The Shooting Sport of Aristocrats is much the same today as it was in Queen Victoria’s Day
YOU’VE SEEN IT ON DOWNTON ABBEY—a gathering of aristocrats clothed in tweeds, carrying fine English shotguns (the price of one could easily could buy a brand-new car), straddling a field while beaters—men and women whooshing flags—beat wild birds from the hedgerows and harvested fields, into the line of fire. Killing game may be sport but since time immemorial, it has been an important food source—and for this group, it was no different. Just last week, eleven “guns,” as such sportsmen are called, shot pheasants and partridges on three estates over as many days. And the end result was a feast fit for a lord and lady, as every bird taken was deliciously prepared for dinner, divided among the guns, the beaters, the loaders who loaded the shooters’ guns, and the dog handlers whose highly trained gun dogs retrieve the fallen gamebirds. Yes, some people take exception to hunting. But if you eat chicken or duck or turkey, then the only difference is you got yours at the grocery store, while a hunter gets hers from her own hard-learned efforts and skills.
Dog handlers take time from their jobs and daily life to enjoy a day afield so their dogs can do what they do best. Bird dogs are bred and trained specifically to find and retrieve fallen game birds. Labrador retrievers and spaniels are the most common English breeds.
The line of guns and their loaders precede the dog handlers as they head for another drive. Usually there are two or three drives before the midday break called “elevenses” and one or two after lunch. Each drive takes place in a different topography to afford a variety of presentations for the gun. For information, log onto www.BestWingshooting.com.
“Elevenses” is the late morning break, usually held in the field after two drives, that takes place around eleven o’clock. Sausage rolls, Scotch eggs, and sloe gin to warm the blood are usually served.
The magnificent country house, Breedon Hall, in the quaint village of Breedon-on-the-hill was home to the guns and their wives for six days. The Hall is owned and operated by Charles, author of the bestselling drinks book, Charlie and the Cocktail Factory, and his wife, Charlotte Meynell, a professional culinary cook, the house boasts five en suite bedrooms. Below the house are the Mews Cottages, three separate cottages, each of which has a living room, full kitchen, and two en suite bedrooms. For further information or an autographed copy of Charles’ book, log onto www.breedonhall.co.uk.