The Season That Never Happened

The Season That Never Happened
​ Game and Wildfowling Season 2020 & 2021

Where did this last season go? I mean there I was looking forward to the start of the Wildfowling season starting on the 1st of September, then the game season on the 1st of October, then poof just like a magicians magical flash of smoke, both seasons were over, it was the 1st of February 2021, OK on the fore shore we can still wildfowl until the 20th of February, but for me it all finishes on the 1st of February, thus this is when we start to build, plan and get ready for the following season ie 2021/22, I will take you on a quick whistle stop tour of The Season That Never Really Happened.
Like I said we started off on the first of September, ready for first light and the first wildfowl of the season, all the way through the season we tried to strictly comply with the ever changing government guide lines of that time on social distancing etc, we had the most wonderful 1st day both morning and evening flight, the ducks slipped air paddles down right into our decoy pattern, Young Sport Ambassador Ollie did a brilliant job calling these duck in the way I had taught him with his Buck Gardiner Double Nasty Duck Call, I wont write too much about this day here, for I have written a wonderful article called Whistling Wings Under The Moon Light that will truly do this day justice, just look further down my blog or over at The Countryman’s Diary Magazine, safe to say the start of the wildfowling season right up to the game season was a magical one for myself and my Young Sports.
The start of the game season and another full lock down was looming over us and seemed to be on the cards, this Dastardly Covid 19 Virus and the Ghastly people who have released this virus, truly have a lot to answer for I telle, with this looming over us we only managed to get one Young Sports Ambassadors Formal Game Shoot in, my one stipulation was that everyone wear a shirt and tie, even the parents, it mattered not what the shirt and tie was, but I truly believe this starts the Young Sports off with the right ethos of what game shooting stands for, after all they had worked hard as the junior under keepers all summer to get the shoot ready, plus release our birds and help me look after them and keeper the shoot, I said the parents should wear a shirt and tie too including the ladies, lead by example and teach the children a dress code in life, like I say this was a formal day on the peg, driven game shooting, not a rough shoot were the dress code would be less formal, I must say my awesome Young Sports Ambassadors and the other Young Sports really stood up to plate, they were dressed impeccably and immaculately, even first time Young Sport shooter Grace, being the only girl too, as I am a father of two daughters, I was very impressed with young Grace, I coached her throughout the day on the peg, its a shame one or two of the parents let the side down due to their pigheadedness, but then again this showed what they wanted to teach their children as everyone else was dressed to the nines in one way or another, but all had a shirt and tie on.
The day consisted of a beat one shoot one over the six drives, each Young Sport got to beat and shoot three drives each, but first came the shoot safety briefing and drawing of the pegs, alas disaster struck, we had been poached the night before or early morning of the day of the shoot, all of our birds had been driven off the roost, shot with either an air rifle or catapulted, they were there when I watched them to bed as they had been all month, but come shoot day every single bird had vanished, also all the deer had vanished too, we later found these had been poached too, its a sad time when you have to put security measures in place and CCTV and trail cameras but that’s what’s happened.

​One of the fellows sneered this day was a fail, I laughed and said no it was a huge success, we had great food put on by Emma and Jon so a huge shout out to them, everyone had a wonderful time especially the Young Sports, the Youthful banter and joyous laughter could be heard right down the valley, they fired a lot of shots at various vermin high up in the trees above each peg, squirrels and the likes, bear in mind I have made this a 4.10 shotgun only shoot, no other calibre permitted, anything they shoot at will be a real sporting bird, for me the size of the bag matters not, its the teaching the correct ethos of formal game shooting on a green shoot like this, hard work, teaching a proper work ethic, creating habitat and Conservation is at its core, a dress code for the appropriate occasion, last but not least sportsmanship, so a fail of a shoot day, NO NEVER, not on my watch, a roaring success, most definitely a MASSIVE YES, the Young Sports Ambassadors even wore their shoot day tweeds etc to school on non uniform day that following week, I am very proud of my Young Sports Ambassadors, each and everyone of them, they were hand picked by me to fly the Pass It On Young Sports Flag, this they do magnificently, I am truly humbled to know them and their families.

