Sunday, November 4th and its 8.30am. The morning is crisp and dry and I’m taking my young Brittany spaniel bitch for her first day’s shooting and my shooting partner today is Eoin Howard, a good shot and a pleasant lad to shoot with. At just sixteen, he has a lot of experience. The older and more experienced members take it in turns to take our junior members on days out whether it be pheasant or duck shooting, pre-season dog training, pigeon decoying or the core of our club, getting them involved in our pheasant release programme, game crop planting and vermin control.
Off we went to pick a beat for the morning, so we parked at the town land called Toberneigue, pulling in close to a bridge. We decided to work down the left hand side of a river called The Shanown, a tributary of the river Bride.
First field in and my Brittany is quartering like an experienced dog even if it is a grass field with a few rushes leading to the river, the lower part of the field is shadowed by a high bank to the south, coming to the end of field one, Cindy takes a check and looks to take a trail from right to left to the sunny part of the field. She pulls at the near side of a lone sycamore tree on a ditch, head up and winding (scenting) into the ditch which is lightly covered with briars, Eoin makes his way to the far side of the ditch, Cindy moves on to the far side of the tree and stops again. “No point, I haven’t seen her point yet.” At 15 months old, I’m expecting her to point soon. Now that Eoin is in position, I went to walk her in but as I moved up he got up off the top of the ditch “a cock crowing “and out to Eoin, The good sports lad that he is he left him out and pulled with the under barrel of his over and under a number 7 “32 gram” and down he went. The young Brittany took no sign of the shot which was no surprise as I had been firing a few over her in training. Eoin been more excited than the dog he picked up his bird and his delight, the cock pheasant was a Michigan Blue, A breed of pheasant that we started releasing some years ago when we first started our release programme. On closer inspection we found a tag No 477 which turned out to be a cock that we had released last year about two miles away. I got Eoin to place the cock out about 20 yards as to give Cindy a retrieve, she did with style and of course I had my pocket camera at the ready.
We worked two more grass fields before coming to a thick cover of about two acres covered with mature trees “Beech, Ash, Sycamore and Holly” the ground was covered with ferns and briars. The going was tough and we failed to raise anything out of it, coming out the other side we worked on until we met the M8 Motor way, Swing left to the north we took in a few fields and good ditches before coming upon about an acre of newly planted hardwood trees. Cindy quartered this nicely and raised a hare; she stopped on the first blast from my whistle a 2/10. Sending her on again to finish off the plantation she pulled to a stop in the corner of the field, and worked it into the ditch crossing a drain as she went .A clutch of half grown pheasants rose up two hens and a cock two young to pull on followed by another hen and two more got up at the far side of the ditch. Turning again now heading in a Westerly direction headwind towards a few boggy fields covered with wild grass and surrounded with good ditches, Again game was scarce a few snipe and one hen pheasant . After doing the Northern side of the river Shanown we crossed over and took in more grass fields and ditches but noting. Two fields ahead I knew there was a few horses grazing that ground during the summer, it was mixture of grass and semi bog fields “Wild ditches thank God for reps program in the farming sector”. The horses were now gone, being prepared for the hunting season ahead with the local hunt club ”Coolnakilla’s” Cindy quartered this again nicely checking on a few occasions as she worked to the top left hand side of the field were she stopped at a small cover with 6 to 8 over hanging pine trees. Eoin made his way through the ditch to the other side to cover the far field, She walked slowly up the ditch and I called out to Eoin to watch up, With that a cock pheasant got up and been blocked by the trees he came my direction, not wanting to shoot directly over the head of the young Brittany I left the cock cross to left and out some 35 yards before pulling. Giving him the right barrel of my side by side with a number 7 “28gram” he dropped .Laying out about 40 yards in the middle of the field, Cindy ran out to him and with caution she picked him up with a good hold and walked back to me and handed him right up.
the next thing to do is posing for the camera. So we drove to where we knew two of the other lads were shooting this morning to get a photo taken and maybe show off the two cocks while we were there. Shoulders back and chests out holding the two pheasants and the Brittany sitting we posed. Now with the picture taken we are ready to go again. Next to some stubble fields and on the second field in there was a strip of wheat left. I casted Cindy in the directed of the wheat and she worked it just like an experienced dog would, Half way up she dropped her head and seemed to take a line, Slowed to a walk then stopping. A cock rose up going right, crossing my line I left him out and covered him well, pulling the right barrel down he went and before I could give the command to fetch she was already on her way.
That is something I must work on “dropping her to shot” but one step at a time. Taking the camera out to get a picture of the retrieve, and a job well done. Not to over do it on her first day out we headed for home. By the way is shooting three cocks over her on the first day over doing it?
Author Michael O’Donovan