It has certainly not been a quiet start to our out of season. Demand for days has been excellent with just short of 70% of our days taken up and I thank everyone who has already booked shooting in the new season.
I am often asked what do I enjoy about running a shoot. It certainly does have its challenges but these are soon forgotten once in the company of like-minded people from all walks of life and the real characters driven game shooting seems to attract! One thing I really enjoy is to plan a new drive and to see it work, it may take a few times but we normally get there! I have quite a number of new drives planned for our next season.
There is no doubt that driven game shooting is increasing in popularity and am delighted to see more Ladies and young people are taking up our sport.
So what is different about our Shoot. Although we welcome full teams, we particularly cater for single guns and small parties. I encourage novice guns to join us providing they have had some clay shooting experience and have an experienced shot or one of our loader/instructors standing with them. I would be disappointed if an individual gun joining us for the first time did not feel at home within a few minutes of arrival.
Planning the days is a challenge in itself as everyone seems to have quite different priorities. I plan each shoot day just how I would expect it to be if I were in the line of guns. The following is how I would hope our shoot days will be but as always anything can happen.
For the shoot to be hosted in a relaxed no rush manner with refreshments throughout the day.
To shoot with a convivial team of like-minded people.
Once on your peg not to have to wait ages for the birds to show. A mix of pheasant and partridge achieves this.
To be presented with challenging birds but not impossible, spread over the whole line of guns on each drive.
To have fellow guns who are selective and respect their neighbour’s birds.
To be able to work my dogs at the end of a drive without the birds already being vacuumed up by the pickers up.
To experience a full days shooting with four or five drives and achieving an excess over the target bag without being charged an overage.
To have a tasty lunch with decent wine not cheap plonk!
There are many other aspects of a shoot day but if we can achieve these I am sure everyone will go away happy.
I hope this gives you an idea of what to expect. However we must never forget we are always faced with our unpredictable weather and wild creatures. So some days will certainly be better than others.
List of Available Days
It may seem a long time to our new season, however as many of you are already planning your shooting I am pleased to give an update of available days.
Most of the Hardcastle and Heathfield grouse and Eagle Hall & Ashfold Side days have been taken. However there are still a very good variety of days at Ripley Castle and Mountgarret.
I have kept all the prices the same as last season except the cost of our early days up to 7th October at Ripley Castle and Mountgarret have been reduced and are excellent value.
The availability changes every day and Lynda has been so busy typing confirmations and invoices she has not yet been able to detail each day on our website! So please contact Lynda on 01423 323321 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for an update of available days.
There are quite a number of days on the enclosed list which were not included in previous lists so I do hope there will be something workable for you.
Exclusive Days for full Teams
There are still days where no guns have been taken. These are available and are ideal as Exclusive Days for full teams, Roving Syndicates or for entertaining friends and clients. The costs are the same as our other days just choose a date and the bag can be tailored to suit you.
Given the present demand for days I suggest you consider these quite soon.
It is inevitable that by the way I run the Shoot selling mainly to individual guns, by the gun per day, that once the season starts there will be some unsold pegs. A day will be run providing a minimum of six pegs have been sold but the target bag may be revised in line with the number of guns. I am often asked if there are any odd pegs available at a reduced cost. For me discounted days begin with those of you who have already booked days. So I established our Exclusive Membership as a way of thanking and rewarding individual guns for their support. Purchasing shoot days to a value of £2,500.00 or more before VAT qualifies for Exclusive Membership. This applies to individual guns or where a team have booked, paid individually and collectively achieve £2,500.00 or more before VAT, then all members of the team are eligible for Exclusive Membership.
Exclusive Members are offered by e-mail, at reasonably short notice, a selection of dates where there are unsold pegs. You will receive a list of dates with attractive discounts offered on the original fee. You may purchase as many of the discounted pegs are you wish for yourself and to bring one or more guests on any of the days not just the days you have already booked. You must of course be present on the day when you bring a guest at discounted rates.
