Editor Peter Carr takes a team of friends to an East Yorkshire estate and enjoys some excellent sport thanks to the skillful driving practices of the keepers
Burton Agnes estate was where I had my first taste of driven game shooting as a beater. It is an estate with a rich history and the big house itself is one of the most prominent stately homes in England. Indeed, it is one of the few holdings left in the country that has stayed in the same family since the Norman Conquest.It was real privilege to be able to take a day with friends at the later end of last season.
The day dawned bright – not ideal for driving pheasants but it soon clouded over and threatened rain, but none of this dampened our enthusiasm. We met at the head keeper’s house, and given our instructions by the man himself, David Nessfield. All members of the team were experienced shooters, so there weren’t any safety concerns. No ground game or grey partridge were to be shot, as the estate preserves the later in an attempt to boost the local population.
Instructions received and understood we climbed into the 4x4s and followed Nessie’s ATV to the first drive known as Aud’s Covert Crop. The game strip here runs along a Hawthorne hedge and the guns were pegged between it and a deciduous wood behind. The birds started to trickle out from the moment young Matt started his beaters forward. The wind had started to lift a little and this had a positive effect on the birds which began to curl nicely back towards the home wood. I was a tad rusty and missed a few opportunities until I got my swing together and folded a couple of nice cock birds. Geoff Garrod however was really in the hot seat and shot most of the birds on the opening drive. The whistle came all too soon and we headed back to the vehicles to discuss what had clearly been a great start to the shooting day.
Burton Agnes estate is situated very close to the East Yorkshire coast, and as such is the first stopping point for migratory woodcock. The big numbers when a fall takes place don’t stop around for long, but if you catch it at the right time, a lot of sport can be found here. This elusive woodland wader is one of my favourite quarry species, second only to the ptarmigan. On this day however no big falls of woodcock where apparent but the Burton Agnes woods always produce a few among the pheasant’s, and I was hoping some would come my way.
The second drive would be the railway drive behind Ash Clump, this was centered on a mixed game crop, and an acre or so of elephant grass. Furthermore it promised a few partridges, and the wind was perfect to send them along towards the guns. Matt’s team started cracking their flags in the distance, and the first coveys were soon on the wing. Coming thick and fast, the sport was evenly spread along the line and I picked a speeding French partridge approaching me at a rapid rate of knots. Putting up the gun, I swung through the bird with an extra turn of speed and folded the bird in spectacular fashion. There is nothing more satisfying than delivering a clean shot on a testing bird. I was well pleased with myself but missed three more on the trot. Thankfully, my colleagues were performing rather better than me.