Many of you may believe that as a BASC Ladies Shooting co-ordinator I would be a top shot and therefore an old hand in the field. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Having lived most of my childhood as an “army brat”, country pursuits where not exactly in my blood (although I did own a fair bit of camo).
When I started working at BASC almost a year ago I was determined to throw myself into everything, no matter how daunting it may have seemed. The first example of this was when I was asked to head the Ladies Shooting project alongside my colleague Kathy. Having never handled or shot a gun before, apart from awkwardly picking up my partner’s 12 bore and pretending to be Annie Oakley, you could say I was out of my comfort zone. Almost a year on and I am now applying for my licence.
However, not one to do things by half, I wanted to get out there and see what else I could try my hand at. As I am not quite ready for the high pheasants, I thought I would try something less ambitious… or so I thought.
Enter Bill Harriman. Having mentioned that he beats on his local shoot I pestered and pestered until I was finally invited to join the Nesscliffe Military Shoot young guns day to beat. Excited was an understatement – having never done it before I was keen to get everything right! First stop, some waterproof/thornproof clothing. Having the body of a 12-year-old boy these weren’t too difficult to get my hands on. I also read up on what to expect on the day so I didn’t turn up completely clueless.
The day finally arrived, the not-too-early start a bonus. To my delight Bill provided my with a beating stick (which I would rely on throughout the day) and off we went. On arrival I was thrilled by how friendly and welcoming everyone was, as we gathered for a brief from shoot captain Angus. As it was a young guns day there were only to be four drives in total, but it was down to the beaters to try to give them as many birds as possible. We started off in a thick brambled pen and I was handed a flag (gulp). The line started edging forward slowly, joined by a number of gorgeous springer’s. Tapping trees and bits of fallen wood as I went, I found my confidence growing and soon the first flush of birds were up. The Guns were keen and plenty of shots were fired while we quietly stayed in our positions. And with that the first drive was over and we headed back to our meeting point for elevenses, which I found was the perfect time to get to know the other beaters, many of them ladies.
We followed a similar routine for the next drive, which is where I acquired my new nickname – Young ’un (a nickname on my first outing, what a result!). This one required some harder work, walking through thicker brambles and high corn fields. However, as the team closed in the birds were up within a flash, resulting in another successful drive. Next it was time for lunch, and although slightly dishevelled, I found the day well up to expectation; hotdogs and chicken were served along with a small tipple of port (although this was outshone slightly by the delicious homemade strawberry vodka a fellow beater had brought along).
As the final two drives approached I was pretty confident. Heading down an open track, it was clear that there weren’t going to be as many birds as before, but the effort still put in was amazing. The day was coming to an end and on the final drive I was flagging (no, not tiring, I mean standing in a line a few metres in front of the Guns, encouraging the birds to get higher). It was so exciting being right in the middle of the action. Up the birds went, with the Guns giving it their all.
As the shoot came to a close it was fantastic to see everyone congratulating each other, particularly the young Guns who shot 38 pheasants in total (three shooting their first ever pheasant). After a de-brief and thanks all round I was lucky enough to be offered a brace of pheasants (which I would later breast myself – but that’s a whole other story) and then it was time to head to the local pub for a well-earned drink.
Beating with the team from Nesscliffe lived up to my expectations and then some. It truly opened my eyes into how much effort goes into a shoot day and the work that is done behind the scenes. If you fancy trying your hand at beating I would highly recommend you do it. But don’t be surprised when, like me, you become hooked.
The names of those in the photo from left to right are as follows:
Aaron Clarke, Harriet McFarland, Ryan Jones, Kieran Jones, Bertie Shute, Freddie Shute, Chantel Taylor, Drew Tudor, Declan Roberts, Edward Taylerson, David Schofield, Tom Taylerson
Chantel Taylor – BASC Ladies Shooting Co-Ordinator