On 30 November, I got my first invitation to a game day from my friend Jacob. I was keen to take my gun out and experience pheasant shooting. After hearing marvellous stories and seeing jaw dropping videos of flushes of pheasants soaring through the air, I really wanted to experience it myself.
When the day finally came, I woke up early and it was a similar feeling to Christmas morning – full to bursting with anticipation and excitement. I filled my cartridge bag, grabbed my side by side and all the wax and tweed clothing I had managed to borrow.
I was fuelled for the day ahead with tea as well as bacon and sausage sandwiches. Everyone on the shoot was very friendly.
On the first drive, I was following the beaters, but no birds flew back out of cover for me. On the second and third drive, it seemed that I was always in the wrong place. It felt like the birds were avoiding me! Finally, on the fourth drive, I got two shots at a pheasant flying straight over. With the adrenaline pumping through me, I rushed my first shot and was behind; second shot was too much in front. My friend gave it a shot too, and, luckily for me, he missed too. Despite not getting my first pheasant, I still ended the drive with a massive smile on my face.
On the last drive, I had no more luck than before, but I finished the day happy, with a great experience and a full cartridge bag! On the way back, as we sat in the pickup, I reflected on the day and how much I had learned and experienced. I was given a brace of pheasants, which I planned on using in a fajita kit. We went to the local pub where we had steak pie and chips. Afterwards, my friend and I sat by the fireplace and his dad offered useful advice that I will be sure to remember. He said that even though I didn’t get my first pheasant that day, at least I shot safely. He told me to remember that once the shot is fired, it’s fired, and you can’t take it back. He said I need to remember not to take a shot unless I’m confident it’s safe because, in the end, there will always be another chance. Afterwards, I received another invitation for 21 December, where I planned on having a more successful day.
My next game day came around very quickly. I was full to the brim with festive feelings and anticipation for the day ahead. I had a full cartridge bag and was ready for the day ahead. The first drive was a warm-up around a pond, but I had no luck. The second drive was in a very muddy field and I finally got a chance to take a shot at a pheasant. I tried not to repeat the mistakes from my previous visit, but I found myself waiting too long. As we made our way to the third drive, I was nervous because I didn’t want to end the day empty handed again.
We lined out for the next flush and pheasants flew right over our heads, giving me hope. One pheasant flew out of the cover crop above me and rose. I didn’t even have time to think about lead. I pulled the trigger and the bird dropped to my left! My friend smiled at me a few pegs down and I got back to watching the cover crop. Just as I thought the drive had slowed down, another pheasant flew over the peg to my left. The Gun fired two shots at it but missed. I decided to give it a go, once again not worrying about it too much. I took the shot… and the beaters came over the brow of the hill, just in time to witness me bring down my second bird!
The next drives weren’t as successful for me, but I fended off the cold weather with a smile and thinking about the pheasants I got. To top the day off, I went to the Young Farmers’ Christmas meal. I only stopped talking about my day when the food came out!