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This month we were delighted to welcome Matt Smith to the Sporting Agency team. Matt has been involved in shooting and country pursuits all his life, having grown up in the Yorkshire Dales on the doorstep of many a prolific sporting estate and in the heartland of driven grouse shooting.

Matt joins the team as a Sporting Agent as well as an instructor. He is perfectly placed to guide you not only towards your perfect sporting experience but also to master the complex art of driven game shooting, with a particular affinity for the wild and exhilarating sport of driven grouse.

For the past three years Matt has been providing bespoke on-peg tuition for clients, on a range of game shoots across the country as well as internationally and before that, having worked within a sporting agency based in the Southern Lake District, offering traditional game shooting to clients as well as partridge shooting in the La Mancha region of Spain. A keen countryman at heart and a self-confessed addict of all wild game Matt takes on the mantle from Gordon in this month’s report…

I have joined the RBSA just as we start to accelerate towards the season.  The timing is perfect; the sun is shining, the light at the end of this arduous and difficult lockdown is starting to show and the Shooting School is up to full speed…in my first week alone I was involved in the final of the 2021 Handicap Challenge, the Royal Berkshire Ladies Cup, and a number of Really Wild Simulated Days!

As part of my role, I will be responsible for running the RBSA “Roving Syndicate” and can confirm we have now filled a second Roving Day at Well Barn on Friday 8th October. To meet the high demand, we have opened a new date of Wednesday 13th October for a 250-bird mixed day at the picturesque Benham Estate, located between Hungerford and Newbury on our doorstep in Berkshire; this estate is a little gem so please register your interest promptly as these pegs will not hang around.

So what of the coming season?  Recently, I was able to spend a week in my ‘homeland’ of Yorkshire and speak with some of my grouse-keeper friends, around the Dales and further North into Cumbria and Northumberland. A common theme of discussion was the condition of the heather which, having battled with heather-beetle last year, has now had to contend with hard frosts in Spring. This was notable in the dull, dark colour of the heather, which looked a more woody grey/brown, as opposed to the more vibrant shade of purple we would associate with this time of year.

However, it was pleasing to see how, in response to historic long periods of drought which have made conditions hard for hens with newly fledge chicks, all of the moors I visited were readily prepared with dew-ponds and rainwater harvesting systems in place to replenish any dry ponds or streams.  Excitingly, I was also lucky enough to see a few broods of modest sizes, with the chicks tumbling through the heather like bumble-bees – no bigger than a golf-ball. It was whilst watching these birds that I was reminded of and humbled by their prowess as awesome parents and hardy upland birds and, how lucky the certain few of us are to be able to see them and pursue them in these fantastic places.

Elsewhere lowland ‘keepers have all but got their cover-crops in the ground and will be busy preparing the pens for poults or will already have eggs and chicks on their rearing fields. Certainly on our farm in West Berkshire, we have seen an annual fluctuation of fox cubs with new litters being moved into dens which have historically laid dormant, so ‘keepers will be praying for an early harvest so that the stubble fields can allow them to get on top of numbers.

With the continuation of the maximum number of 30 rule, into at least the next month, we keep our fingers crossed for travel restrictions nationally and internationally being eased in preparation for the coming season. Those of you interested in pulling the trigger before that please enquire about our Really Wild simulated game days – we have Single Gun and Full Team availability – for now! Please contact either myself or Gordon for availability…  Until then I look forward to meeting you here at the school.

Matt