There comes a time in most shooting careers when the thrill of pulling the trigger starts to become outweighed by the other areas of a shooting event. I think that most of us as youngsters want to shoot, and that’s the interest, shooting things. As we get older so the friendship and the tradition become as or more important. The people, the places and the environment begin to feature far higher on our list of importance.
I have been shooting, as a gamekeeper, for the last 30 years. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoying it but it is work and I am not worried if I take the gun or a camera on a shooting day or leave both at home and take the dogs and pick up behind the line.
However when it comes to stalking it’s a totally different feeling, it takes me back to those days at the start when I would creep up a hedge row with a .410 after a rabbit at last light or wait on the marsh for an elusive mallard to make its mistake. This is even more so, when it comes to boar. So it made sense that I should evolve my business to take in the things that matter to me. When stalking, I get as much of a buzz from seeing a client achieve their goal. It may be their first roe buck or muntjac, it may only be a cull animal, but the thrill I get is no different to the one I get if I were squeezing the trigger myself. One gentleman who I took out, and who, like so many, has become a good friend wanted a muntjac buck. We tried but had awful weather for 2 stalks so I asked him if he could stay on for another stalk as our guest. He agreed and that night he got his buck, only a small one, but his. After the shot which was from a high seat, we sat giving the animal time to breathe its last. I noticed the whole seat beginning to shake. He was so emotional he wanted to cry. 15 minutes later and I had cleaned the animal out and we were on our way back to the larder he was still shaking. This thrill is what I experience on the boar. Now I love France and boar shooting so the idea of putting the two together was my idea of heaven on earth, and as luck would have it we were able to do just that. Running boar trips in France has made a huge difference to my work and enjoyment of life. I have met such a variety of people, the guns who we take out with us as well as the local guns and shoot owners in France. Friendships and working relationships that have been forged have been second to none. I have been asked to shoot, from my first visit to France, as a guest. It seems that the whole country is full of friends I have yet to meet. The traditions that we have lost, to a great extent in the UK, are alive and well in France. The food and the wine, as well as the respect for the quarry makes for wonderful days and again it matters not if I shoot or guide, just to see the faces of our friends and clients who shoot their first driven boar with us if enough. It seems that in some cases the shooting is just the excuse for the party afterwards! That said the rush that I get when I hear the hunting horns and the hounds followed by the unmistakable sound of full boar rifles is second to none. Le Chasse is so much more than just the shooting, it is the whole ambiance of the hunt and the day. For our stalking and hunting we have picked the very best sporting shoots in England and in France. The idea of shooting a medal animal from an area that is less than flattering means very little to me. I look for the whole thing, the whole picture.
And thanks to my good friend David, who has been the inspiration behind this venture, it has worked both ways, and some of our French friends have travelled to England to shoot driven game with us, and they enjoyed every moment of it.
Last year we had an Italian stalker here who brought his father. The son was very keen for his father to stay with him and for both of them to carry a rifle while I guide. Not a chance. I had my under-keeper take the son out while I took father. When I questioned the son as to why he was so keen that they stay together, the son explained that his father did not speak much English. Father looked at me and smiled and then in broken English said “it is ok we will speak the language of hunting” and he was right, we did.
We have stalkers booked in and French trips to run through to March next year so it’s all exciting at the moment and with the dates to fix for France for 2016/17, we are going to be busy.