As the days counted down to Christmas, I received an invitation to a shoot in College Valley – a bit like an early Christmas present.
So, on 23 December, my dad woke me up nice and early and I got into my smart shooting clothes. I opened my curtains… and was greeted by hailstones pinging off my window. A large grey cloud loomed over the garden, giving me hope that this would be the only shower coming today. I rushed downstairs to ask my dad if I could borrow his heated vest (expecting the answer to be no) when he surprised me with my early Christmas present – my own heated vest!
Drive to the College Valley shoot
We got in the car and as we neared the College Valley, the weather seemed to have improved slightly. The view of the Cheviots was beautiful. There were rocks dotted all over the mountains, making it look like some kind of a painting. We could see goats on the hills, some my dad pointed out had great horns on.
I quickly finished my last swig of tea before we arrived.
Six other kids and I all stood in a circle while we were given a brief for the day. We were each to get an adult to supervise us during shooting. A few hadn’t shot much before, so a safety talk took place before we headed up for some clay shooting practice.
We got to where the clay trap was located, and everybody took their turn. I went last. The clay trap was set at the top of a steep bank with the clays flying over our heads at height. I was slightly nervous about going last. Having shot more than the others, I wanted to make a good impression. Luckily, I performed well, which put me in a good mindset for the pheasants.
Time for some serious business
Afterwards, we got into the cars and drove to the first drive. As we approached, the heavens opened again. Rain was thrashing wildly at the windscreen. This was when I turned on my heated vest and instantly felt the difference. I was placed as back Gun on this short drive; unfortunately, nothing came my way. We reconvened for some food and waited until the rain in the College Valley had calmed.
We proceeded to the next clump of small woods. I saw a pheasant fly right over somebody’s head before they folded it. This was their second pheasant ever. Just after this, a dog ran through the wood and the pheasants all flushed to one side. This left the rest of the drive almost empty. In the next wood, a small covey of grey partridges glided out from the trees. I always like seeing grey partridges as they are in decline. Their presence shows that they are doing well in the area. After this drive, we ended up with a couple of pheasants and a partridge. By that time, the weather was fine and blue sky could be seen.
As we moved onto the third wood, I was placed at the far side. Typically, most of the birds went the other way, but I managed to get a shot at the ones breaking out towards me.
We next made our way to a very steep bank with an oak wood at the top. The Guns formed a diagonal line across the field. I was placed near the wood where I got a fair bit of shooting. A brilliant pheasant went streaming towards the person next to me and they shot it on the first barrel. I got two pheasants on that drive and was pleased with my shooting.
Sharing is caring
We were making our way over to the last drive when, as if somebody has turned on a tap, the rain became torrential once more, although the sun still shone through the gaps in the clouds, lighting up the gloomy weather. When we walked down to the last drive, I offered my gun to a boy who hadn’t shot anything yet. My 20 bore would bring something down easier than a .410. So, we swapped guns for this drive. I had trouble with mounting the smaller gun as I am tall, but I made do with what I had. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit anything and neither did the boy using my gun.
As we all headed back to the shed for lunch, we exchanged stories about our shooting experiences. I also got to see some ferrets and, just to top the day off, I had a nice hot pie at the end, too! I had a very enjoyable and memorable day at the College Valley shoot.