Depending on the take up of days which remains very good at present, I would hope to send out a number of offers during the season. However to be eligible to take advantage of these you need to have previously purchased days to the value for £2,500 plus VAT. If at present you have purchased days below the value you can always add more to make up the amount required.
Exclusive Members will receive a plastic card during May which will entitle them to receive attractive discounts on clothing and accessories at selected retail stores.
As in the past everyone has been extremely generous in supporting our daily sweep, fines, guest lunches and sale of mounted birds in aid of our Charity fund.
We experienced a further exceptional season and we have raised our highest amount ever with an impressive £20,424. The fund has been distributed as follows:
Collected on a shoot day and given to the team host to send direct to their chosen Charity:
St Michaels Hospice £300.00
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust £550.00
Teenage Cancer £45.00
PPR Foundation Brain Tumour Research £1,505.00
Douglas McMillan Hospice £300.00
Donated during the year
Tanfield Grouse Charity Clay Day £500.00
Princes Trust: Richard Jackson’s Charity Bonfire £540.00
Other funds collected and distributed as follows:
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. North Yorkshire Branch £8,000.00
Gamekeepers Welfare Trust £1,500.00
Songbird Survival Trust £500.00
*Moorland Association £2,500.00
*Countryside Alliance £2,000.00
PPR Foundation: Pam Roberts aims to raise £1M for brain Tumour Research £1,000.00
Plus funds held in hand for other opportunities during the year £1,184.00
Grand Total £20,424.00
*I have included The Moorland Association and The Countryside Alliance in this season’s donations in appreciation for the magnificent work they did in fighting the petition against grouse shooting in Parliament, which although produced and excellent result also proved very expensive for both parties.
I am always looking for new worthwhile causes allied to our sport so please advise me if you know of any.
Thank you again for all your support.
Shoot Dinner: Saturday 10th February 2018
Unfortunately due to a large number of staff and guests being unavailable on the date of our 2017 dinner, I very reluctantly found it necessary to cancel the dinner.
So in 2018 I do hope you will be free to join us at Ripley Castle on Saturday 10th February. Please make a note of the date for a really fun evening.
Instructors and Loaders
I doubt you would take up playing golf or possibly any sport without instruction from a professional. So I cannot see any difference between other sports and shotgun shooting.
Over the years I have convinced many of my friends that having someone to look after them on the day can be a real advantage and improve their performance. It also gives them plenty of time to work their dog at the end of a drive when they don’t need to worry about their gun or clearing up their spent cartridges.
For anyone new to and with limited driven game shooting experience it is essential. On the grouse Moor not many guns now shoot without a loader, even when shooting single guns. Having two pairs of eyes spotting on the Moor, I feel really improves your day. After over 50 years of driven game shooting I now never shoot without a loader.
Having a loader to stuff cartridges is very useful, however having one of our loader/instructors to show you where you are possibly going wrong, really does improve your day. My encouraging guns to have someone with them has given me a problem as our instructor/loaders are now in great demand, not only on our Shoot but by guns taking them elsewhere. So for this reason if you wish to have someone to look after you could you please let me know as soon as possible. The cost remains as previous seasons £90 for the instructor/loader for the day paid direct to them.
The law states that anyone may use a shotgun without a UK Shotgun Certificate or Visitors Permit provided it is in the presence of the owner who has the serial number of the shotgun used registered on his Shotgun Certificate or Visitors Permit and the required insurance cover is in place. Shotguns are available for hire, provided notice is given, from our instructor/loaders at £50 per day. Knowledge of height and if he or she is left or right handed would help in selecting the most ideal shotgun available.
Four Wheel Drive Vehicle Courtesy Vehicles
As more and more guns are travelling some distance to shoot with us, we now have available on all three Shoots a long wheel base Land Rover Station Wagon with a driver which will seat up to five people comfortably. If required we can provide transport for a full team (3 vehicles) providing the vehicles are not being used on our other Shoots. Each vehicle is available at no cost to the guns or their guests, however prior booking is recommended to ensure space is available. Your dog will travel in the Keepers vehicles. The demand for this service is growing so I suggest you give as much notice as possible.
