Seeing as today is last day of the pheasant season I thought it would be fitting to write about my first ever Beaters Day to round off my debut season as a beater. I beat on a Pheasant and duck shoot in Hurst Green, East Sussex where there are 3 pheasant drives followed by a duck drive.
I was debating whether or not to post this as people have mixed emotions towards the sport. At the end of the day, I see it as going to a pick your own field of fruits and vegetables but you pick your own game. The pheasants and ducks live a better free range life than most organic meats you find in your local supermarket and are free to leave the land should they wish.
The morning had a an icy bite in its wind but I was grateful for the lack of frost unlike last weekend. However I didn’t take any chances and wore 4 pairs of socks! As we were one of the last to arrive (I slept through my alarm!) I hurriedly put on my wellies and went out the greet everybody in the entrance to the first field.
First hello was from a lovely Labrador Evie, slowly sauntering my way. And one by one all the guns and beaters waved to me and made conversation. Eventually the game Keeper came out of the metal container we call HQ and began to organise us.
One problem we have on our shoot is a lack of shooting beaters and guns who volunteer on beaters day. While this day is made to thank the beaters for their time to help the game keeper flush the birds out for the guns, only a handful of beaters actually take the day to shoot what is leftover from the shoot days. Another problem we have is that the majority of the guns don’t come to return the favour and beat for us. the few who do come down bring their guns and fail to join the beat line. As a result I shared a peg with my boyfriend.
It was his turn first to shoot as a walking gun on the first pheasant drive. I beat out the hedgerows and cover crop but failed to find anything there. one bird was flushed out of the nearby hedgerow but none of the guns found their mark.
In the second drive I took my turn in shooting the Lanber Sporting. As well as it being my first beaters day, it was also my first chance to shoot any game before. I had only practiced on clay pigeons previously. So we set up in one of the last fields of the drive with one other gun; a great shot and only 11 years old so I had my work cut out for me to to be shown up. Unfortunately, no pheasants were flushed out of this drive either but its to be expected on a small shoot like this at the end of the season. Maybe I was better off with a camera in my hand instead, so focused on taking pictures during our lunch up until the duck drive.
Once lunch is finished and the final pheasant drive is through, we head to the two duck ponds and flush the ducks off the mostly frozen water. Since its the end of the season, the smart and high flying ducks have endured which makes this drive a challenge. I let my boyfriend have first shootings. At first it looked as if we wont get a shot even on this drive as the sky looked duck free and there were no gun shots.
Eventually, the ducks began to circle back around us, and suddenly a duck came across from the right of us and towards the pond. I shouted “Three O’Clock” and within a few seconds the Lanber Sporting was fired. The shot was good! We had one duck at least in our corner!
At this point I decided to try my luck! Although I was nervous about trying 32-6 cartridges compared to ones I’d used for clays, I was eager to get at least a few shots even if i didn’t get to take anything home.
Unfortunately, I didn’t hit the mark on anything, especially with the ducks flying so high but I was happy to have put the gun to good use out in the field. The recoil on the lanber sporting was not at bad as I was told (my shoulder does ache today though!) and I loved the rush of shooting actual game.
All in all, we have 20:1 pheasants and ducks, not bad for a beaters day at the end of the season. Although I was annoyed at the lack of pheasants and difficult ducks, I enjoyed getting out into the country side and admiring the early morning views of East Sussex.