Byron Pace visits the borders to film a spot of pheasant shooting at the Branxholm syndicate, run by shoot manager, Mark James.
Having moved down to the borders to study my masters, I was a little out of sorts for a while; a good distance from home and consequently, the hunting I had enjoyed on my doorstep for so many years. It would be a temporary affair, but there was no way I could go a whole year without finding some way to indulge my fieldsports obsession closer to where I was staying. Fortunately for me, the shooting world is fairly close knit, and a passing conversation with a friend at home hooked me up with Steve Gray. At the time he was working on Buccleuch Estate, primarily in charge of deer management, but also had a hand in running the shoot days for the Branxholm syndicate. After hunting with Steve a few times, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go and film one of these driven days.
Most of the syndicate members lived south of the border, so this would be a two day affair, with many taking the opportunity to do a bit of stalking at the same time. After meeting shoot captain Mark James, I was introduced to the members, all of whom were very welcoming and surprisingly un-phased about having a camera follow them around for the two days. The weather was good, the guns were ready, and after picking peg numbers, the day commenced with enthusiastic strides to the vehicles. For many of the guns this was their first outing of the season and unsurprisingly they were eager to see the first birds and send lead skywards.
“Pheasants were falling like raindrops as one after the other collapsed mid-air as a result of a well-placed shot”
The shoot covered a mix of terrain, with no shortage of drives to choose from depending on the prevailing wind and conditions. They were spoilt for choice, and the landscape leant itself well to some excellent birds, as was soon proven on the first drive. Dancing and gliding through the morning sun, the first few drives passed quickly with the guns soon finding their rhythm. Pheasants were falling like raindrops as one after the other collapsed mid-air as a result of a well-placed shot. It was clear that the syndicate members were all seasoned and well-practiced. It was a fine display. Not only from the guns, but also from the shoot itself, as each drive pushed through without a hitch.
“We forded a small river with floating flakes of snow still falling around us”
With a satisfying morning over, everybody headed back to the farm complex where the day had begun. Lunch didn’t linger though – after being fed and watered, everybody was keen to get on. There was much more shooting to be had, and they wouldn’t see any of that sat inside. The end of the day finished just as successfully as it started, and that was just the first half of their hunting excursion over.