As Harrogate continues to attract more and more conferences and exhibitions each year. I found that quite often The Boar’s Head was fully booked on many dates last season.
The Boar’s Head offers excellent value and there are special rates for shoot members. I therefore suggest you book your accommodation as soon as ever possible.
Boar’s Head Hotel, Ripley Castle Estate, Nr Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 3AY
Tel: 01423 771888 email@example.com www.boarsheadripley.co.uk
A comprehensive list of our local hotels is detailed on our website www.ripleycasleshoot.com
The Game Fair 2017: Hatfield House 28th to 30th July
This year The Game Fair is being held at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. After the problems surrounding the demise of the CLA Game Fair the new owners put on an excellent show last year at Radley.
I am advised that the management have listened to what we want and expect from The Game Fair and are planning something quite special. Please visit their website www.gamefair.org
As always our out of season period is busier than ever and we have much to look forward to
THE GAME FAIR 2017
Friday 28th to Sunday 30th July 2017: Hatfield House, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9 5HX
I am delighted to advise that the Shoot has taken a stand on Gunmakers Row, so you now have somewhere to meet friends for a drink and leave coats and shopping. I also hope it will give us the opportunity to attract a few new Members.
Ruth and Debbie will be looking after you with tea, coffee and the odd glass of Pimm’s and Champagne. If you would like to help on the stand for a few hours on any day please let me know and I will have a name badge produced for you. I have not yet been advised of the stand number but this should be available for my next Newsletter
Please call in with your friends.
There has been an excellent take up of days with over 75% now taken. I would like to thank those of you who have not only booked days in the new season but have also paid your initial shoot fees.
There are a few initial payments still outstanding and would appreciate receiving these as soon as possible. For those concerned, in addition to a copy of your confirmation I also enclose a copy of your outstanding invoice.
Where applicable I also enclose an invoice for the second part of your shoot fee.
REMAINING SHOOT DAYS
I enclose a list of available days and as you will see there are plenty to choose from with every type and size of day still available. As there are a number of days which were not included in my previous lists please check if there is something which may now be workable for you.
For further updates on available days please visit our website www.ripleycastleshoot.com or www.gunsonpegs.com . Both sites are updated daily and are iphone and android accessible and now have responsive design image, whatever all this means!!
INSURANCE AGAINST LOSS OF DAYS DUE TO BIRD FLU
Restrictions on free range egg producers were lifted on Thursday 13th April throughout the UK. Although now free from outbreaks here in the UK, bird flu continues in other parts of the world. No one knows how the problem of bird flu will progress as once migratory birds return in the Autumn we must wait and see.
My proposal for the way forward is for the Shoot to cover outbreaks up to the start of the season. Should this happen and I find it necessary to cancel some days due to lack of birds a full refund will be given against any days I find it necessary to cancel.
From 1st September should shooting be stopped due to bird flu it is the responsibility of each gun to insure against loss of their days, in the same way you would insure against loss of days due to bad weather.
Insurance cover is now available from GunsOnPegs under a separate policy to the Triple Barrel Cover
www.gunsonpegs.com/insurance or telephone 0207 491 1363 for a quotation.
There is much talk about what happens to shot game. Although our main game dealer Yorkshire Game went into administration during the season, they continued to take our game as a new company.
Although we received no payment for our birds for most of the season all our shot birds still entered the food chain. However as an approved shoot to supply Marks & Spencer through Yorkshire Game we continued to receive a premium for all birds sold through their stores.
It would seem there is an oversupply of game with many birds in feather still in cold store.
It is most important for our sport that all game shot should go into the food chain. I am assured by the new Yorkshire Game and our other game dealer Jason Drewery that they will take all our game next season and we may even receive some payment.
PARTRIDGE AND MAIZE
In a recent phone call one of my Shoot Members pointed out that we are one of the very few lowland shoots offering testing partridge shooting. The reason I first introduced partridge over 20 years ago was that I became very bored waiting for birds to show on many pheasant drives. I find maize is possibly the best holding and presenting crop for partridge which normally show before the pheasant and this waiting problem is avoided.
