October 2016

What a difference some cover makes

1st day Sulgrave

Having been very happy with the pheasant numbers on the feed rides in the weeks leading up to the first day. I made the schoolboy error of driving round the farm late afternoon the day before the shoot. Hardly a pheasant anywhere, cue a restless night with a bad bout of grumpy gamekeeper syndrome.

Only the boys who do it will understand that feeling during the first drive until that first little flush showed.

What a pleasure to run a drive with both pheasants and cover to have the time to tweak the beating line showing birds properly, making the drive last.

Alan Map

What gave the first two drives that added dimension was a strip of mustard planted as a necessity in the single farm payment arable scheme as an overwintered green crop.  It isn’t very often farmers give you something for nothing!

I would suggest that any shoot organiser talks to their farmers as the possibility of beneficial mustard planting can certainly transform an average down the hedge drive into so much more

So, the first two drives were improved by the addition of mustard. the third was transformed by the woodland management work carried out carried out by NicholsonsThe wood at the heart of the drive was a five acre thirty year old oak and beech wood it was dark cold with no ground cover you could literally see from one end to the other.  Nicholsons thinned out 20% of the trees laying the brashing in rows in the direction of the drive. The difference was breathtaking,  I had no idea how many pheasants were feeding in this wood . What a drive!

Interestingly, what have been my two banker drives were both a little disappointing.   I’m thinking the tall maize hiding the beaters could be a reason as many birds flicked back over them into the wood behind rather than face the guns. Work to do here.

But still 92, a record for the shoot.

And a happy gamekeeper .......  Almost


April 2016

Firstly, let me apologise for the lack of entries in February and March. I have to admit to a certain amount of wound licking after what was a bruising January on the shoot.

Grumpy Gamekeeper syndrome turned into suicidal gamekeeper influenza 

However, being the optimist that I am, having learnt all the lessons of last year. This year is going to be the best yet!!

A lot more cover is being drilled with maize being added along side existing Kale blend (Moir mix).  Also a millet sorghum mix is being drilled around and across the maize to warm it and prevent the birds running the rows to the end of the strips.

A lot of woodland work is being scheduled for the first week of September as cross compliance seems to stop us working in the woods through the spring and summer.

Some tweaking of the feeding system is also planned with a real effort to provide water in the drives away from the pen.

The Larson traps are set and catching if a little slowly, is this due to the cold spring? or have I caught all the stupid ones?     

19th December - Where have all the pheasants gone?

A question I am hearing a lot on my travels this autumn, and certainly one I am asking myself after working very hard for very few last Saturday it is apparent that despite doing all I can think of on the feeding front. It is obviously not enough. It shows how little I know about this game keeping job 

My earlier reservations about the lack of cover and general pheasant holding habitat have unfortunately proved true. So with three shoots to go while not a complete write off, are going to be challenging to say the least.

On a brighter side the grey partridge are hanging about and their call in the gloom of a morning dawn all across the farm are certainly uplifting. Having talked to a recognised grey partridge keeper recently he suggests that we may well be able to foster on grey partridge poults to pairs on the ground, if we still have some come the spring.

A guaranteed antidote for the most persistent cases of grumpy  gamekeeper syndrome !!

I wish you all the very best of festive cheer for the coming season.

Alan Anderson

21st November - What a difference a wind makes

The struggles of three weeks ago seem so far away. Where then trying to convey the simplest instruction was met with blank stares, this week it felt that the whole team was on the money from the start. Or maybe my instructions have improved.

I resisted the temptation to blank out the pens. hoping that we would have some birds in the

The De-Brief is always a lively affair

covers.  The decision proved a good one with a good show of birds everywhere. I think the weather proved a factor but I’m sure the spiced cut maize is helping.

What was interesting was the dilemma between getting a number you think is where you need to be, and showing really good birds.  

Let me explain:

By lunch we were on target to make my hoped for range between 40 and 50 pheasants. With my two best drives to go it was going to be no problem. The first drive proved a real success with most birds taking on the guns with the wind making it very difficult for the birds do anything else. Half the job done. The last drive is always problematical with the wood and game cover fed by both of the release pens bird, when driven straight last week birds flew in every direction with only half presenting over the guns. This week we changed it round flushing it out of one corner. With the majority of guns half way down a steep grass field. This, coupled with the wind, led to birds flushing towards home raising twenty yards before turning with the wind over the wood and down to the guns. Absolutely spectacular, with some very experienced guns shaking there heads and picker ups regaling the tales long into the night.

