John with Tristan, the rest with me”

Tristan, our London Lawyer, in his new clothes, let’s hope he can shoot

Just a note here on guns, the reason WE don’t  allow autos or pumps or a UK shoot is SAFETY ! Any
of these single barrel contraptions can’t be seen to be unloaded unlike the side by side or under and
over and indeed many accidents have happened with dire consequences. Never cross ditches, or
climb over barbed wire fences will a loaded gun, unload and pass the “broken” gun to someone while completing your task. Personally I’m never overly happy with anyone using a hammer gun either as
these can accidentally catch on branches and clothing and go off unexpectedly as happened to John
Hunt a farmer friend of mine when he blew off his own red setter’s back leg! Amazingly this setter
continued shooting after surgery as though nothing had happened!!

Unloaded and safe

“You must be American, are you from Texas?”

Loaded or unloaded ? my worst nightmare

None of these either!

Any gun should be tailored to the individual just like a suit especially if stock guns do not fit you. This
is a both eyes open technique and every mount should produce the same sight picture, which if you
are fitting someone else means that when the gun is mounted 1/2 the eyeball should be visible
looking down the rib. Any other solution will mean a miss below or above. The choking of a British
game gun will normally be Improved cylinder for the first shot and then 1/4 or 1/2 choke in the other
barrel. Most American sold guns are too tightly choked often being sold with 3/4 and Full which will
mean the bird is “soup” if the shooter connects. Depending on the shoot and the height of the birds
choking can easily be adjusted if you have screw in chokes. Staying with my recommendations the
choice of cartridge would normally be either 6 or 7 shot for birds and maybe 5 shot for hares and
ducks.

With an unloaded gun, look straight down the rib

You should see 1/2 an eyeball

At the first drive a few birds take off from hedgerows as we walk to our pegs. Seems some of the
guns can’t remember their number and are wandering around aimlessly until directed by the host. In position, gun removed from the slip and a few elegant practice swings and mounts. Now settle down, cartridges in and gun broken over the crook of the arm.

“Anyone know who drew Peg 4 ?”

Ready and waiting

The whistle sounds, guns close and everyone patiently looks in the area where the beaters are
shouting and bawling about and dogs are barking. Very soon the first birds flush and we watch to see
where their flight path will take them. A few calls of “no bird”, “low bird” as some of the immature birds
elect to fly low between the guns. Usually some wild shooting from the less gifted with guns stopped
in mid swing or trying ambushing techniques. Now a good time to assess the skills of your neighbors
and hope they don’t swing on a low bird and follow it through “the line” making us all targets. No
Dick Cheneys allowed in the shooting field this side of the Atlantic !

The whistle blows, the guns are ready

None of this please!

All too soon the whistle blows, guns are lowered and unloaded and the line of professional
“picker-uppers” who have been standing about 50 yards behind the guns with their dogs begin their
diligent work collecting both downed birds and those that were seen to be “pricked” but flew on to land elsewhere. The picker-uppers are not normally paid but volunteer their services to train their
working dogs. Most of these helpers are armed with two dogs to deal with all retrieves and usually
work a labrador and the robust springer spaniel. Labradors are great retrievers but they don’t like
nettles and are not too keen on briar and bramble patches so the spaniel is deployed to collect any
skulky bird trying to find refuge in the brambles.

Yes, I’ve met her at the shoot

Classic pairings of labs and springers

Back to the transport and on to the next drive remembering the number change. About 4 drives before
lunch then depending on the syndicate perhaps lunch in the field or at the farm barn, or a full blown
affair with drinks and wine at a local pub. Personally this is not my favorite as it can be disruptive and
go on too long and therefore limit the shooting time in the afternoon as we should finish around 4′ ish
as the birds will soon be going to roost. In my opinion a short 30 min stop for lunch is good then
finish off with a full meal and drinks at around 1630.

My preferred choice of coffee and sandwiches in the field

The formal lunch in a pub is better after the shoot in my opinion

By lunchtime our new boy, Tristan’s Range Rover is a real shit tip as guns with muddy boots and wet labradors have deposited crap everywhere and steamed up all the windows leaving the pleasant
aroma of “wet dog” with just a hint of cow shit, for his drive home!

“Did you step in something in the Rover ? ….man it stinks”

“Don’t worry Tristan it SHOULD wash off”

The afternoon continues with the host reminding some of the “newbies” on shooting etiquette and
low birds, whistles etc. The final drive is done, guns unloaded and the game counted. Everybody gets a “brace” of birds and now the gamekeeper will be tipped at aound 10 pounds per hundred shot. The
rest of the birds are sent to market and suppliment the syndicate’s funds.

