Access to, and the availability of, game shooting has never been more egalitarian than it is today. Whether you’re a single gun looking to join a team, a group of friends from overseas wanting your first taste of British game shooting or you are a collection of experienced shots seeking sport on a variety of different estates around the country, there are numerous sporting agents and websites that offer shooting, in all its forms, in every part of the British Isles. And, should you want to be involved in the day without taking part in the shooting; wives, children and (very) well behaved dogs are welcome.
Your actual time on the peg; pulling the trigger, is, in fact, but a small part of the overall day. While it is the sport that brings people together, for many, it is the enjoyment of spending a day out in the great British countryside with like-minded people that brings the real enjoyment. The camaraderie between the guns, beaters, pickers-up and gamekeepers is second to none.
There is more to a day’s shooting than merely reaching the bag as Westley Richards former Gunroom Manager explains.
The cold morning chill; fluorescent, autumnal colours; the smell of gunpowder hanging in the mist; the gentle whimpering of over-excited dogs, the first sip of soul-warming sloe gin; pre-drive nerves followed by an injection of adrenaline at the first flush; the majesty of a towering cock pheasant, wings set, effortlessly gliding across the valley; the quiet admiration of the stylish single shot that folds a super-high bird; and the belly-laughs at that unfortunate friend who can do nothing but clean miss. Just a few emotions that I conjure-up, when thinking about a great passion of mine: driven game shooting. Not only a sport but a way of life for many; a sport deeply ingrained in the history and landscape of the British Isles.
The pursuit of trophy class Roe buck (Capreolus Capreolus) in the British Isles remains one of the finest sporting challenges for the recreational deer stalker.
Roe buck stalking outside of the rut is about early mornings and late evenings. During April and May the British countryside bursts into life with deer movement all around. Mature bucks establish territories in readiness for the rut late summer. Younger bucks pushed out by these mature bucks often make up the early season quota.
Quite where this year has gone, I am not sure and it’s hard to believe that tomorrow marks the start of the red grouse shooting season here in the UK, famously known as the ‘Glorious Twelfth’. However, I find it near impossible to describe anything that 2020 has given us so far as glorious! If 2020 was a gun it would be a left handed, short stocked, double discharging, weak ejecting, thin walled, out of proof piece of junk made in London. And sadly, she’s not done with us yet!
At the end of July we would have attended the annual Game Fair and the excitement for the coming season begins from there. So quite what the season has install for any of us, is as unknown as the pandemic itself. Each estate and shoot will have carefully planned social distancing measures in place and I’m confident they can keep us all safe and well, of course, it won’t be like any other season and we will undoubtedly see a small reduction in enjoyment but any shooting is better than nothing, right? We will need patience and more importantly, flexibility which I appreciate is not that easy for the scores of international sportsmen and women who travel to our shores to wing shoot. But fingers crossed the virus is temporary, the shooting industry will weather the storm and we look forward to welcoming back teams of guns from all over the world next year.
It’s morning frost on the hood of a land cruiser that crystallises a complex layer of thorn scratches, lacerations and claw marks from decades of exploration; a cool breeze on your face as you drive around for hours in the hunting rig, blissfully daydreaming until you’re ripped from the reverie by cat-claw thorns tearing through two shirt layers and drawing blood.
It’s the smell of parched topsoil getting its first drink of rain as the monsoons precipitate their arrival; the taste of a hand-rolled cigarette after lunch, lit by the same match that sets an early-season management fire, which in turn brings a chaotic hurricane of birds to devour the winged insects fleeing from the climbing flames. Or it’s a midday nap under the shade of an acacia tree with pant legs tucked into your socks to prevent soldier ants from biting ankles tender from tracking buffalo, only to be woken by a lion’s call a few hundred yards away, then not being able to fall back asleep because it might’ve been closer.
There are some things in this world that defy conventional description, where language can fall short of communicating these experiences or the complex meanings behind them. In the same way that an inspiring dream or revelation can evade articulation, I’ve always found it difficult to describe my love for Africa to someone who has never been. However, that has never stopped me from trying to understand the root of this passion that has inspired so many artists, writers, adventurers, hunters and conservationists over the centuries.
In my experience there is little sentimental middle ground; one either can’t endure the harsh elements, relentless insects, and logistical chaos, or one absolutely loves it and the charms sink deep into one’s bones, never to leave. Africa becomes a calling that must be answered and many have pursued it relentlessly even to their demise. But what is it exactly that we love so much? Ask anyone who’s spent an extended amount of time in the bush and they’ll probably tell you that it’s small observations of the senses that provide the vibrant source of what we know Africa to be. These are things you often don’t realise until later, having to reflect on the source of mild melancholy that creeps in once you return home.
When I first arrived at Westley Richards, one of the areas that really impressed me was the quality and depth of photography the company had produced over the years. This in large part began with Simon Clode, the former Chairman & Managing Director of the company, who as a young man developed a keen interested in the medium while studying art at the British Institute in Florence. It was during this time of experimentation with cameras, darkrooms and composition that Simon established his uncompromising eye for fine detail and appreciation of aesthetics.
Scotland is without doubt one of those magical places where sportsmen armed with rifle, gun and rod can still pursue quarry in some of the most outstanding scenery found anywhere in the world. On an island now heavily populated and ever more restricted, Scotland remains one of the last bastions of the wilderness, a place where the environment and weather are still capable of reminding you that nature is a force to be reckoned with.
‘Sporting Estates’ as they are known became fashionable in Victorian times and even with the current political climate they remain the favoured retreats of sports men and women from around the world. Last May we were lucky enough to head up to a small private estate in Aberdeenshire for a spot of roebuck stalking, in particular looking for bucks out on the open hill.
One of the most popular leather sporting accessories that we make at Westley Richards is our Ammunition Wallet. Though a simple addition to one’s packing list, to hunting enthusiasts this item can be as vital as the ammunition it holds. Handmade to hold up to 10 rounds at a time, the most popular is designed to fit safely to your belt and within easy reach for that crucial moment.
Being synonymous with rifles, Westley Richards has always offered the most comprehensive range amongst the heritage gunmakers. Designed to match both the hunter’s preference – open, closed or in pocket – and cartridge size, our ammunition wallets deliver a striking combination of luxury, durability and gentlemanly style, that can be found in all our leather goods. Continue Reading →
Danny with his trusty Watson Bros..450 No.2 Double Rifle. Originally built in 1907 at a cost of £21 this rifle has certainly proved worth every penny! This photo was taken by Diggory Haddoke whilst we were all on safari in Tanzania in 2015.
Anyone who is anyone who has ever wanted to hunt in Africa or has hunted in Africa should certainly have heard of Professional Hunter, Danny McCallum. Now that might sound like a dramatic introduction, but truth be told Danny is one of the legends of African hunting having been a fully licensed PH there for 53 years.
Born in Arusha, Tanzania in August 1947, Danny is from a family of Professional Hunters (his father and grandfathers were all PH’s) and after qualifying with his full ‘Unrestricted’ licence in 1967 has led a successful career as one of Africa’s most sought after PH’s. Danny is one of those PH’s who has been lucky enough to hunt in Kenya, Tanzania, Zaire, the Sudan, the CAR, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and more recently Uganda. His experiences are almost unparalleled today, especially where Africa’s dangerous game is concerned.