We caught up with Graham White, headkeeper of Holylee estate and ArdMoor’s shooting expert, to find out how the shooting season went and his plans for the estate next season.
How was last season?
Last season was very good because the weather was kind to us. The partridges were superb with a Holylee record return of 48.9% which, for us in these hills, was miles better than previous years. The pheasants on the other hand were very difficult with the weather, which was so good for the partridges, making things difficult. It was too mild and too still which made it very tricky to hold onto the birds when it was just like summer at times. What was the incentive for them to be in the woods when it was perfectly warm enough out on the hill with temperatures in the teens in January? It made for a crazy season with people in waistcoats and gilets in January rather than in their wet weather gear. Indeed, we only needed our waterproofs on for two days and one morning in over 40 shoot days.
It was a great rearing year with it being so dry. That’s why the partridges were so good this year. They like to be warm with the sun on them and hate being wet which really knocks them back. But generally the birds reared well and went out well and that is half the battle. Like anything you grow, if it gets a good start then you tend to get a good finish.
Was there anything that went especially well this year?
Not particularly. As usual we had some drives that went really well and others that didn’t but that is normal. It’s weird as you have a great drive one year and do everything exactly the same next year and it doesn’t work as well with some drives petering out sooner than you expect and others holding on to their birds for longer than normal. There was a lot more movement of birds this year with more out on the hill but that was the weather. You wouldn’t sit in a dark wood when the weather’s warm and fine outside and nor does a pheasant.
Anything you are going to change for next year?
Yes. There are a couple of partridge pens that we are going to move slightly and a couple of drives that we are going to try and take slightly differently. We are also revamping a pond so we have been chopping back Alder and clearing weed to try and open it up again so we are due to scrape it out in the coming weeks and that should introduce another habitat that had otherwise become stagnant and overgrown.
To find out more about Graham, please visit his profile which features his latest news plus expert tips and advice.