Over the years partridge have become an important part of our shoot and I am always trying to find ways of holding and presenting even more testing birds. Our total area of game cover for the new season at Ripley Castle and Mountgarret has grown to over 350 acres of which 98 acres is maize.
The actual sowing date for maize is critical and finding a contractor prepared to sow small areas of maize at the correct time is near impossible. We have therefore purchased our own maize drill. David is going to be very busy during the last two weeks of May! I am very confident that this substantial investment in maize will improve even further the overall quality of our partridge.
I am very pleased to advise that following the success last season of our lunches in the Shoot Cabin in our Ripley Castle Shoot Yard, which were provided by Ollie Stewart and his staff at Ripley Castle Kitchens. In the new season Ollie will also now be providing our lunches in the Shoot Box on Hardcastle Moor and in the Shoot Lodge on Mountgarret Estate. Sadly his food will not help my waistline!
NEW INCUBATOR & HATCHER AT RIPLEY CASTLE
For some time I have been wanting to rear our own pheasants at Ripley Castle from our own laying field. In the past most of our pheasants have been produced from eggs originating from France. Having dealt with France for many years in the past with my hardwood importing business I was pretty certain they would use Brexit to increase prices by restricting supplies, which ironically has happened this year but due to bird flu.
I therefore decided to purchase an incubator/hatcher to produce most of our pheasant chicks. However with the onset of bird flu I decided to increase the capacity even further before it was delivered in order to produce all our pheasants.
As we already have a smaller incubator/hatcher at Mountgarret. We established a laying field of over 1,500 hens caught up at Ripley Castle and Mountgarret to produce the majority of eggs we require for both shoots.
As I also feel is it important to introduce some new stock each year we will be purchasing a small quantity of UK produced pheasant chicks in addition to our own production.
Now having our own pheasant production we are in a stronger position than most should an outbreak of bird flu occur.
During the summer our website will be undergoing a major upgrade, so watch out for this as it will be very different.
REVIEW OF OUR 2016-2017 SEASON AND PROPOSALS FOR OUR NEW: 2017-2018 SEASON
Our 2016 season must go down as one of the most challenging season’s I have ever experienced in my 25 years of running Shoots.
We were faced with warm, mild and sunny conditions throughout most of the season. With birds spread over the whole countryside in search of the abundant supply of natural food and not necessarily in the drives where we wanted them to be!
As Christmas and New Year approached everyone thought we would at last experience some real shooting weather in January. Unfortunately this was not to be and I can remember only one morning of frost and one covering of snow on the Moor.
The days were very challenging for our keepers and beaters but even given these conditions the birds flew well. Overall we succeeded in providing acceptable days throughout the season, but we do not want to go through this again. I never thought I would be wishing for overcast, damp and windy days but I do hope we have a few in the new season!
This unseasonal weather has left us with the big problem of too many birds remaining on the ground. We have caught up over 2,000 hens for our laying field, other shoots and game farms but there are still too many remaining. We must live with this and are feeding wheat which is being taken as if it were December. The one good thing is that we will have plenty of well grown early October pheasants!
the past we always tried to leave a breeding stock in order to produce some
wild pheasants. This was before the
skies were full of buzzards and red kites.
Sadly this has now become unworkable, which is a great pity as these
adult birds will produce chicks which will be devoured by raptors within a few
days of hatching. This is called
progress and appreciate we must accept and work with it.
HARDCASTLE & HEATHFIELD MOORS: RETURNS FOR 2016
Brace Average bag per Day 10 year average 5 year average
Up to 2015 - - 530 787
2016 606 64 470 813
Brace Average bag per Day 10 year average 5 year average
Up to 2015 - - 355 572
2016 338 48 321 570
Following an acceptable but not exceptional season in 2016 we have left a good stock on both Moors so we should have a reasonable season in 2017.