We had some more work parties on the shoot, Harry and Grace built the most amazing memorial bench, just look at the photos below, this was a memorial to mark all the people we had lost this ghastly past year of Covid 19 that was hanging over us, I will say right now it is awesome, I have asked Harry who also runs Woods By Harry on face book to make me some more benches around the main woods, I use this one a lot after feeding, checking drinkers and all the traps etc, Goose my Cocker Spaniel and I normally sit there with a mug of tea from the flask, as we sit quietly we watch and listen to nature, listen to our birds go to bed each evening, it truly is the most peaceful and tranquil place on earth, watch the videos attached to this article they show you far better than mere words what I mean, alas this was the only formal days shooting we managed this season with lock Downs and social distancing etc, but we did manage a few small rough shoots and vermin shoots, still complying with the latest government guide lines on social distancing with advice from BASC, I will tell you of these days shortly, I must send out a massive thank you too all who helped out this season, the beaters, pickers ups, the Mum’s and Dad’s and all the volunteers, but especially my Young Sports junior under keepers, last but not least Sam. he is a Masonic Brother, a Qualified Game Keeper, who also donated us our partridges out of his own pocket, he was our beat keeper on the day, a job he did brilliantly, so thank you Sam my ole Mucker.

Wildfowling we managed a few flights with the young sports, one on my birthday, I was invited down to the farm for a wildfowl birthday flight put on by Young Sports Ambassadors Henry and Billy, a magical flight it was too, as we set the decoys the chatter was excited. this was after walking a few reins and flushing duck with Goose and Tilly our Cocker Spaniels, my Brother joined us too, that made it extra special for me, I really wanted him to see a good flight, this was his very first season actually wildfowling, but my own moors and ponds had been baron of duck all season, my Young Sports Ambassadors never let me down on that one, the air filled with duck and geese, I was happy to sit there just calling the fowl in, letting the Young Sports Shoot, they fired plenty of shots but alas not a feather ruffled, even when the geese made an appearance and Young Sport Ambassador Henry saluted them with a couple of barrels, not a feather ruffled as a miss behind both times, much to the ribbing of his brother Billy.
I got out with Young Sports Ambassador Ollie for a flight, alas just as its been all season on our moors, hardly a duck about, but we did manage a wild cock pheasant, so Ollie had something to take home for tea, our ponds have been empty too, no duck at all using them this year, I think with all the rain we have had, all the duck are out on the splashes, I did have a couple of good flights in South Somerset as an invited guest with my Dad on one occasion and another with Young Sports Ambassador Harry, I wrote about them in my other article Whistling Wings Under The Moon Light, so look for them further down this blog or over at The Countryman’s Diary Magazine, click on for that full article and more.
I have managed to get some of the Young Sports out with me rat shooting, this has kept the lads and lasses ticking over, Young Sports Ambassadors Fred/Chris and Isaac have enjoyed this greatly, Fred is my ambassador for Conservation, he has some wonderful ideas for up the shoot and is hoping to build a small woodland pond to encourage newts/frogs and more, he also has an idea of a wild butterfly area, we will see how that goes, but he does have some wonderful passionate ideas, its something I teach them all, Conservation should be at the core of all Country Sports, always put more back than you harvest from mother nature, always leave it in a better condition than how you found it, each of the young people I coach learns this ethos from day one, as it was taught to me by the Countryman of the old school from my youth.
The air rifle ranges have done very well this past year, even though we have had to deal with lock downs and set backs after set backs, but when we could they ran and ran well, all being well attended, my Young Sports Ambassadors each and every one of them shone as an inspirational guiding light to their fellows, again complying with the latest gov advice on social distancing of the time, we implemented a booking system, one way in, the other way out, you had to book a slot to shoot etc, this worked so well we will carry this on as soon as we are given the go ahead to shoot again, we now have air rifle teams shooting in the leagues for juniors/seniors/ladies teams as well as a dedicated sporting rifle night, alas we could not run our famous Taster Days this year.
