What do you think

People shoot in the field beside my home.

Driven pheasant shooting is not a couple of people sauntering through the countryside on the off-chance of coming across an odd pheasant and taking a pot shot at it because they are hungry; it is a planned and orchestrated social event.

There are three participants, the beaters who frighten the pheasants, the guns who shoot the pheasants and the pickers-up who pick up the dead pheasants.

The beaters' job is to get the pheasants into position and then force them to fly in a particular direction over high trees. They achieve this by shouting, 'cracking' plastic flags, banging sticks, and instructing their dogs to disturb the nervous pheasants from the scrub and undergrowth they hide in. They circle the cottage and garden to achieve their purpose

The frightened pheasants fly out low from the pens, either side of the cottage, towards the 'safety' of trees and cover crops beyond.

Pheasant wings(1) have evolved for rapid take-off and short bursts of agile energy to escape predators. Consequently the guns wait for the pheasants to regain their strength between drives, so they can fly high again, which makes aiming at them more difficult and therefore more fun.

Guns are instructed where to stand, round my home. While they wait, still and silent, some sit and some stand, some smoke, others munch and some, just a few metres from the boundary hedge, stare.

  1. Wing morphology “... there are differences in the kinds of flight speeds birds need. For example, the grouse, pheasant, or quail spend most of their time on the ground. They are camouflaged for protection, but occasionally they do need to fly quickly to escape a predator. They are able to catapult straight into the air, powered by short, broad wings. Their muscles are designed for short bursts of speed”. Sadly the excellent website on bird morphology which clarified this has been closed down. Alternatively see Sir Joseph Nickerson, A Shooting Man's Creed (Swan Hill Press) (2004) “A pheasant is a bit like a lion: it can accelerate and move very fast over a few hundred yards but needs a rest before it can repeat the performance". http://www.pheasantshooting.co.nz/cgi-bin/makepage/driven.page

The pheasants are in position; the guns are in position. The long, still, silent wait continues and then a horn is blown, flushing begins. The pheasants finding their ground path blocked by dense scrub, brush and people, terrified by dogs and marauding beaters, have no escape but to fly up and up above the tall trees in front of the cottage. On reaching the open sky they head for the trees on the other side of my home. But, in the space between, people take aim at their soft bodies and outstretched wings.

Guns fire

People shoot round my home.

Where else would one experience such a surround sound of gunfire, war? Can you imagine what it feels like to be surrounded by people who are bent on killing?

It is legal to shoot wherever you wish on private land with the landowner's permission, even within a few feet of another person's home.

Pheasants fall.

The job of the pickers-up is to find and pick up the dead pheasants. While the beaters maraud through the undergrowth and the guns fire at the pheasants, the pickers-up loiter on the edge of fields and lurk in the trees beside the garden, waiting. When the shooting finishes, they search for the dead pheasants and instruct dogs to retrieve. If a pheasant is still alive, it is despatched – hit on the head.

END ...until the next one

A few hours earlier I had seen the pheasants standing on gates and fences in the morning mist, knowing the slaughter that awaited the them.