A typical November day, cold and dry, I was collected for a day’s shooting by Colman Howard, the owner of two Brittany dogs, “Ben the boss” and “Toby”.
We met up with two other lads for the day’s shoot, Liam O’Sullivan and Barry O’Connell. Liam had his Brittany dog “Rocky”.Together they are three top class pointing and retrieving dogs. We started our beat from Ballyglissane Bridge working up to Blackstone Bridge, taking in both sides of the River Flesk, Liam and Barry to the south and Colman and myself to the north of the river.Colman,a keen photographer,brought his Gun and his camera which he often does. He wanted to get some video and still photography’s of the dogs working for the Club website.
I had recently bought a new gun, an Italian-made Sabatti Adler Mon, a 20 gauge, 28 inch barrel with a pistol grip 4/3 chokes, over-and-under, an ideal gun for rough game shooting. Firing no. 7s top and bottom, I told Colman not to expect the best of shooting as the day before I had missed some easy shots. My problem was diagnosed by my good friend, Will O’Meara, I was firing too low. So the advice was to take in more rib as the gun had a high rib on it.
Dogs off and working a grass field, camera rolling, waiting for the moment when out of the river came a pair of mallard. Giving them about 45m of a lead and Will’s advice in my head, I took in more rib and pulled on the drake and down he came. “More rib”, I head Colman shout. Both dogs went in search but “Ben the Boss” was at it first and retrieved the mallard back to me. “Perfect” said Colman as the camera had recorded the lot. A good start to the day.
Working on, doing ditches and cover, game was scarce. We then came upon a field of kale, both the “Boss” and “Toby” worked it well but failed to send anything out to us.
Carrying on up river, both dogs locked on a point into heavy cover of briars, camera on, safety catch ready to be taken off, I slowly walked up to the two dogs and told them to walk on. They both took two steps and stopped at the edge of the briars with high Sycamore trees to the left and a rocky incline to the right leading onto the fields. I knew that whatever got up would have to go straight out. The game in the briars moved and the dogs walked in slowly, making noise as they pushed through the cover and then, all of a sudden, there was an almighty flutter. You expect it but it still stops the heart. And out with a cock pheasant, crowing as he rose to gain height. Keeping my cool as much as I could, I gave him a lead of about 40m as you can with a 20 bore. I took in more rib, once again, and pulled. Down he came after clearing the cover and over the wire fence landing in the next field. “Fetch” was the command from behind me and the two Brittany’s went out. Neither dog had sight of the pheasant dropping, “Toby” on the left tried the cover and the riverbank. “Ben the Boss” went right, breaking through the cover and on into the open, searching as he went. “Ben” then got scent of the pheasant, climbing the bank onto the open field and picked his game without hesitation and returned through the heavy cover and handed the pheasant up, but this time to his master, Colman, who was recording the entire event.
Still no shots from across the river, ours was the side to be on. Only a third of our beat done, we carried on slowly as the ground dictated. New plantation and fields of stubble, following the river as it meandered around the land, coming out of the 10 foot high hardwood plantation, a mallard duck, probably being the companion of my first bagged drake, took flight from the river. I lifted my 20 bore and pulled with confidence, forgetting to take in more rib – I missed. Now having 50m lead, I pulled, taking in more rib than ever, I pulled again and she dropped down into the bushes. Both dogs stopped with the shots and, on command, “Toby” took off with good sight of the duck, eventually found and retrieved from the rushes. Unfortunately, this time, there was no camera rolling. What a pity! But it may have been for the best as I claim to be a one shot, one kill. (Well, just in front of the lads, anyway!).
Only a couple of fields left and the ground to the left of the river rose high with an embankment of about 100 feet angling at about 45 degrees. A tough walk up, if you had to walk it. Covered with ferns and old tree roots, Liam and Barry came into sight and they started to work that bank with Liam’s dog, “Rocky”. Just in and “Rocky” was on point. A hen pheasant got up and then a second, both coming my way. Working on some more, “Rocky” locked on another point at the root of an old tree stump, Liam and Barry were both ready and they sent “Rocky” on. A cock pheasant was flushed out and gained great speed and he took the downhill descent and passing over me, the two lads had no shot as we were in their line of fire. For me, my luck was in again, leaving him pass over, I gave him a good lead and firing about two feet in front, I pulled and he came down, landing in a grass field, the retrieve for “Ben the Boss” was an easy one. Now that I had reached my pheasant bag limit, I could now only fire at Woodcock or Snipe.
Back at the jeeps, the craic was good and the talk was about taking in more rib and shooting over the Brittanies. So I came to the conclusion that maybe my new 20 gauge over-and-under was best to be kept for the Brittanies as the pointing dogs give me more time to take in more rib.