The continued importance of rural shooting and conservation
PUBLISHED: 13:32 20 December 2013 | UPDATED: 13:32 20 December 2013
Teaching children to shoot responsibly and how game ends up on our table will make them custodians of our countryside
It is widely accepted that teaching schoolchildren about the benefits of shooting and conservation is pivotal to the survival of the sport for future generations. Correctly learning the basics from a young age lay the foundations for best practice. That’s why the Royal Berkshire Shooting School (RBSS) in Pangbourne has started ‘Young Shots Go Really Wild’ workshops for 10 to 18-year-olds. The most recent workshop attracted children from all over the southeast.
The day began with a lively lecture by RBSS instructors Rod Ward and Sam Webb. The duo covered everything from law and safety to shooting etiquette. “We try to ensure the lecture is really interactive,” said Rod, adding: “Children have short attention spans so we use lots of props and often tell funny stories as a way of making a salient point.” Dressed in a smart three-piece tweed suit by Really Wild Clothing, Rod also clarified the intricacies of shooting attire – explaining plus fours, tweed and garters.
The 10 boys and one girl came from a range of backgrounds – some had shot from an early age while others had never picked up a shotgun before. “Either way, this workshop gives the children a solid foundation on which they can build their knowledge,” explained Sam, adding: “Even for those that come from keen shooting families, their parents want us to fill in any gaps and ensure their children are up to speed when it comes to safety and law.”
The group was given baseball caps, ear and eye protection ready for shooting simulated pheasant. Using .410s and 20g shotguns, they spent an hour blasting crossing clays under the watchful eyes of the instructors. As a complete newcomer to shooting, Henry Edwards discovered that he had a natural aptitude for the sport. The beaming 12-year old was delighted with his score of 15x20.
Back at the lodge, chef Bevan Pritchard from the Pot Kiln Anywhere was ready to teach the hungry children about preparing gamebirds for the table. Step one was to show them how to correctly pluck a pheasant and the youngsters wasted no time in stripping a brace clean. Step two needed brave volunteers to remove the birds’ entrails. Wearing surgical gloves, 11-year-old Luke Wandless wrinkled his nose as he reached inside the hen. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought!” remarked a beaming Luke before washing his hands. The children were then invited to try succulent roasted pheasant breast (with ketchup naturally), which disappeared in seconds.
Over lunch, the instructors spoke about the need to respect quarry species and the importance of eating what is shot. The group was whisked off for a tour of Vicars Game, one of the UK’s leading butchers and game dealers. Wearing overalls and plastic boot covers, they were shown around the state-of-the-art facility by butcher Keith Randall. “Seeing the pheasant, partridge, duck and deer carcasses in the chiller helped me to appreciate how much work goes into preparing game for the food chain,” said 10-year-old Cameron Andrade. Sam added: “While some of them squirmed at the sight of a fallow carcass being skinned in front of them, I think it is important for children to see first hand how dead game becomes food on their plate.”
Back at the lodge, the children were given a final lecture, this time on deerstalking by Simon Freedman, a highly respected deer manager.
Before heading home, each received a certificate of attendance. As he waved them off, Sam said: “It is an extremely satisfying thought that these young shots are starting out with the best possible introduction to our sport and will grow up to be the next custodians of the countryside.”