When is a bird too high?
Simon Ward questions the wisdom of presenting very high pheasants and partridges, and wonders if we've perhaps taken things a step too far.
Where do we draw the line with the presentation of high pheasants and partridges? Once upon a time we were taught to only raise a gun to a bird that we knew we could kill. But just how high do we go before the accuracy of the Gun and ammunition ballistics break down? Indeed have we gone too far if the birds are so high that the Guns are resorting to goose loads to try to bring them down?
The art and skill of driving game is spreading the shooting across the whole line of Guns and at a height which delivers variety and excitement and above all else birds which are within the effective range of a shotgun and modern cartridges designed for shooting driven game and not having to resort to that which a foreshore wildfowler would use for flighting sky high geese with an 8 bore.
Over the last 25 years there has been increased pressure and demand for extreme range pheasants and partridges. I am not talking about any shoot in particular but I am thinking more in a general sense and at the end of the day driven game shooting is now a huge business across the British Isles. If the market place demands higher and higher birds then shoots and estates will endeavour to meet the market requirements.
I really enjoy the challenge of high pheasants and partridges but as I said at the outset, I was always led to believe that you should only raise your gun to something which you thought you had fair chance of killing. It is therefore essential to learn the effective range of your gun and ammunition.
Bearing in mind that the majority of Guns will struggle to consistently kill birds at 40 yards, should pheasants and partridges be presented at such extra-ordinary ranges? Is it sport or novelty? People really need to know the capabilities of their gun and be able to judge range properly. Otherwise they just blaze away, pick up bad habits and damage their confidence.
But I guess it comes down to what people want - if there is a demand than there will be a supply. In essence, the question is a moral one - is too high, unsporting? I would love to hear the views of readers.
Out of season
Already looking ahead to next season, your best investment will be in a monthly lesson through the summer. There's nothing like keeping your eye in. Also get your gun properly serviced and ensure that it still fits you properly. Triggers too - get them checked as ‘drag' can take place gradually without you realising and have a significant effect on your shooting.
Or you may enjoy a charity shoot. These are often fun occasions, very sociable and supporting a good cause.
Similarly simulated shoots are a wonderful way of keeping your shooting skills up to speed and represent a pleasurable day out. Once upon a time people used be sniffy about clays, but not any more and in my view they offer the best form of out-of-season practice.
But as well as enjoying yourself, why not make full use of these summer days of social shooting - they represent a wonderful opportunity of out-of-season practice for your game shooting? So put into action a few essentials that will make a difference later in the year.
Remember to practise your gun mounting. Just because it's a fun shoot don't think it doesn't matter - you may as well do it properly. You'll almost certainly shoot more consistently and as a consequence gain more pleasure from your day.
Get your body position and gun hold position correct in relation to taking the shot
Remember to lead with your left hand (for the right-hander)
Practice your footwork and balance - no one will notice, just think about it a little more
Once mounted, keep your cheek firmly on the stock throughout - don't raise your head off the stock until the shot has been completed.