As always we were keen to get started, the dogs were raring to go after spending the summer in training and keeping them fit. But unfortunately, our regular moor had some bad news, we couldn’t start until September due to some late hatchers which mean there were young grouse which needed a little more time! With this information I then contacted a friend who keepers the neighboring estate and asked if I could tag along on their shoot days to get my team out, also having two new recruits (Ruby and Maddison) I was desperate to get them going! He fortunately, said yes and whenever they were short of picker uppers I was first on the list to be asked to join them. September came along and I joined my regular moor the dogs were in full swing by then, they were an absolute pleasure to work!
Ruby and Maddison were a year old by this point working alongside the team like they’d had a season under their paws already! They made me so proud, being out of the same litter I knew I had a little challenge on my hands but with the right training and the help of my team, I knew we were in for some fun days on the lowland shoots once it came around!
November arrived and the grouse season came to an end. Although it hadn’t been a busy grouse season we were all in high spirits despite the current pandemic. Being on the moors helped me forget about the tragedy that was unfolding across the UK and many other countries. The shooting community grew stronger, looking out for one another more than before, especially when the second lockdown hit the UK putting all lowland shoots into full lockdown! It was an awful experience not knowing what was going to happen to our local rural economy and what the future holds for the shooting community and estates! There was a feeling of being lost, 17 years I have worked in field sports, it’s all I’ve ever known it was a scary thought of not knowing if we would bounce back from this! December 2nd arrived and we were delighted to hear the tier system meant we could continue under the new rules and regulations.
My team had struggled with the break in the season, they had become restless not understanding why it had suddenly stopped, this was completely out of the norm for them! With the good news we could start again me and the team were flat out all of December, it was fantastic to be back out enjoying what we love. Even under the new rules and regulations, we managed to enjoy the season again. Ruby and Maddison knew the life of a working gundog, took it all in their stride, sat up alongside the team upfront with the guns. They learned to sit steady during the drive! Slowly they realised the more they sat and waited the more they were trusted to go out for the odd retrieve during a busy drive. They handled themselves amazingly under pressure in the field, working 8 dogs in the field is truly magical and seeing all the hard work I put into the pups come together made my season!
Christmas and New Year were enjoyed to the best we could and I was ready to get back out again in January. Then the bad news struck again I felt devastated for those lowland estates who once again had to put their livelihood back into lockdown, leaving the local community jobless and feeling lost once again! For anyone who doesn’t quite understand the homely magical feeling of shoot days and what it brings to the local community let me tell you, it’s a sense of security knowing there will always be work in winter if there are shoot days. There will always be business for the local rural economy if there are shoot days. Without it the countryside wouldn’t survive, the land wouldn’t be managed and local businesses would suffer hugely especially in the winter months, locals would have to seek jobs far and wide pushing them to think about leaving the rural towns and villages.
Our way of life is so special and unique, we work hard to keep it this way and support each other, I hope all who have suffered from the pandemic bounce back and have a fabulous season 2021.
Thanks for reading, Rebecca
Images from Emily Graham Media