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Shooting Season gets off to a Flying Start

Milton Abbey School is fortunate enough to be one of a small number of schools which runs its own pheasant shoot.  The Schools hosts the shoot on five days during the season with the full cooperation of our neighbours, and is run by the pupils studying Countryside Management BTEC in the Sixth Form, as well as younger pupils in the Fourth and Fifth Form who are studying Countryside and Environment BTEC, with the help of staff and a gamekeeper.

Pupils not only study the following modules as part of the course - Game Bird Production, Game Management, Shoot Management, Estate Skills, Fire Arms, Woodland Management, Working Dogs, Pest and Predator Control – but all of these modules are taught practically throughout the season in real time along with the relevant classroom theory work. The safety of all participants is paramount and the importance of maintaining shooting’s vital rules, codes of practice, traditions and etiquette is reinforced at every opportunity.

From catching up birds for the laying pens, overseeing the laying process, rearing, husbandry, maintenance and everything in-between, right up to the shoot days, the pupils are very much hands on.   As the season approaches pupils plan the season’s shoot days, including all its logistics, staffing and catering requirements. Even the shoot invitations are sent directly from the pupils to the guns, with the first invitations being sent to their own parents.

To date this season we have held one shoot day – on October 19th - when Milton Abbey parents were our guests and pupils made up the beating team.

                                          

Gamekeeper and Countryside Management Technician Kevin Hurst was delighted with how the day went, “It was unseasonably mild, with the trees still full of leaf and perhaps not the best weather for shooting, however the guns and beaters turned up full of smiles and eager to have an enjoyable day. The beating team were up against it all day, there was very little wind and sound was carrying a long way. It was the first day ever beating for most the team and they got around the first three drives really well.  By the end of the day the beating lines were very slick and communication along the line was brief and accurate.  The birds performed admirably, flushing high and fast challenging the guns to full effect.”

After some very long walks for the beating team in particular, lunch in the Prince’s Room in the Milton Abbey mansion was welcomed by all. Guns and beaters always dine together at Milton Abbey enjoying the warmth of the roaring fire.  The catering team as always produced a truly hearty lunch during which talk was loud and smiles were broad, all the signs of a successful morning.

Kevin continues, “After many hours in the classroom our first shoot day is always a cascade of eureka moments for pupils when theory suddenly becomes reality before their eyes. The relevance of habitat management, release pen design and functionality, feeding regimes, predator control all becomes relevant. Education does not get any more interactive than this. The bag for the day was 24 pheasant for 86 shots which for our humble shoot is a very reasonable day.”

                                          

Lissy Carr, Director of Land Based Studies, at Milton Abbey School summed up the day, “On days like this we see our pupils grow in knowledge, confidence and stature, I saw the birds that we reared in perfect condition flying high and fast over the guns with many making it through to battle another day.  Above all it was a pleasure to see proud students and even prouder parents enjoy a day of shooting which was carried out extremely safely and with real respect for our beautiful environment.”

Milton Abbey parent, Charlie Coleman, said of the day, “For me it was just wonderful to see so much enthusiasm from the girls and boys; it was totally clear that they were all 100%  committed to making the day work as well as it possibly could.   The combined effort of the pupils and the Milton Abbey staff resulted in a fantastic day of sport for us in glorious surroundings.  The pupils rightly had such pride in what they achieved and can’t wait for their day in January.  Many thanks for such an enjoyable day.”

Parent David Bulley said, “It was a thoroughly enjoyable day.  Great to see the teamwork and effort put in by the staff and pupils to make it a great success, particularly as they all remained enthusiastic as the day went into their half term time!  Time spent in planning, preparation and working together are all key requirements for any successful enterprise and Milton Abbey gets them on it early via endeavours like this.”

Parent Anthony Rhodes said, "As a parent of a boy who has just started the Countryside and Environement Course, I was thrilled to receive an invitation to the first shoot of the year . We were blessed with a  beautiful day in the stunning location that is Milton Abbey. We were greeted by the team and saw the pupils assembling under the fantastic guidance of Kevin, who had seemingly drilled the children with the instructions of the day, the guns were given their welcome by Lissy and off we all went. I am not sure what had been said to the pupils but the organisation, logistics and all that goes with it were seamless! It must be extremely rewarding for the pupils to see the results of all their hard work and participation, to see the birds presented so well, to see the whole day run so smoothly. Running a shoot myself I am fully aware of what hard work it can be but the team at MA make it look easy and the smiles on everyone's faces at the end of the day said it all. To be a very small part of this day was a truly wonderful experience and for the children it just shows what teamwork, planning and preparation can do!"