The land is best described as rolling countryside with woodlands established over many years to produce good quality sporting birds. These are now complimented by areas of well-placed game cover. I am confident this combination together with a further increase in the area of game cover will produce the good variety of testing drives we are all looking for.
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.
I had hoped to field 9 guns each day but soon realised by the way the drives have been established it is an 8 gun Shoot. Some drives will stand 9 guns and if a full team wish to field 9 guns this is not a problem as we can select the drives to suit.
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.
Although the woodlands are a very important part of the Shoot a number are too small to produce the size of drive we require. This problem has been overcome by planting areas of game cover near to these woodlands to create the larger drives. The combination of woodland and game cover will give drives which include both pheasant and partridge.
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 also 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!
In the new season Martin will also have his dedicated team of beaters and pickers up. The difference compared to last season is that they will now know their way around the many new drives!
We are making a small change in the strain of our pheasants. Last season all our birds were the Bezante strain which flew well but due to the abundance of natural food grew larger than I would have liked.
As all our pheasant are produced from our own laying field we have been able to introduce some of the smaller Kansas as well as our Bezante cocks. Some of the birds may be slightly smaller which compared to many at the end of last season can only be an improvement. As we have experienced Kansas pheasants at Ripley Castle for a few seasons we know they will perform well.
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.