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  1. I thought I should look at the writing of shoot leases. This is something that never really crossed my

    mind until about 4 years ago and when I started to understand what was involved suddenly became

    quite a subject that affected me more in the last 3 years than in my whole working life.

    When I first came to the shoot in Norfolk I was a single handed keeper for a syndicate, they were all small business men and this was at the time of the 80s recession. It was apparent from the start that everything was run on a shoestring budget, and it was not too long before they packed the shoot in and left me with no job. So I had a choice, look for another job or take on this shoot. Well the long and short of it was that I took the shoot and the agreement was jotted down on the back of a Woodbine packet. That was it, a handshake and a few notes. You can have a gentleman’s agreement but you have to be dealing with gentlemen. Not only that but there is also the legal aspect to consider and the situation I found myself in when the management changed.

    After 20 years on the same shoot I was under the impression that they would carry me out of this place in a box. I was here to stay, my daughters were born here and we were happy. Then it all changed. Suddenly the new management wanted contracts, rules on numbers released, compensation for crop damage and above all a massive rise in land rent. Because there was no written lease they could only insist on this but I could not prove what was agreed to originally. The legal advice that I took was about 50-50. While they could not prove what I was not entitled to, I could not prove what I was entitled to. I had my home, business, family and employee’s to consider and nothing in writing. Everything had changed. Over a course of time it became apparent that my business would close, but the difference was now I had a written contract. And thank goodness I did. The contract enabled me to leave the shoot and to be protected by a number of business tenancy laws which I was able to use so that I did not lose out financially.

    On a legal footing I never actually had the shooting rights in writing until the lease was put in  place but when a cap was put on the number of days I could run but the rent was increased, the profit margin made it impossible to run the shoot any longer as a business. This was a double edged sword. Looking back, the situation inspired me to do more, to look outside the shoot and the first move was to make the deer stalking company a separate entity from the shoot. Deer Stalking in England ltd  was formed to be completely separate from shoot. Then I started to look around and sure enough an opportunity arose to take the lease on a superb estate, to move my business, staff, guns friends and family.

    So what of the new contract?  

    Well the first realisation when I got to Glemham Shoot in Suffolk was that I was wanted, and because of this fact, the contract or lease, was thrashed out by us all and on equal terms. There was room for negotiation. I was able to put my side forward, rent versus shoot days, number of birds released and number of shoot days and the use of the dining room in the hall for meals and use of particular buildings for rearing and storage.

    The long and short of it, am I happy with the new shoot? Well yes, in fact I couldn’t be happier. It is a wonderful place with so much potential and I intend to make it into the premier shoot in Suffolk. I have no interest in second best, I simply want this shoot to be the place to be and a waiting list as long as my arm for syndicate places.

    Quite a lot to ask? Yes I suppose so, but with the wonderful people I have the good fortune to work with and the Cobbold  family doing all they can to help, I have no doubt that I will achieve my goal.

  2. What do I want out of life as a keeper? I think my aspirations and dreams have always been consistent. I simply want to show the best birds and run the driven shoot that everyone wants to shoot at.

    So in order to run a shoot at the standard and quality that I want, what type of shoot do I need? Well this is a hard one to quantify. Some people will judge a day solely on the bag while others on the company.  When I was lecturing in Game keeping  at Otley college I remember saying to the group, “if you had the opportunity to run a shoot that was shooting  6 days a year and killing between 30 and 40 birds a day, fully driven, what would your thoughts be”. The answers were varied but mainly to the tune of not big enough days, not enough shooting and the rest of it. I then put to the group that the shoot in question was around 50 acres, all wild with flight ponds and excellent habitat. The guns, 5 in number, were all guests and the meal at the end of the day was excellent. The views changed immediately. So this shows that the views of individuals can change and also proves that any shoot, however big or small, can only be judged on its own merits. Every shoot is different and, with that, everyone’s expectations are different.

    Personally, I want to run a top class shoot, decent bags and good quality birds that guns want to return again and again for. Guns become paying guests rather than clients, they know what to expect, and this means less advertising and selling.



    Guido, part of the London Syndicate shooting at a high partridge in September last season.


    I am pleased to say that the Glemham Hall Shoot is a Rolls Royce of a shoot, and has the potential to quickly become “the place to shoot “in East Suffolk. Our driven shooting has so much going for it, good undulations in the ground, very light land suited to partridge and then to the north of the estate, large areas of woodland that suit the pheasant days in December and January.

    It is also important to make sure that there is something for everyone, so duck flights and walked up or walk and stand days are also essential. There must be something for everyone. Not everyone has the funds or inclination for large bags or large days but these same people are the grass roots of the sport and are important because there are many of them.

    We also hold gun dog trials and these bring in large numbers of enthusiasts, who in many cases, don’t shoot but instead work their dogs as a sport. Certainly there are many ladies, who work dogs, be it spaniels or labradors who have no interest in shooting the game themselves, but these are “grass roots” supporters and they all have a voice and a vote.




    So what do I want from the trade? Well as I have said, I want the best shoot I can have and develop. It must cater for everyone, big or small, wealthy or not so wealthy but above all it must be enjoyed. However large or small the days everyone must feel at home and welcome and while I do enjoy the large “set piece drives” and the meal for the guns in the dining room in Glemham Hall, I also enjoy the teams who want as many different species as they can get and the duck flights on the marsh when that last half hour sounds like a war as teal appear from nowhere and the sound of geese getting closer make you shake with excitement.


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    The marsh last year, ready for duck flights.


    To run a Rolls Royce of a shoot can mean many things to many people, bag size, quality; smooth running and top class catering or that duck flight on a dark winter’s night when the wind is blowing and the duck pour in.

    Whatever it means to you, I hope that you will get out of the coming season exactly what you are looking for.