It’s always an early start – this Saturday is no exception. 

I head downstairs early to take the dogs out for a run then back in for breakfast (the dogs and me). 

This week I shall take just one dog (Morph) as they’re only young & it’s a bit much managing two. 

My son, Michael (9) will also be joining me!

Mike and I get ourselves kitted out (thornproof trousers, coat, hat, gloves, boots etc) along with a change of clothes, just in case we get wet! Load the car with spare clothes, beating sticks, snacks, water, and coffee for the journey! Then the dog kit – whistle, water, snacks, drying coat, first aid kit, lead! (I perhaps should pack a human first aid kit, or at least add a few plasters to the dog kit… never thought of this before!) 

It’s a new shoot so we have arrived on time and met a few new people. There are lots of dogs around, but I leave Morph in the car while I work out the plan. (Surprisingly, Morph was the only springer spaniel of the day – lots of labs and cockers and a handful of terriers) I LOVE watching dogs work on shoots! 

Port & fizz are open, but I opt for a cup of tea (it’s only 9am!) 

The guns arrive and the picking up & beating teams are sent off with their appropriate leaders & given instructions for the first drive. We all head off in our groups and begin to quietly move the birds into the right place. It’s a good walk around to the wood & the brambles are thick once we get there. We plough through & the shooting begins. Morph loses his head a little (trained for picking up, so always wants to be near the guns!) he is fortunate, a gun in the wood drops a bird so he manages one retrieve! A pricked cock bird – I am careful not to have my hand attacked (like last week), so I take the bird and he is quickly dispatched! 

A good drive done – so it’s back to base for a quick regroup, and then we head out for the 2nd drive.

A beautiful spot, with lots of bracken to work through (a dream for Morph who is so used to thorns!) and so many deer – my stalking obsessed boy, Michael is in his element (not that I see much of him, he has made friends with Steve who is leading our group). This was my favourite drive of the day – Morph was incredible hunting and didn’t disappear too far ahead – almost like an actual beating dog! 

Another lovely drive done & back to base for lunch! I drop Morph back in the van with some treats as a well done – he can rest while we eat! 

Two large slow cookers are filled with a beef stew & a venison stew! A large chunk of baguette and its venison for me and Mike, followed by a small glass of Port (for me… water for Mike) while we all warm up near the large fire! 

Leisurely lunch over, I take off my big coat (the sun is still out) grab Morph & we set off to drive three. A lovely walk to the drive where Morph is able to have a nice run and not ruin the shooting! As we get near, it’s back on the lead and we set to work. Mike is between me & Steve – I can’t see the others, so Michael enjoys giving me orders as to when I should be pushing forward or holding the line! Tapping the hedges all the way there, we make it to the wood near the drive & really start to work as a team – pushing the birds round slowly (so they don’t all flush at once) in the direction of the guns. Morph is still on a lead (he would much prefer to flush all the birds in one go) which is driving him mad, he can hear the gun & see the odd bird dropping, but the picking-up team are doing their job well. 

A nice walk back in the sunshine and the dogs & Michael get a good free run again!

A quick catch-up at base and we leave the guns with their port while we head off to get in position. A beautiful walk round to another wood – this is full of brambles. As always, a little slip in the mud and the first thing I reach out to hold on to cuts me to shreds (I still have a thorn stuck in my finger from a previous shoot). Climbing through brambles when you are as short as me is exhausting! 

I see very little of Michael again but do hear the odd “ouch” when he steadies himself with brambles too! Poor kid – tough as boots!! 

Morph is an absolute star, no cover this dog won’t go through! He goes a little deaf towards the end of the drive, so I pop him back on the lead when I hear the guns. As we get nearer, the gamekeeper instructs me to let him off, and as always, it takes him very little time to come back with another bird that landed in the woods. We make sure the gun & picking-up team know we have it.

Morph is then called to do some more hunting as one bird is lost in deep cover at the end of this drive. Just in time for the heavens to open – so pleased I dropped my jacket back in the van!! With a large team hunting, the missing bird was eventually located! Everyone is happy – we head back. The mud was thick and slippy – but fortunately, the guns and I  managed to cross the river without landing in it! 

I could see Michael at base, so I regrettably opened the car for him… (won’t do this next time) he promptly jumped inside to change & my seats are disgusting. That’s a job for later this week! 

I give Morph a quick check over for damage, once I can see all ok, I put his drying coat on, offer him water & give him a good handful of food. He will settle down now for a good rest until we are home & he can get by the fire! 

We head up the meet the team, to say thank you & goodbye! A firm handshake and invite back for the three of us! We took home two brace of pheasant and a pigeon. 

Michael is a huge fan of eating game & believes you should eat what you shoot. We will be preparing and cooking the pigeon for his dinner this evening (his favourite) and the pheasants will go in the freezer for another week…. Maybe pheasant stroganoff!!

A quick visit to the pub before we head home (must be sociable) for a well-deserved beer & we the day is done! Lucky for us, when we got home, the fires were lit & dinner was cooked!

 Written by Katie Young