A successful shooting day is the product of many months of work and forward planning which actually starts before the previous season is over. The best time to secure a shooting date for next season is while you unwind with your host at the end of your day, this season.
Pheasants do not grow on trees, and production of next season’s stock begins with laying birds in September, weekly hatching throughout spring and rearing all summer. They are raised to order, and so a shoot needs to commit to this early. Despite popular myth, gamekeepers do not spend the close season sprawled out on the beach in Hawaii. There is a plethora of work to be done, and eighty plus hour weeks are the norm.
At least one week out from each shoot, the drives will already have been discussed, plans made and adjusted for weather. Catering will be organised, provisions ordered, wines selected. Regular helpers will have taken leave from their work or business to attend, and several days out the gamekeeper will have his team locked in. A rainy forecast occasionally brings on a bout of illness and frantic calls will be made to organise replacements!
The gamekeeper will have discussed the day’s plans with the landowner or farmer and their staff, and with whoever will host the guns. Vehicles are cleaned and fuelled, boots polished and dogs made ready. The ubiquitous strings for hanging game will be tied the night before, and any guests staying over will be expected to join in! Extra attention will be focused on the weather forecast, which may lead to an uncomfortable night’s sleep.
Each shoot day itself is the sum of twelve months of thought, physical effort and investment.
And you wonder why gamekeepers are so grumpy?
By Tim Julou, Gamekeeper, Equine Estate