“No shooting before OR after the whistle”

At the end of the season it is normal to have cocks only shoots in January and a Beaters shoot to
wrap up the season.The reason we shoot only cock birds in January is an attempt that some of the remaining birds will mate and suppliment next years shoot. Unfortunately if we leave too many cock
birds they will fight and in many cases will kill the hen bird after mating. In a perfect world we would
like 1 cock bird to every 10 hen birds so that the lucky bugger can have his own personal harem.

January fights for Harem rights

As a member of a syndicate you may invite a friend to shoot in your place, which is a good way to
increase your own shooting experience as hopefully the guest will return the favor and invite you to
his chosen shoot.

Guesting on a friend’s shoot is always fun

Moving on to the Commercial shoot where you can book any number of birds to be harvested on any
given day. Of course the price is directly proportional to the number of birds being shot and you may be offered 200, 300 and 500 bird days and once in a while a 1000 bird day is offered. Nearly all of these
shoots run 8-10 guns so worth asking how many there will be. The only problem with these shoots is
that you do not know the experience and ability of the other paying members. Of course no unsafe
shooting will be tolerated and people who fail to meet the required safety standards will be escorted
back to the parking area and asked to leave.

Only for the very rich! A “Double Gun Day” with matched pairs and a
professional loader who takes from the right, and hands in the loaded
gun over the left shoulder or vice versa… a bit like a golf caddy

Some of the more famous UK shoots offer commercial days and also have their own syndicate so if
you are an avid bird man these can be your opportunity to enjoy excellent shooting in near idyllic surroundings……. and if you meet the standards you might just get invited to join the syndicate.

A wonderful sport enjoyed by Royalty and us commoners alike……. Oh, to have been born a Prince!

“Jan 31st, well another season over, now where’s that Harem ?”

TONY DOWN

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  • 11/22/2010 10:50 PM Steveo wrote:
    It was a treat to understand how the process works,brought back hunting memories,thanks!like when the ducks were thick,I’d try to get the trajectory right and see if I could get one to fall on my shooting buddy.Those were fine days,it’s a nice feeling when you get it right.Ha ha !!
    Reply to this
  • 12/28/2012 5:05 AM Dave wrote:
    Really enjoyed reading this and I agree/know it all already, its still good to go through.

    Must admit that my best bit after a days pheasant shooting it the chat afterwards with the fellow guns. Thats where you can hear some good stories. Also the food and drink is normally very good too.

    I part run a review website for pheasant shooting and would love to hear any reviews for any future or past shoots.

    Dave @ Pheasant Shooting Reviews
    www.pheasantshootingreviews.co.uk
    Reply to this

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REMEMBERING NOVEMBER

REMEMBERING NOVEMBER


REMEMBERING NOVEMBER

Guy Fawkes

” Remember, remember, the fifth of November, ….gunpowder, treason and plot”   was a childhood
rhyme to relive the epic of Guy Fawkes attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Children would
have made their dummy of Guy Fawkes around September and he would be toted around until the 5th,
with slogans and little kids screaming “Penny for the Guy, Mister?”

“Penny for the Guy, Mister ?”

…….and then he would be ceremoniously dumped on the bonfire that had been getting bigger and
bigger all through the autumn months ready for lighting on the magic night.

Bonfire night, 5th November

All the money that had been collected was spent on fireworks and usually brought along to the village
bonfire. So Guy Fawkes was our “event” and Halloween never seemed to feature in our calendar and
then it was time to think Christmas.

Village firework displays all over the UK

Other fine memories of November are Rememberance Sunday, the second weekend of the month,
and the fact that NO motorcycle trials ever took place on that day apart from the Jersey 2 Day Trial
which was always held that weekend and being the only event saw quite an influx of riders making
their way over the sea to the Channel Islands. Many happy drunken memories of that one! …. and the
trial was pretty good too.

Jersey 2 Day 1971

The RAF Teams at Jersey in 1972

The Saturday of Rememberance weekend was always the start of some fantastic pheasant shooting
with the local Lincolnshire farmers when I was based at RAF Coningsby. John Chatterton, a wartime
Lancaster pilot, always invited myself and good friend Sqn Ldr Paul Day to his shoot and this would
herald a week of good shooting with friends as we toured all their farms with day to day invites. After a
couple of years of this Paul and I would always put in for a weeks leave to cover all the shoots.

