In this final part of the series titled “Fairies and Firearms,” where we travel from then Isle of Skye in Scotland to Worcestershire in England and then, over to the west, to Yorkshire, you will see what it means to go on a proper British pheasant driven shooting experience. They don’t call them hunts. Hunts are for larger game animals, and are usually called stalks. In this case, as guests of The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club (Bun Club), my hubby and I traveled from the club’s conference site in Worcestershire to Ripley, Yorkshire. Victoria Knowles Lacks, the founder of the Bun Club, invited us to join her to experience driven shooting at its finest.
As luck would have it, her brother-in-law, Dave Cockshott, is the gamekeeper of Ripley Castle. Her sister, Caroline, helps him to hold the various events throughout the year — as well as runs a household, and has a few side businesses on her own. She is a mum on the go, with 2 young boys and dogs and energy everywhere.
Throughout this series, I’ve relied on photos to tell the story. Even they fall short … here goes.
We arrived on the scene just in time for Sunday roast dinner, made by Dave and Caroline, which included Dave’s renowned Yorkshire pudding.
Victoria arranged for us to have a premium room at the local tavern, the Boar’s Head. It was comfy and the hosts went all out to provide delicious pub fare — even when we came in late from duck hunting one night. They whomped up a bunch of sandwiches and found us some crisps (potato chips) and biscuits (cookies).
Victoria invited me to go along with her to Warter Priory Estate, to attend a world class driven shooting event, where she was the guest of Hull Cartridge Company. Hubs wanted a day to go to York and so took off to see the world famous train museum there.
Here’s Victoria shooting straight up at a pheasant that has flown overhead. She had a good day on the field, and I acted as her “loader,” which meant I kept popping shotshells into her over-and-under’s chambers.
This is Madge, and she lives with Hull Cartridge family David, Patsy and Isabel Bontoff … who are very lucky. Madge kept us company between drives.
Victoria and I had a wonderful day afield, and this was the first time I’d been exposed to this style of shooting. I will never forget the green fields and the blue sky, the dogs running and the traditional style of shooting on display that day.
This is a pastoral scene, minus the sheep. The beaters pushed the pheasants over the hill on the left and into the view of the shooters below, who are standing at assigned stations, or “pegs.” This is called a drive, and driven shooting will have a specified number of drives in separate locations.
After the first drive, the shooting on that field ended and the beaters (those carrying the orange flags) came over the hill with their dogs. They helped the grounds crew pick up the birds. For driven shooting, shooters are guaranteed a number of birds on the ground. The gamekeeper is like the conductor of the hunt, and monitors where the beaters are located and how many birds they are pushing toward the shooters, and how many birds he estimates are on the ground. Shooters normally shoot directly in front of themselves (air only) and overhead. The beaters remained over the hill and out of sight.
Day #2 in Yorkshire found us going back for more driven shooting. This time, with the Bun Club, my hubby would join us at Ripley Castle. Ripley Castle has been around since the 14th century. It received a boar’s head as a crest because Thomas Ingleby (1310–1369), saved the king from being gored by a wild boar. Thomas also got a knighthood.
After a lovely breakfast of Eggs Benedict, we headed out to warm up with some clay shooting. First, though, we took a little peek around the first floor of the castle, which is open for tours and events during specific times of the year.
Choosing a peg. This is the official Ripley Castle peg chooser. As you can see, there are 10 pegs (positions) on the field.
We put a few shots at clays before heading out to shoot real birds. I shot Victoria’s Browning B725 Sporter, also known as the Citori in the US.
It was time for a drive and a drive. As you can see, SUVs reign supreme in the field.
Here’s a great example of a peg. I’m standing — in my favorite Dubarry (of Ireland) boots, which are popular in the UK. My hubby is beside me and we are waiting for the birds to fly overhead.
A lone pheasant on a fly over.
Here’s Victoria with the hubs, aka the Bomb.
It’s the crew of Bun Club shooters on that day. I am third from the left and Victoria is on the far right.
It was time for a lovely lunch, comprising of several courses.
We did a few drives, and then everyone took home fresh pheasant. Here are the beaters and their dogs at the end of the day.
I got this notion that I’d like to experience life on the other side of a driven shoot, and the gamekeeper, Dave, agreed to allow the Bomb, Vick and me an opportunity to be beaters — without pay, of course.
Where do I sign up? Here I am, marching toward the truck that will haul the dozen beaters for this day of driven shooting. We rode around the country in this old military 4-tonner, with more dogs than people.
Not only did we cut across and through fields — often weaving through upright cornstalks — we also found ourselves in enchanted forests, herding pheasants forward and waving our flags. This is a photo of the gamekeeper’s assistant, Ben, in the woods.
Obviously, I’m pointing out something fascinating to Victoria, and also, note our boots again. I highly recommend these Dubarry Galway country boots, and I’m on my 3rd year of enjoying them. I find they’re perfect for our Ozark winter weather. MRSP: $449
Let’s chalk up another memory. I met Victoria through the Internet and being impressed with what’s she’s doing to encourage more women to learn about clay shooting and driven shooting, as well as walk-up shooting (such as our upland hunting). You can discover more about the Bun Club, which is the affiliate of the Ladies Shooting Club and become a member, as well.
We walked several miles that morning, and then had lunch with the beaters and learned about life in the country. Several of the beaters were retired, and found that doing this side job kept them in great shape.
A special thanks to Victoria, the Cockshotts and the Bun Club members for making our time in your country … well, perfect.
If you liked this story, you might enjoy part 1 of “Fairies and Firearms,” where I meet a seaglass artist and find out where the fairies live.
And don’t forget part 2 of “Fairies and Firearms,” where I attend the Bun Club’s conference at a posh resort.