Owner and managing director of Bradshaw Taylor, importers and distributors of high-performance country sports clothing and apparel, the creator of Schôffel Country, and the man who gave us the ubiquitous Schôffel Oakham gilet.
How did you get into shooting?
I grew up in Manton in Rutland, and my father was a keen shooting and hunting man, and my mother was an avid gardener, so I was given an air rifle at the age of 8 for dealing with pesky pigeons, and a .410 when I was 10 for rabbit control. My father used to pay me 50p a rabbit. And I used to accompany him and his friends on shoot days, so I was exposed to shooting from a very young age.
Can you remember your first live quarry?
Yes, very clearly. I shot my first ever rabbit at 5:30 in the morning, having stalked it between the raspberries and strawberries in my parents’ garden; I was as pleased as punch. And so was my mother. I shot my first pheasant in Norfolk on a small driven day with our great farming friends Ian Symmington and his son Jamie, when I was about 15. It was all wild pheasants, and we spent the whole day rustling around their woods and hedgerows. It was very special; I’ve been in love with shooting ever since.
Does your father still shoot now?
No, he stopped a long time ago. But in truth he was more of a hunting man than a shooting man. Many generations of my family have hunted with the Cottesmore, including my great grandfather, grandfather, father and three daughters, Sophie, Phoebe and Rose.
Do you hunt?
No, I don’t. I have hunted once, though. I wanted to experience it before the ban came in, so I learnt to ride and had a day out with the Cottesmore the week before the ban came into force. I managed to stay on all day, and absolutely loved it. I even got blooded at the end of the day. But shooting has always been my passion.
What guns and cartridges do you use?
I have my father’s old AYA No. 1 side-by-side 12 bore which has 30" barrels and is choked ¼ and ½, and, like my father, I have always used Eley cartridges. I use VIP 30g No. 6s for partridges and 32g No. 5s for pheasants.
Where do you do most of your shooting these days?
These days I have a gun at Rockingham Castle which is owned by a very good family friend, James Saunders-Watson. It is an entirely private shoot, so I am very lucky to shoot there. I relish every single day – the birds are fantastic, but so is the company, the scenery and the hospitality. And I am also very fortunate in that through my work I get some very nice invites from a number of my customers who either have shoots or take days on shoots in various parts of the country. And I have also just taken a gun on the Pickwell Shoot in Rutland, which is run by Fred Wilson, an old school friend. It is a really fun family shoot.
What, in your opinion, are the key ingredients for a great day’s shooting?
Shooting is an inherently sociable sport, so for me, my enjoyment is very closely tied to the company I keep; who I shoot with. The camaraderie and craic that comes with sharing a wonderful day in the countryside with like-minded people who have a deep appreciation of Mother Nature and a respect for the environment, quarry and the traditions of our sport is wonderful. The size of the bag isn’t important – it’s about quality, not quantity. And it is about so much more than just shooting – the elevenses, a good sit-down lunch, the hospitality, the keepers, pickers-up and gundogs are all integral parts of the day.
What is your elevenses tipple of choice?
A champagne cocktail of some description. A sloegasm always goes down well.
Do you have a favourite shoot in the UK?
Rockingham would probably be my favourite shoot, but that is in part down to the people I shoot with there. I went to Pennyholme in North Yorkshire last year which was very special. It was a fabulous day and in addition to the quality of the birds and beautiful scenery, I thought that the hospitality and attention to detail were exceptional. We stayed at the newly refurbished Stonely Woods Manor which is a wonderful shoot lodge with stunning views across a valley. I loved every minute of it.
What is your favourite quarry species?
I love the variety of both partridges and pheasants for different reasons. A late autumn day on the partridges is wonderful, as is a crisp, cold day on the pheasants in December or January. I love both in equal measure.
Woodcock: shoot or leave in peace?
I am happy to shoot the odd woodcock – they’re a great sporting bird, I absolutely love eating them, and I only ever shoot one or two per season.
Have you shot abroad?
No, I haven’t. I have been invited to shoot partridges in Spain and doves in Argentina in the past, but I was just too busy with work at the time. I am hoping to go to the States to shoot bobwhite quail and ruffed grouse this season.
Anything else on the bucket list?
Yes. I went on my first ever stalking trip to Argyllshire in Scotland a few years ago – a friend of mine has an estate called Edeline – and although I didn’t get a stag, I had the most wonderful time and would very much like to go back. The scenery is breathtaking, and I love the physical aspect of it. Stalking is something I would like to do more of.
Do you have any pet hates on a shoot day?
Sportsmanship, respect and ethics are cornerstones of our sport, so any form ofdisregard for the environment, your quarry or your companions really irks me. It is your responsibility to ensure that you dispatch your birds as quickly and cleanly as possible, so use your second barrel and mark your birds as best you can. And at the end of the drive, you should do all you can to ensure all of your birds are picked before moving on. And of course safety is of paramount importance – there are no excuses for unsafe conduct in the field.
Stop for lunch or shoot through?
I like to stop for lunch. I think the meal is an important part of the day.
Who is the most impressive game Shot you know?
A good friend of mine, Stuart Beaty, is a very good, elegant Shot. And he is a proper sportsman, too. Although, infuriatingly, he has a habit of wiping my eye on very testing partridges at the Beaty family shoot.
Who would be in your dream team of Guns?
My dream team would be made up of my best friends. As I have already mentioned, companionship and camaraderie are a crucial part of shooting, and it is having great friends with you on a shoot day that makes it really memorable.
Are you religious about cleaning your gun(s) after a shoot day?
Yes, absolutely; I clean my guns straight after the last drive. I hate getting a cold, damp gun out of the slip at 10 o’clock at night and having to clean it before putting it away.