Manor Farm, Low Toynton, Horncastle …. The start of a week’s pheasant
shooting at John Chatterton’s farm

Like most things of a farming nature the plot was always the same and had been going on as long
as anyone could remember. First shoot was John’s, arrive in good time for the 1100 brief  and 2
minutes silence to mark the weekend. Funny thing that I remember was that after all the welcomes,
dogs sniffing, whinning and having mini fights then when the 2 minutes of reverance was called all
the dogs were as quiet as church mice!

Ready for the “off” at a standard UK farmer’s shoot

Always the first drive, across the road from the farm around the old
church

Now on a farmer’s shoot this is what we would call “walked up” and part driven. So some people
were allocated “stop points” where game would either run or fly to and everybody else would walk
fields, woods, vast acerages of ploughed clay like dirt and anything else on the walk from A to B
shooting anything in range on the way. If like myself you had a faithfull friend then you would be given
a ditch or hedge to walk along where of course the majority of the game would be. At the lunch stop
as we were ferried back to the farm in a tractor drawn trailer John would always activate the trailer lift
and for those not paying attention the body of the trailer would gently rise until the whole thing was
about 12 feet off the ground and we were getting beaten about by low branches on the lane leading up
to the church and the farm. With experience of this “tradition” you could tell when you were on the rise
as the mud coming off the trailer tires suddenly stopped flying into the open trailer and landing on
people, guns and dogs.

Coming home for lunch…… if only they knew!!

Lunch was always in the barn on bales of hay with the host usually providing a hot soup ladelled out
by the women of the house, while everybody went through their lunch packs. Every year one farmer and
son could always be seen adjusting their sandwiches which were always cheddar and beetroot. Every
year they would discard the beetroot and when asked they would reply that the wife always made their
sandwiches and niether of them liked beetroot but they hadn’t got the courage to tell her!

Classic “stop guns” standing in oil seed rape

After lunch the shoot continued the same format finishing around 4 pm in the UK gloom. Now various
sages would appear with pencils and old notebooks to record the day’s achievements, compare with
year’s before, and pronounce the fate of game shooting in general. Unlike a commercial shoot all
these farmers only ever shot their own land twice a year, once in November and again just after
Christmas but they would feed the game on their land in the hope it would stay around until shoot day.
Thanks to farm subsidies they would also plant a host of worthless crops including mustard, oil seed
rape and sugar beet which pheasants just love to run around in.

At the end of the day invitations would then traditionally be given to the selected and chosen few and
always followed the same style. ” Ah, Tony, we are  having a walk round at my place on Monday,
perhaps you and the nice dog would like to come?”…….and so the sequence of the November shoots
would begin.

The “nice dog” gets yet another invitation

I have to go as well as I’m the handler

All these farmers were very pro RAF and indeed many of them had served during the War and some
of their stories were fascinating to say the least. Fred Panton who was just a lad during the conflict
had a small family farm of 9 acres and about 50 chicken when the war came to an end. With everything
rationed Fred was out every night snaring rabbits catching about 200 a night and then selling them
locally for what would be the equivalent of $8.00 each. Very soon this spare cash was invested and by
the time I was shooting with him he was farming 700+ acres and sending over 3,000,000 birds to
market. Fred also bought a local dissused airfield and renovated the hangar and Air Traffic Control
tower even putting in manequins in full wartime uniform. His final acquisition was to buy the
Lancaster gate guardian from RAF Scampton as he didn’t want to see anyone buying it and getting her
airworthy and competing against the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Fred Panton in the white boots at his East Kirkby airfield

The refurbished wartime ops room with manequins in RAF uniforms

Fred, I see is still alive and well and his airfield of East Kirkby is now almost fully operational and the
old Lanc has been restored to just short of “airworthy”. I can only imagine that most of the other
farmers in the November syndicate have now all passed as the last time I shot with them must be
over 20 years ago and a lot of them would have been in their 90’s by now.

The Lancaster takes pride of place in the rebuilt hangar

Fred with “Just Jane” ….. such a shame there is NO money in farming!

Now being on this side of the Pond November also heralds the 4 day biggest holiday of the year,
namely, Thanksgiving, so very soon all the TV channels will be instructing us on how to make the
Green Bean casserole. Immediately after Thanksgiving it will be the switch to Christmas decorations
and once more we will be after the covetted 1st prize awarded by the town.

…… and then its Brenda’s Birthday so I’d better remember that one or else !!

TONY DOWN

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  • 12/5/2010 7:21 PM Jimmy Allison wrote:
    Enjoyed all the pictures. We celebrated Bonfire night this year in the Dowson’s back yard. Bonfire, fireworks, John Smith Smooth and good fellowship. We need an American Guy Fawkes to burn done Washington DC.
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