In at the deep end

 
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There’s an irony in working for a shooting estate when you’ve only held a gun twice in your life. Something not lost on the Loyton team who, in a bid to convert a seasoned fox hunter, invited me to shoot at Stuckeridge in the last days of the season. Also, in truth, it was a day in fair exchange for having taught the boss to use social media and emojis (the f***ing yellow things I think he calls them) when we met the first occasion I held a gun at Mells. So, a very spoiling day hosted by the Llewellyns was generously offered and accepted.

I’m putting it out there that Biddy, my loader and now my favourite human ever, deserves a medal. At Byrants, the first drive, I’m fairly sure I only touched the trigger 3 times and to no effect, whilst apologising to Biddy about 176 times for him having been lumped with such a dud. However, he managed to coach me firstly into not shooting anyone else or my own feet, and secondly into shooting a couple of good birds at Ash Cross - and well, he said. I believed him actually because he did a lot of jumping about and whooping which was EXCELLENT encouragement. Stuckeridge wood was trickier, but not a disaster and Biddy and I enjoyed claiming we’d taken down Angus’s birds anyway…

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My second favourite human ever is now chef JC Le Grande for having fed us such delicious elevenses and lunch. I would gladly have fought anyone to the death for a second helping of his chocolate brownie pudding. Thankfully there was one spare which avoided any such drama. By the time we shot Grattens I’d slightly lost my thunder, nothing to do with lunchtime refreshment, it turns out I was stupidly closing my right eye. Oops. I was also a little distracted in fairness by an in-depth discussion about chocolate with Biddy- he has very good taste (Maltesers 4eva)...  But all was rectified, and I finished, elated, and on not too shabby form.

It’s easy to forget when you sit in an office, just how transformative being outside can be. When Angus asked me to shoot, I was hesitant, I thought my time would be better spent in the office but I was completely wrong. Stuckeridge is magical in it’s beauty which you could see from any photo, but beyond that, when you stand with a team of guns, keepers, beaters and picker uppers, it’s humbling to see how much meticulous work is put into providing such special days. I’m incredibly excited about working with such a professional and enjoyable team this year. Roll on next season!

- Eve Jones