Wednesday, 15 October 2008


Foxshooting, pigeon shooting, a clay lesson, an ad for West Country Guns, the sika stag rut in Dorset, Exmoor pheasant shoots, a lovely singlehanded keepering job in the South Hams and all in 48 hours - the gang got to know each other well and we met new commercial manager Rachel for the first time.
We also made some really excellent film about fieldsports. It struck me while we were doing it that most filming of fieldsports you see on the TV is by the antis. Now we can redress the balance and tell the real story - showing just how useful, exciting and fun shooting, fishing and hunting are.
Rachel drove from Kent with producer David and cameraman Chris to stay with me in Somerset. We set out to make most of the rest of our pilot TV programme (due out at the end of the month). They arrived - tired - at 9pm and we went straight out foxshooting. This was how the next 48 hours was going to be, with an average six hours of sleep a night and no time off.
I took them to see local gamekeeper Steve Hamar, his mate Austin and underkeeper Ken, who took us out after foxes on the first night. Steve was four days away from the opening day at his shoot Bulland, so his fox paranoia was at its worst.
We had paranoia, too. From a telly point of view, we might not have seen a fox, which would have been disastrous but Steve - and everyone we went out with - knew their countries well. David was open-mouthed about everyone's ability to 'produce' sport like this - he is the producer, after all.
We were in a field and on to three foxes with the lamp in just a few minutes from our meeting. One of them looked a bit peculiar. Austin asked Ken, the driver, to go back and forward because he couldn't see what it was. Just as well: it was someone's cat.
Next morning, up on Exmoor. The staghounds were out but we didn't want to frighten them by filming - you need so many permissions to film hunting these days thanks to the silly ban. Instead, we scared a local rambler when I sprung out of the gorse in a camouflage jacket to do a piece-to-camera about shooting.
Then to West Country Guns in Wiveliscombe where manager Sue Hartman explained the shop for the camera (her husband, other manager Haggis Hartman, was out fishing). Good work. She could have a career in broadcasting.
I wanted to take the team to see a foxing rig being welded up but the welder was out shooting, so it was on to Shalden Shooting School where Matt Brammer (son of non-PC media squirrel massacrer Rod Brammer) was to give a lesson to John Fisher and Jim Nash. 'Fish' and Nash were going pigeon shooting the following day so Matt gave them a variety of tricky clays while cameraman Chris made unreasonable demands about exactly where he wanted the clay to go and where he would like the shooters to shoot it.
The following morning we were up at 3.30am to go to Dorchester with stalker Paul Taylor. Chris and I crept out on to one of his highseats in the dark and were rewarded with a group of four stags whistling and gurgling, competing for 20 hinds. Small groups of roe deer, which had finished their rut in August, were dotted all over the field.
I could see increasing amazement from the team that, wherever we went, people were able to conjure up wildlife like magic. It takes hunting/shooting people to do that - much better than professional "wildlife watchers".
Next it was pigeon shooting with Nash'n'Fish on a farm back in Somerset. Again, Chris couldn't get the pigeons to fly in just the right place, nor either of the shooters to bring them down exactly right. If this were the USA, we'd have to look at CGI pigeons. And Jim Nash's terrier Ozzy kept retrieving the decoys. "Wrong bird you foolish dog!" (Jim used stronger words).
Amazing thing about pigeons - we did our best to hide but you cram two shooters, a presenter and three film crew in and around a pigeon hide and you might bet the wary pigeons will spot something. Not this lot. They came straight in, eyes only on the decoys.
Finally we headed off to South Devon for a look at Mike Powell's shoot, again four days away from opening day, which yielded a crop of both foxes and squirrels. Chris was not happy with the path the squirrel took through the trees but, by the time he requested a second take, Mike had shot it. If this were the USA, we'd have a box of 'stunt' squirrels.
Now we have reached the end of it, I am feeling completely confident about FieldsportsChannel. It had all come together so quickly over the last few weeks that I doubted at first it could work. the idea of the TV channel looked too good to be true. We all bring different skills, we all get along, we all want the same thing. And it does work.
David the producer is the brains (and a lot like Inspector Linley, so the looks to). Chris has all the practical abilities: measured, continually charming though he must have been exhausted by the end after all that driving and a little accident prone (new nickname "Chris-Bang-Wallop"). And Rachel has more of a commercial edge than anyone I have met in the world of shooting. Look out the gun trade.

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