My First Game Shoot and Kill..
The day after I bought my gun I bumped into our old farm manager. After excitedly spilling the news to him about now being a proud owner of a Silver Pigeon, he invited me on a shoot day later that week. It was a small 100 bird shoot made up mostly of local farmers and close friends. As expected I jumped at the opportunity of accepting this spontaneous and incredibly generous invitation!
I was nervous, apprehensive and excited all in one, mainly because I had only ever been on 2 shoots before and that was standing on the peg without a gun but mostly because I hadn’t yet had a chance to try out my gun. I mean I had only brought it 3 days before! Having learnt how important gun fit is after suffering some serious recoil bruises I was very worried that my new gun may kick me and leave me nursing a very sore shoulder post shoot. This was even more possible as for game shooting you use a heavier cartridge (28g) compared to my usual 21g for clays [heavier cartridge = bigger recoil]. I also had some serious mixed feelings about shooting a live bird having only shot clay pigeon before. I really wasn’t sure how I’d feel about actually shooting something alive rather than just a clay target that shatters into pieces when hit. Everyone knows me as a huge animal lover and I care an awful lot about the well-being and welfare of all animals…probably more so than people!
We all met in a farm yard and it soon became clarified that I was indeed the only girl on the shoot including beaters [no surprise there!] Soon slow gin, marmalade whiskey and other beverages were offered out in shot glasses and we were bundled into the back of a shoot trailer accompanied by the gun dogs. It was a very foggy morning and the skies were far from clear, the guns got dropped off at their first drive and went and stood on their pegs. We waited patiently but no birds appeared. The sun began to come out and the fog soon lifted, we bundled back in the shoot trailer and made way to our next drive where we had to cross a big ditch to get up onto the field we needed to be standing on.
I waited eagerly with my gun down for birds to appear and didn’t have to wait long until I spotted my first pigeon fly overhead. I didn’t bring my gun up quick enough so missed it, but then soon after a hen bird glided in front of us and began to fly up. I lined her up beautifully but when I pulled my trigger there was nothing, my safety was on! I laughed it off and got ready for the next bird. Soon a couple of cock birds flew out of the cover and right over the guns, one flew straight up and to the left of me so I quickly mounted my gun and bang I hit it!! Wow what an ecstatic feeling, the adrenaline pumping through my body was unreal! I shot the first bird of the day and it was my first ever kill too, it was a very proud moment and my body was trembling with excitement, I was so pleased. I got a lot of congratulating and encouragement from the men which I must admit did take me by surprise given me being the only female on the shoot. They tried to persuade me to blood myself but I was least keen on this idea and luckily they soon became distracted by another kill and forgot about it!
My surrogate gun dog Bonna had watched my bird fall and ran over, retrieved it and dropped it at my feet. I had no time to look at my kill as I was soon eyeing up new birds to shoot as they were flushed from the cover. Bang bang!! Once the whistle was blown and I had cocked my gun I looked at my bird very relieved to see that it was very much dead and that I had shot it in the breast so there was little blood and I was assured had an instant death.
This did get me thinking about how I would have felt and dealt with my bird still being alive. No matter what a good shot you are sometimes you just don't kill the bird dead in the air. The thought of having to wring a bird’s neck makes me shudder but at the same time I very much don't like the thought of an injured suffering bird half alive having been shot. Human instinct is to put a suffering animal out of pain, however when it comes to dispatching a beautiful creature such as a pheasant it is not a very nice decision to have to make. You only have to look at a pheasant and see what a beautiful and stunning bird they are, the colours in their feathers are extraordinary and if you are lucky enough to see or shoot a blue pheasant "Japanese Green" you will see what I mean, the rich colours in this bird really are exquisite (see my photos below)!
All this being said I soon learnt that it is the guns responsibility to dispatch of any bird that they have hit and you cannot ask another gun to do this for you. I guess this is very much something you would instinctively do in the moment and, once I put my sensible head on, I did come to terms with the fact that I would be prepared to dispatch a suffering bird to save it from a slower and painful death. I do however realise my own limits and would struggle with the process of wringing the neck [surely it can’t just be a girl thing?!] Fortunately I have now got a Priest [a small wooden handle with a leather loop] which is the most efficient, quick and humane way of killing an injured bird. Yet another essential item to have in my pocket!
This month I have had to consider the ‘tougher’ side of game shooting and it’s been a tough one for me. However cleaner shots equal less suffering so there’s no better excuse for me to get out smash some clays and get practising ready for next season!