But we only shot 3 off the drive which left me 10 birds short of where I wanted to be. Told you I was getting grumpy gamekeeper syndrome


6th November - First Day                                                                        

first day 1

Some of the motley crew

first day 2

Working out the sweepstake


Cloudy but dry with very little wind.  It could have been a lot worse.  Which thinking about it could have been the motto for the day.

First time through birds were in the drives, but also every where else, with the exception of the drive that the hounds drew two Saturdays ago which was empty. Proving a point if nothing else.

My best cover (maize with a campaign mix strip) produced the best drive, again, proving a point.

The highlight of the day were the 16 children aged between 5 and 10, the guns offspring, all pitched in with the beating with assorted mothers as well .

No moaning or grizzling except for the little boy who fell into a bed of thistles.

When it was suggested they picked up the shot game to carry it back to the farm everyone grabbed a pheasant leaving the guns with very little to carry .

Maybe the beating line was not as orderly as it could have been,  but it was a small price to pay .

Started releasing the grey partridge the day after the shoot. What cracking little birds. What a great call they have. It has got to be a good idea.                     If anything is going to get me to do more predator control it’s the thought of giving these birds a little more protection.

What are the chances of listing them on the Game conservancy big farm bird count next Februarycan’t wait.

What can I do to make the next day better? Really not sure.

25 October 2015 - We are ready! We ARE ready! .....Are we ready?

Last day of proper work up the shoot this morning filled up some hoppers, fed the straw rides in the drives, made some flags, got the “shooting in progress” signs out.

Mental note: forgot to cut strings for hanging up game .

After the unexpected and uninvited visit from the Grafton hounds last weekend, when the master explained how they had pushed a lovely lot of pheasants out of my main drive back to the pen, pheasants seem a little thin on the ground up on top of the hill!! I can only hope some decide to venture back out before next Saturday.

I told you I had caught grumpy gamekeeper syndrome.

The pen of grey partridge are settling well, I never realised how vocal these little birds are. Will start to release them after the shoot day next Saturday.

Where do pheasant go during the middle of the day? First thing this morning I saw a lovely lot of birds all heading of in the right direction, couldn’t be better. After bagging up a tonne of wheat in the next village, headed back to the shoot and struggled to find any birds anywhere. It’s enough to make you suicidal, or at least grumpy!

Was told there could be 16 children to contend with on Saturday,

 O happy days.


September 2015 - Pheasants to Wood                                              

So here we go again, no turning back now.  Good bye any lazy lie-ins. Am I ready for this ??
Worcester Game Farm again turned up bang on time with a delivery of feather perfect 7 week old pheasant poults,  and so the worry begins again .


Maybe I should explain a little :

I am Alan Anderson game feed specialist for Heygates. With over twelve years experience of selling feed into the game industry , having visited countless game farms , estates and farm shoots over this time, as well as taking gun and cockers to shoots the length and breadth of the country not to mention beating and loading. I would like to think i have absorbed a thing or two about this great industry .

So when the opportunity came to set up a small farm shoot it seemed an obvious progression .

 After all how difficult could it be !!

I will tell you how difficult it is .

The first year was an unmitigated disaster, to be fair it was the worst year on record for wandering pheasants. But this only added to my sheer incompetence in my ability to hold pheasants on my patch. I never thought I would dread getting out of bed on a shoot day but when you know you haven’t got the birds there is nowhere to hide; it's a horrible feeling.

The second year was better all thanks to friends and customers who I grilled constantly on the nuts and bolts of the job. Game cover (wild bird cover) was into its second year (Kings Moir mix), feeding was more targeted and with the addition of a second pen and a further game cover we actually provided four decent little days driven game shooting showing some very sporting birds proving at least the farm is capable of doing it. However, I remember sitting in the pub with the beating team after the third day saying when will this become fun again?

I now know where grumpy gamekeeper syndrome comes from !!

And so that brings us back to today and the worry beginning for the third year. A change in farming practice will see 100 acres of permenant set aside in the heart of the shoot  brought into an arable rotation. I think this will help (but what do I know?). Game covers have changed resulting in less cover on the top of the banks, maybe we need to go back a step to show how important the covers are to the success of the shoot.

 Am I doing all I can to keep my birds healthy, contented and on my patch?

Only time will tell!