Thursday, 28 January 2016

The end of the season.

This Saturday, January 30th, will be the last 'shoot' of the season, as the pheasant-shooting season ends on January 31st.   Around here most farms are privately owned, and those which are, like ours, mostly organise shooting syndicates with the farms roundabout.  In early Spring they buy in pheasant poults and rear them before letting them go.   By the time the season begins they are full size.

The farmer has never been a shooter but usually goes along to act as a beater, or just for the exercise and the company.   The shooters all know one another; they have their lunch in the big barn, sitting on bales of straw.   If it is a really cold, or wet, day somebody usually has a bottle of  something to pass round.   I usually put a tot of rum or whisky in the farmer's coffee flask - all helps to keep him warm.

Half a dozen fields away from our shoot is a large, corporate shoot -  belonging to one of the big landowners in the area.   That is a very different matter.   Here, large groups pay for the privilege of shooting on the land, and they are treated to a sumptuous lunch in some shooting hut somewhere, transported there by vehicles.  The whole thing is organised by a gamekeeper.

Of course, pheasants don't know who they 'belong' to - they are free spirits - and they can fly - so by the end of the season they have roamed far and wide and no doubt they will have some of 'our' birds and we will have some of 'theirs.'

The fact remains that they are not wild birds as such, they are partly tame, so they stay around.   We have a group that stay around our bird table for most of the day.   They have no reason to go further as there is plenty of food there for them.   I always hope they stay as that means they end the season unscathed.   This year, at present, we have one cock pheasant and four hens - the beginning of his harem I presume (I expect he can feel Spring in the air).

It goes without saying that no way will I eat pheasant.   They are beautiful birds and I don't approve of shooting them, particularly when they are introduced to the fields especially for that purpose.

On the subject of fields.   They are still far too wet to get on to, and it is getting quite serious for farmers as jobs usually done this time of year fall behind.  'Muck' still lies in a heap - it is far too wet to take the spreader up and down the fields.  And the hedges remain uncut as the hedge-cutter can't get on either.   This becomes serious in a month or so when the hedgerow birds begin to think about building their nests.   We always try to get this work done well before that time.   We have a lot of yellow hammers and they love the thick, short hedges for building their nests.

14 comments:

Derek Faulkner said...

One small point Pat, the game shooting season ends on the 1st Feb, the wildfowling season ends on the 31st Jan. However on coastal shoots wildfowl can still be shot until the 20th Feb if they are below the mean high water mark.
Pheasant can often have a far better life than a lot of the chicken that we eat, at least they're free to fly and roam.

Jenny said...

As a farmers daughter I went beating when I was young, didn't enjoy it at all and also I hated eating pheasant as it was always full of shot.

angryparsnip said...

I always like when you talk about what is happening that day (or week) on the farm.
How are the chickens doing with all the mud. Do the pheasants get along with the chickens ?

cheers, parsnip and thehamish

Librarian said...

I suppose cutting back the hedges wasn't hindered so much in the days when it was still done without heavy machinery, but of course that would have taken a lot longer and required a slightly different set of skills.

When I was a kid, my Dad often took me with him on weekends. A friend of his had responsibility of woodland and fields about an hour's drive away from home, and the men of the nearby village would regularly organise pheasant (and other) shoots. My Dad never took up a gun himself but only "shot" with his camera, and I joined first the beaters and later the dogs when they'd be sent into an almost inaccessible area get the dead birds that had been shot down above there.

Actually, if we eat chicken and duck, we can just as well eat any other bird - one bird's life certainly is as precious as the other's. Or one animal's. But I'm not going to start a huge debate about the ethics of eating meat or not - I do appreciate a nice piece of meat as much as the next person and am not a vegetarian.

Heather said...

I do hope the weather will dry up soon, so that work on farms can get going again in earnest. There are all sorts of jobs crying out to be done in the garden too, but it is too wet to get out there. I had a super new trowel for Christmas and haven't been able to 'christen' it yet.

donna baker said...

It is kind of like shooting peacocks Pat. Warm here for a few glorious days then back in the freezer Monday. Oh spring, where forth art thou?

Doc said...

I once hatched eleven pheasant chicks in an incubator set up smack in the middle of the dining room table. I can tell you my wife was very unhappy. It was so exciting when we released all eleven healthy adults back into the wild.

Cro Magnon said...

We had a cock and three hen Pheasants around for a while, but sadly no sight of them for a while. I'd hoped they would be left alone to breed. No such luck.

thelma said...

It seems shooting goes on every day here, so it will be good when it is finished. The fields are very wet, some small lakes, and they don't need heavy machinery on them. There is of course another storm raging outside, I can hear the milk bottles rolling around on the drive and the wind whistles down the chimney.

Gwil W said...

There's an old salt road runs over some moors. I was jogging along on one one of my regular training runs and had completely forgotten it was the "Glorious 12th" when suddenly I thought was in a war zone as guns blazed from the cover of heather. I froze. The firing ceased. Some birds whirred by. A beetroot faced man with high blood pressure began yelling some obscenities.
I slowly returned from where I had come, saddened but wiser.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Very stormy day here today and rain streaming down the south-facing windows. Just going into town to meet my friends for usual Friday coffee. If I can't stand up in the wind then I shall have to ring the farmer to come with support! Thanks for calling in.

Dartford Warbler said...

We usually have a cock pheasant visiting the bird table but he has recently disappeared, so I fear the worst.

Hope you made it home safely in the storm. I`m just off out into it! The fields are saturated yet again.

meigancam01 said...
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Midmarsh John said...

Reading this reminded me of a sight about a week ago. On our afternoon walk I could hear pheasants. As we went past the last cottage which has a very large grassed back garden I saw two cock pheasants facing each other about six feet apart. The noise was those two 'shouting' at each other until one finally turned tail and flew away.