So on a crisp fall day in England, what do you do for entertainment?
If you ask my husband, you head to the countryside for a "shoot." Pheasant season runs from October 1 to February 1 in England.
These Texas boys and colleagues got "kitted" in appropriate attire and headed out for some excitement. My photographer and research assistant for this blog is my very own husband, who is educating me on the finer art of pheasant shoots. One would never show up without being appropriately dressed, so required dress includes a shirt, tie, shooting breeks in plus 2 or plus 4 (inches of overhang from knee), wellies, and a tweed shooting jacket or in their case, a hunting coat.
They headed to Oakhampton Park, a private country home dating from 1734, where they enjoyed dinner and an overnight stay before the big shoot.
They were led through beautiful countryside, through sheep filled pastures,
by country houses,
and then often into creekside beds to prepare for the action. Let me pause and give you some background information. The hunters were using 12 gauge over-under shotguns. Mike borrowed one from the guides, but those choosing to have their own gun in England have two options. You can keep your gun at your home in a certified locked safe which is subject to random surprise inspections by local police, or you can store it in a gun shop where they hold it until you check it out for a limited time.
In a pheasant shoot, pheasant chicks are raised for the sport, then released into the fields to graze. At the time of the shoot, "beaters" flush out the birds, driving them towards the hunters. The hunters are stationed at their "pegs" throughout the valley awaiting their approach.
Mike's "loader" is responsible for keeping his gun loaded after every shot. Their group of 7 guns shot 368 birds in 4 hours time.
It is the job of the "retriever" and his dogs to find the downed birds and collect them. The pheasants that are collected are then cleaned and sold to the market for eating. The average pheasant weighs about 5 pounds. Mike says it tastes like chicken--isn't that what they always say?
The birds are actually beautiful as you can tell. The day ends with a leisurely lunch back at the house, with a huge meal and a well-deserved rest.
Last year, Mike brought home several pheasants from the shoot, ready to cook and was so excited for me to cook them up.
What can I say? They are still in the freezer.