The tv series Location Location Location has made Phil Spencer a household name. Inevitably he leads a busy life and in addition to his work as a presenter he is a director of Raise the Roof Productions
He enjoys family life too, he and his wife Fiona have two boys Jake (7) and Ben (5). And in his precious spare time he looks forward to days spent in the field, particularly on the family shoot in Kent.
Do you get your kit ready the night before, have breakfast and set off in good time? Or is it a last minute rush?
My excitement/anticipation of a day's shooting always begins with gathering of kit the night before. Whilst it's a bit of a ritual, it's also likely to mean I won't sleep too well. Nevertheless, the following morning always still involves a rush to leave. This season is my first with a dog (a working cocker) and she seems to have made the morning stress somewhat greater!
Do you have a lucky garment or accessory?
I'm very fond of my gun sleeve. I once lost it in the snow on the last drive of the last day of the season. I found it six months later when out rough shooting and after a bit of TLC it came up almost as good as new. If the truth be known, I like it even more with a few battle scars!
Which shoot - do you have your own, belong to a syndicate or take days?
We have three days at my family's farm in Kent and I also belong to a syndicate nearby.
Your favourite day's shooting?
That's a really tricky question to answer. The first day at home is very special, it's always such a big gathering of family and friends. For the Guns it's a case of shoot one beat one and all the wives, kids and badly behaved dogs go crazy in the beating line. It's always great fun, if things go well we might get a bag of 75. There are usually at least 40 of us for a late lunch in the oast. Wet dogs, muddy boots and kids running about, all add to a terrific atmosphere!
As a famous personality, do you find people regard you differently in the shooting field?
Absolutely not. People from all walks of life get involved in fieldsports and what I happen to do for a living is entirely irrelevant to whatever it is we're doing together. A shared interest is what's important. For me, a day in the field surrounded by country people means a day when I don't even have to think about work.
How long have you been a keen shot?
I was brought up on a farm and was interested in animals and nature from the time I first learnt to walk. I recall a large amount of childhood being spent waving a toy gun at passing collared doves. I was Dad's chief scarecrow at the grain store from the age of about seven!
When and how did you take up the sport?
I had ferrets from when I was 11 and was given a 28-bore for passing my Common Entrance exam, aged 13. For the first month or so my Dad gave me one cartridge at a time and walked along behind me as I tried to stalk up on rabbits. Looking back, I guess it was a bit like a driving test. Having convinced him I could be safe and responsible I was then allowed to go out after rabbits, pigeons and rooks. I had to keep a log of 'shots versus hits' and Dad gave me four cartridges for each hit. When the time comes, I'll certainly do this with my own sons as it really helped to engender a sense of when to shoot and when not to. It helped focus the mind by knowing that if I took too many risky shots, I'd be out of ammo by the end of the holidays.
Is your father a shooting man?
Yes he is, he's always loved being out with a gun under his arm and a dog by his side. I never remember him shooting a huge amount when I was growing up, but on family days he still doesn't miss too many. Nowadays he only carries a gun a few times a year, but still manages to be a pleasure to watch. To be honest, whilst there's no doubt Dad loves the sporting element, he's probably more interested in the nature and conservation side of things.
Does your TV work impact on time available for shooting?
Yes it does, but then doesn't it for anyone who works as well as plays?! It goes both ways. If I've been filming away from home all week then disappearing on Saturday morning is rarely a popular option. But I usually know my schedule weeks in advance, so if I spot a day off mid-week then I can try to organise some pigeon shooting or a decent dog walk.
Your favourite gun?
A few years ago my father passed onto me his old English 12-bore side-by-side. It's an extremely pretty gun and I love using it on traditional driven pheasant days. I have other guns I use for different types of sport (decoying, clays, rough shooting etc) but if I had to choose a favourite - that'd be it.
Are you tense on the first drive of the day?
Not at all. Of course there's some adrenaline and I'm excited at the beginning of a day - but the chances are I've spent a fair amount of the week feeling tense and a shoot day means I'm guaranteed to enjoy being outside in the fresh air, amongst nature and friends and not having to worry about work or business.
Does a mid-morning drink help or hinder?
Only if on the first couple of drives my swing hasn't been connecting. But if things have been going OK I reckon it's best to steer clear of the booze. However, if I've been in the hot seat all morning and someone passes me a large glass...
Do you prefer to eat at lunchtime or shoot through with a meal at the end of the day?
Honestly - do you always clean your gun afterwards?
Yes. If it's been wet I'll be sure to clean it right away, if it's been dry and I've been away from wife and kids all day then sometimes it might wait until the following day. In the same way the ritual of gathering kit the night before ignites anticipation, cleaning my gun provides time to reflect and put a few special moments in the memory bank. It's all part of the day.
What, if anything, disappoints you on a shooting day?
Very little. I've always maintained that's the very nature of sport - sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn't. If you struggle to deal with that concept, then shooting probably isn't for you. Obviously there can be great days and less great days, but I reckon you take the rough with the smooth and be grateful for what you get.
What makes a good day?
It's a strange sport - the tougher it is the more we all like it. Everyone needs to hit a few, but everyone also needs to miss a few. The surroundings are beautiful, the company is fun, the organisation is slick and everyone joins in the atmosphere. Lunch is a laugh, the sky is blue, the beaters send birds your way and the pickers-up work magic 200 yards behind - then it's all going to be a day to remember!