Unfortunately Heathfield has suffered from a second year of work under the direction of Natural England and The Yorkshire Peat Partnership. In short they spent four months over the winter blocking more grips (ditches) cutting and moving heather brash and planting sphagnum moss. I do hope it is worth the many hundreds of thousands of pounds it has all cost.
The outcome for our grouse is that we may experience another below average season on Heathfield as the birds may not have had sufficient time to re-establish on the worked areas. They certainly will not appreciate the bog which has been created. As last season we may well have half a moor, we must wait and see. However I plan to shoot our first days and decide how we should proceed once we have seen what stock we have.
RETURN ON BIRDS RELEASED AT EAGLE HALL & ASHFOLD SIDE 2016-2017
Pheasant Partridge Overall
10 year average 48.26% 44.05% 46.65%
2016-20176 43.39% 56.37% 50.11%
Birds shot average: 4.79. Birds shot in excess of the target bag for the season: 3.93%
Following another excellent season particularly on our partridge, everything is now in place for another successful season. We do not have any major changes planned as what George and his team have created takes some beating.
RETURN ON BIRDS RELEASED AT RIPLEY CASTLE, NIDD, HOB GREEN AND CAYTON 2016-2017
Pheasant Partridge Duck Overall
10 year average 45.55% 31.76% 70.40% 42.67%
2016-20176 41.93% 39.04% 52.28% 41.64%
Bird shot average: 3.49. Birds shot in excess of the overall target bag for the season: 9.18%
We plan similar releases to past seasons of pheasant and partridge with a reduction in our duck due to the increased number of duck reared in the wild. However one main change is the installation of our incubator/hatcher as detailed earlier in this Newsletter. We have also increased the number of day old partridge and reduced the number of partridge poults.
Due to the additional workload created by our producing all our own pheasants we have employed a trainee keeper, Ben Coates who has recently left College and has worked on the shoot part time for some time.
RETURN ON BIRDS RELEASED ON MOUNTGARRET 2016-2017
Pheasant Partridge Overall
2016-2017 45.06% 40.00% 42.97%
Birds shot average: 3.38. Birds shot in excess of the target bag for the season: 7.61%
Having just completed our first season on Mountgarret, it would be an understatement to say it has been very challenging with a few surprises which are now behind us. I must admit it was somewhat naive of me to believe I could change overnight something which had been established over 100 years. However much has changed over the year and I am very confident we are now heading in the right direction.
Something which I had spotted earlier when I first looked at the Shoot was that although the pheasant are very acceptable, on many drives the partridge are exceptional. This is something I plan to build on in the new season.
During the year I have had tremendous support from the Estate. One problem we have, as do many Estates, is that some of the woodlands have grown too dense to allow the light to penetrate the woodland floor in order to establish suitable cover to hold game and also that the birds cannot fly through the trees. The circumstances of this are that the birds walk to the end of the wood producing large flushes which are not necessarily what we want. As part of the Estate forestry programme many of the woodlands will be thinned this summer creating much improved habitat for both holding and flushing the birds.
We have received invaluable support from all the farmers in making areas available for game cover. When I took the Shoot there were 17 acres. In the new season we will have over 150 acres of game cover. Much of this will be maize being ideal for partridge.
Last season we did have a few disappointing days which would have been difficult to avoid given the constant warm and still conditions. Overall we achieved an acceptable season but there is still much room for improvement. We have also increased the drives even further to over 30.
Martin Nesham our Head Keeper will be assisted by Liam his son and our new Keeper Andy Maloney who is ex army having served in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq so he knows his way around!
As we do not know how the partridge will perform on many of the drives, I propose releasing more than we will require in future years by releasing some on each drive. Once we know which drives produce the best partridge we will build on these in the future.
It is also worth noting that the prices remain as last season however we are only fielding 8 guns compared to 9. This should give more birds over each gun and the cost per bird is reduced.
I am very confident the many changes and improvements I propose for the new season will bring the Mountgarret Shoot to a new level and we can all look forward to some excellent shooting.
We now have everything in place for another successful season and I will keep you advised on our further progress.