I have had the privilege nay honor to teach my nephew Jake how to shoot this year, both on the range and in the field, he really has taken to it like a duck to water, he has joined me and his old Dad out on vermin control rounds, squirrel shooting both with air rifles and 4.10 shot guns, it was his birthday not long after Christmas, so with permission from his Mum and Dad I got him his very own first air rifle for Christmas/Birthday, he has been told its locked away and only comes out with his Dad or myself, right from the start I drilled firearms safety into him, just like it was drilled into my Brother and I all those years ago, every Young Sport I train, gets this training from the start, I defy anyone to find fault in my Young Sports safety, in fact quite the opposite, they are trained to correct anyone not handling a firearm of any sort correctly, as was taught to my Brother and I, oh so many years ago now, thanks Dad, those lessons have stood the test of time indeed, Jake is a chip off the ole Collins block, it in his blood, he just needs polishing off and a couple more seasons under his belt.
Jake’s first day out with his new air rifle from Uncle Rob, I took him to a grain barn as the weather was a little inclement on and off this day, we zeroed his rifle in no time, he gave his Dad some stick saying wow look at my scope and my new rifle its better than yours, I gave him a soft clip round the ear saying wind yer neck boy, your Dads forgotten more about shooting than you will ever know, my Brother and I had a giggle as he reminded us of well us at that age, both giving Dad and Uncle Dave the same stick, I sat him down in an old cattle feeder underneath this Old Oak Tree, I knew full well it wont be long before a feral pigeon landed in it, they love that tree before going in the barn messing all over the grain and eating it, I was not wrong as I poured a couple of mugs of tea from my flask for my brother and I, seven feral pigeons landed on the dead branches, Jake was already on them and had one in his sites, doing exactly what I had taught him on the range, he took a breath, exhaled and squeezed the shot off, the distinct thump of a perfect hit echoed across the yard, the feral pigeon fell stone dead to the floor, Jake carefully laid his now empty and broken barrel air rifle on the floor, again just as he had been taught, he went and retrieved his prize, I don’t know who was more proud his Ole Dad or his Ole Uncle Rob, our hearts beat from our chests, both of us smiling like Cheshire Cats, Jake was smiling too excitedly saying I got it, I got it Uncle Rob, just like you taught me, well lots of praise right there was given, I don’t mind telling you, both my Brother and I had a tear of pride in our eyes too, or was it that cold winters wind making us pair of rough old Countryman’s eyes water, Jake did it in style too with a perfect head shot, like he said just as I had taught him on the range, before that day was finished he had three more ferals and a squirrel in the bag from that Old Oak Tree, I think Uncle Rob knows what a young Countryman in the making wants for his Christmas and Birthday presents eh, next he will get a proper hand made sheath knife and taught a Countryman’s proper knife skills and game prep, maybe next year his first 4.10 shotgun, I will have him on the clay pigeons first, although I have had him out with the 4.10 already shooting squirrels on my shoot, but there nothing like having your own gun is there. ​
Well as I sit on Harry’s memorial bench in the big wood, I have really enjoyed the memories of The Season That Didn’t Really Happen, I also love sitting there with the peace and tranquility just listening to mother nature and all under her canopy, I will keep feeding the ponds and the shoot until late spring, this is when there is plenty of natural food available, not just for the game birds but all wildlife, we will continue when we can with my Young Sports under keepers to create better habitat for all nature, not just the game birds we release, for this is a green shoot, run by eco warriors, it teaches Conservation and Preservation, proving that Country Sports and Conservation walk hand in hand, you just can have one without the other, its an ethos that was drummed into me from boyhood, I now teach this way passing on this baton to my Young Sports Ambassadors and beyond.
I have had the pleasure nay honor to be invited to be The Eley International Ambassador yet again for another year, so of course I was happy to sign another contract with this awesome company/brand, who have a great ethos that runs in line with my own, my books have sold off the shelves again this year, with my Brother getting to sample some fine food as my Guinea Pig no I mean V.I.P Guest, also some fine wines etc too that accompanied each recipe, of course this was after all the shooting was finished and the guns cleaned and put back in their gun safes.

I hope you have enjoyed my humble scribble, please stay safe and well one and all, I will update you further later in the year with more articles from the heart of this Rough Ole Countryman, but do go over to The Countryman’s Diary Magazine, we have a huge library of articles/videos and now Pod Casts for you to listen too, with expert writers covering all sectors of Country Sports and more, both from home here in the UK and Internationally, as I always say in my mantra, Teach Them Right, Coach Them Well.


The Season That Didn’t Really Happened
By The Ole Hedge Creeper