The Grand Finale
A Hampshire's Tale
I last shot on this wonderful Hampshire Sporting Estate as a guest in November of 2022, whilst drinking a warming glass of port and smoking a choice cigar that evening in The African trophy room with David and Rob, I was asked would I like to return as their guests on the 31st of January last shoot of the year, its a beaters and guns all together day, I didn't even need to think of course I said yes, I would clear my diary no matter what to be there, this is the most wonderful shoot and the people are some of the finest you will meet anywhere, truth be told I have been dreaming of this final shoot of the season here since I was asked, I literally was counting down the months, days, hours and minuets until I could be back here again.
The day came and I was up at a sparrows wink, I just could not sleep in anticipation and excitement, I was like a kid trying to listen for Santa and his reindeer on the roof. The 4.30am alarm went off but I was already awake just staring at the alarm clock, I was out of bed, washed, dressed in my fines mole skin suit from Jack Pyke like the house was on fire, flask and sandwiches made, guns, cartridges a bottle of home made mead ready to take as a thank you gesture, I was ready so I had a small bowl of corn flakes and a couple of Mugs of tea whilst waiting for my dear friend Ben to pic me up as he was a guest too.
6am came in a flash and I was already waiting for Ben outside to load his truck up, this we did in the blink of an eye and we were both back on the road within a few moments, our chatter was excited, light and jovial all the way up to the estate, we actually arrived in record time and was there in no time at all, John saw us arrive and beckoned us in to the kitchen, tea is in the pot he said, this was real tea, loose tea just like my Grandfather (Pappy) would have, Ben made me the first and that slipped down like pure velvet dancing over my tonsils, your a bit early for breakfast John announced, laughing we said that's OK we will wait, we will wait for all the other guns, beaters and pickers up to arrive, David came down and greeted us like old friends, we sat around the table swapping stories and discussing the day that lay ahead, by this time everyone had started arriving, some friends I had not seen for a year or two, a fine breakfast of fresh baked rolls and sausages were had and more tea, now it was time to get shooting,
We retired for the evening meal early as we had planned to be on a duck flight, so a wonderful meal was prepared by John and Ger, all off the estate Southern Fried Pheasant and Guinea Fowl and Pheasant conjoins with Nik’s wife's home made sweet chilli dipping sauce, followed by a duck casserole, a pheasant casserole with fresh root vegetables, proper creamy mashed potatoes, fresh baked bread and proper salted farm house butter with as much tea or coffee you could want, the pudding and cheese board were going to be for after the duck flight.
Sebastian said that is not a problem I will put him in a great spot, if you go over there on that far peg you might get one or two shots but that's usually a dead peg, that's fine with me I said, I am really happy to just watch on this one, the drive started and I noticed all of a sudden the wind changed 180 degrees, from my position I could see all of the other guns around the various ponds etc, these duck took to the wing strong and hard and gained a good height immediately, again a testament to Perdix Valley and the quality of their birds and to Robs keepering skills, actually to this old wildfowler it was wonderful to hear the sound of duck, feel the whistling wings over my head and see these ducks fly, for a moment I had to pinch myself for I was transported back to the marsh as these birds flew strong like wild birds.
Then my peg came alive, it seemed like every duck wanted to fly over me, my barrels blazed red, quiet peg yeh right, this peg was on fire I hardly had time to re load, every bird I took was a good sporting duck, I lost count how many I had down when the whistles blew to say end of drive end of season, a picker up and his fine Labrador cross came over to help pick my ducks up, we were still picking up when all the others were enjoying their pudding and fine glasses of port, I got to the African Hunting Lodge just in time before all the food was eaten, they all laughed saying we thought you had got lost, I laughed and said they are still out there picking up my shot birds, the evening flowed and joviality and laughter flowed, a fine evening the icing on the cake after a fantastic days game shooting and rounding off the perfect end to a cracking season, Ben had some good ducks too on that flight but I was most certainly in the hot seat, everyone left one by one, Ben and I were staying the night so we all sat in front of the log fire and the brandy and fine cigars came out as David, Rob, Ger, John, Ben and myself talked like old school friends, I have place my order for all my birds from Rob and Perdix Game for next season, I will add their contact details, if you want quality clean strong flying birds drop them a line, I guarantee you will wish you had used Perdix Valley Game sooner. The next morning Ben and I got up packed our truck, David made us a wonder cooked breakfast, John had to go and retrieve the eggs from under his hens , another cup of tea and we said our good byes, Ben and I came home with a pile of wonderful fresh shot Hampshire Game in the boot, you will see some of these used in my recipes in the fourth coming month.
Well with this season over we start planning for our next season, necessary maintenance and repairs, sorting our birds and getting all the incubators, sheds, pens drinkers, feeders etc all sorted and so much more, I wont bore you now with all this and will save that for another article in the life of a game keeper.
Now for many of us we really step up our pest control, the list is almost endless here but everyone of us involved in running a shoot etc will be out day and night controlling the vermin before each species breeding season etc, as The South West Regional Director for The Grey Area Squirrel control is at a paramount at the moment, my techs and other qualified folk are now able to get out on the shooting estates etc where they could not before, this is the perfect time to start dealing with this grey invader for me, although I deal with them all year round, I am not a fan of poison for pest control, it has its place in some parts, but not for me, I always try the echo friendly approach first, a good trapping line works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, my thoughts are a good traditional trapper who knows his job can make a big impact but still be eco friendly.
Until next time I hope you enjoy my humble scribbles as much as I have enjoyed remembering them and writing them, take care one and all, come say hello at the shows, my first is The British Shooting Show 2023 at the NEC Birmingham, you will find me on The Night Pearl Stand wearing one of my international Brand Ambassadors Hats.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper
AKA Rob Collins