For a while now, my dad and I have operated a small family-run shoot. I have since gained a great understanding of game shooting in general and the time and effort put into it. We have been very fortunate to have a friend helping us for the last couple of years, too. Here is an insight to how and why we run the shoot.
My dad decided to rent the shooting on a local farm. He liked the thought of being able to host a zero pressure shoot day where we can invite friends. It was also a great chance for me to get involved at a young age. My dad already had the roe stalking there but was offered all shooting rights. This meant that we could run a shoot as well as stalk. The stewardship schemes provide a great food source and excellent cover for the deer. This can lead to some brilliant stalking.
A big factor in why we rented it was that we wanted to prevent the conflict between stalking and game shooting, giving a healthy balance between both. More game shooting can cause a lot of disturbance for roe, which could result in deterring them from the area.
A long list of things to do on a family-run shoot
In preparation for the poults’ arrival, maintenance on our family-run shoot is essential to ensure that the area is safe for them. Things like washing feeders and drinkers and repairs to the pen, including the electric fence, need to be done along with numerous other tasks. Once the pheasants are at the stage of leaving the pen, feeders are set up all around the farm to ensure that they always have food nearby.
The great thing about this is that these feeders are not only used by pheasants. They also provide a great food source for other wild birds and mammals. My dad and I usually use a quad bike to get around as it is a lot faster. Recently, we have even made a DIY spinner to make feeding more efficient.
Pest and predator control
Along with looking after the pheasants, there are many other responsibilities. Pest and predator control is a necessary job, even on a small, family-run shoot. Recently, my dad and I have been going pigeon shooting, as the numbers are high in the area. We either stand in a wood or sit in a bush and wait for them to fly over. It can be really challenging, as pigeons are surprisingly hard to hit. My dad showed me inside the crop of a pigeon and how much just one eats. I was shocked. I thought about how much damage a thousand of them could cause to the oil seed rape. This shows how important it is that numbers are managed.
Another form of pest control is shooting foxes. There are many different ways of doing this. A very common one is called lamping, and that’s what we do. The reason it’s called lamping is because traditionally you would go out in the dark and shoot using a bright light or lamp. It has progressively changed due to modern technology such as thermal imaging. I recently went foxing with dad for the first time and was surprised at how many different animals we saw at night, too.
Ducks are on the menu
As the season begins, ducks are the first on the agenda. On our family-run shoot, we have a flight pond which we tend to shoot three to four times a year. Ducks are my absolute favourite as they provide a fast and furious twenty minutes of challenging shooting. Not forgetting to mention that they are great to eat, of course.
Family-run shoot – a great place for catching up
With the pheasant season closely following behind, there is a lot of planning to do. This involves putting on a farmer’s day at the start of the season and sorting invitations for our guests. We try to return favours by inviting people who have given us similar opportunities and who we wish to spend the day with.
Another annual day that we try to have is a father and son day. On that day, we allow younger and/or less experienced people to have a go at shooting. This day is more of a social occasion rather than a proper shoot day. Instead of having a team of Guns and a team of beaters, we let everybody have a go at both, mixing them up each drive. My dad is always in the beating line to keep things right. But as I get older, my dad may get to have a bit more shooting when I am able to run the line on my own.