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  1. 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.

     

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    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.

     

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    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.      

  2. I had always thought that I would be taken off the shoot at Bunwell in a wooden box, I never thought that I would leave or that I would ever want to but times change and about 4 years ago it became evident that my days were numbered here. A change of management on the farm had occurred and it was not long before the writing was on the wall as it were. I must say that I had some bad times when I could not see how things would pan out for the future. This is of course what has happened to many keepers in the past and will continue in the future, and while some seem to move on a regular basis, there are others who are happy where they are but through actions of others have no choice other than to rethink.

    For those who are employed it is difficult and it is all too easy to become very disillusioned and to wonder where, at this time next year, will they and their families be, what they will be doing and where they will be doing it. For others like me who run and keeper the shoot it is not only the end of the job but the end of the business that in my case I had run for 25 years. So many memories, so much work and then it dawns on you that it’s over. I had lots of thoughts going through my head but at 48 was I ready to start again? After all, if it takes as long to get the next place a good name, I will be 73 by the time I get there. When the cracks first appeared,  I decided to split the company into a Ltd deer stalking business and the shoot as a separate entity, and this proved the right thing to do, as I knew that I now had something that was ours, my wife and I were Directors of our own company that had no connection with the shoot and as such we could scale the shoot down and increase the stalking side until the shoot died a natural death and at most would be run for a bit of fun rather than as a business. The problem was that when I got closer to the end of the shoots time, the more I realised just how much I wanted it back.

    The idea of not picking up eggs in April and not hatching chicks in May and not putting birds to wood in July seemed totally alien to me and suddenly I found myself confronted with life changing decisions to make, decisions that would, to a great degree, change a my families future. My wife was willing to move as she was totally in support of a complete change, but regardless there was some trepidation. My daughters on the other hand were a different story. The eldest, 19 has a steady boyfriend and her younger sister who’s 14 has all her friends at school and her education to consider.  So it was not that easy and there was a great deal to talk through. I wanted to move back to my home county of Suffolk and being able to run a driven Pheasant shoot and to be in a position where I could develop a top class partridge shoot from scratch was a dream to me, and that’s exactly what happened.

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    Partridges almost ready for this coming season.

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    Mallard being put out on the river and ponds.

    I had looked at another estate a couple of years ago, and the estate agents had said they would keep me on their books, I had forgotten their promise to keep me informed of other shoots, so it came as a total shock when on our second partridge day that, season I came in at lunch time to find an envelope from the agents laying on the kitchen table. The estate being offered was, as far as I could see, as good as it gets. This was the type of shoot that I had only dreamt of running. It was back in my home county of Suffolk, 4 miles from where I was born and where my family still live. My first reaction was to laugh and say that I hadn’t a hope of getting it, that I didn’t want it, that it was too good for me and promptly threw the prospectus on the table. Where upon my under-keeper, to whom I will be eternally thankful, called me everything under the sun. He then found a good friend of mine who continued the abuse for the next 2 hours and again used a great deal of colourful language that at many points over the afternoon questioned the marital status of my parents!

    The turning point was the chance comment from one of my guns who asked me what exactly was wrong with the atmosphere of the day, to which I simply replied, “Look if I want to take another shoot would you…” and he cut me off saying, “I like what I’m hearing , hang on I need to get Phillip”. I had a chance to take on and run a Rolls Royce of a shoot in Suffolk near my home of Saxmundham, and I have the ground, facilities and support from my under keeper and my wife and family to do just that.

    That’s basically how it started, and how, after 25 years were taking on another shoot, a dream shoot, a dream chance. I for one don’t know quite how I felt or was supposed to feel. Excited, nervous or on a high are feelings that I got daily, but I couldn’t wait to get started and nor could my family, my team or my guns who had offered so much support. There was such a lot to consider and such a lot of work to do but we did it and managed to get a successful first season under our belts.

    I suppose what I am saying is this, I have had to think “outside of the box”. An awful saying I will grant you, but I can’t think of a better description. There was something outside of the Bunwell shoot and its better.

    We have now learnt a great deal about the shoot in Suffolk.  It is a wonderful shoot with so much potential, and now in our second year here, we feel very confident about the new season that is fast approaching. We still have a few places on driven days in Suffolk, and hope that guns will book, and enjoy themselves so that we can form a new Glemham Hall Syndicate of dedicated guns who what to go ahead for the future on a class shoot that has everything  going for it.  

    I now firmly believe that when one door closes another one opens, so perhaps that was the start rather than the end. I hope to keep you up to date with the new shoot, and thank you to all those who have helped and supported my family and I through those difficult few months. 

     

    Mark Howard , Head keeper, shoot manager.