Shooting at Argyll
Pheasants and partridges from on high at Ardtaraig.
(PHOTOGRAPHY: SIMON EVERETT)
"Were they good birds!?” The look and response from photographer Simon Everett to an innocent question, said it all. “The pheasants were coming off mountains – they were serious. But not stupid” he added.
The shoot in question was Ardtaraig, at the head of Loch Striven in Argyllshire. The weather was not on top form – a little indifferent. But it mattered little as we are talking about powerful, imposing settings and the sport was excellent. As was the sportsmanship... it was as it should be,a happy, friendly sporting day.
The shoot was founded by East Lothian farmer and conservationist, Keith Chalmers-Watson in 1962. But he says that it really didn’t get going properly until 30 years later. He is still the shoot captain but explains: “It wasn’t until gamekeeper Anton Lockett came along 23 years ago in 1992 that it began to take shape. He made it happen, and with the arrival of Winston Churchill and Digby Guy we found ourselves with a brilliant team who have made the most of the estate’s considerable potential as a driven shoot.
“It is run as a non-profit making syndicate, and operates purely for the pleasure of the syndicate members.” They have an unusual method of payment and funding, but one with much to recommend it. “The cost is based on 1,000 cartridges fired in a day, so there are no overages and underages, nothing more, nothing less. It’s a fixed charge for a day’s sport.”
The drives tend to be biggish – 400 shots were fired in a period of 40 minutes, or more on the fourth and final drive on the partridge day, which followed our visit. “We generally shoot two days back to back – pheasants on the first day and redleg partridges on the second. Normally we use four drives, but it might be five as we get towards the end of the season, when the birds can become pretty wild.” There are normally nine guns, and the shooting is well spread – no one is out of it.
To give an idea of the kind of sport on offer, the partridges are released at 1,000ft into regenerated scrub and woodland. They are driven like grouse and the Guns are positioned in butts, and it all makes for brilliant shooting. As the smiling faces at the end of the day confirmed.
The shoot is run by some interesting characters, each with much to offer. As well as a farmer and property developer, Keith Chalmers-Watson is chairman of the World Pheasant Association and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and has been involved in the running of Edinburgh Zoo for 25 years. He is a breeder of ornamental pheasants, and has travelled the world extensively for the purposes of galliformes research.
Winston Churchill is a highly thought of stalker and purveyor of venison. While Digby Guy runs Aichesse, a successful timber investment company.