On shoots up and down the country, from the smallest of scratch-about affairs to the busiest of commercial operations, Beaters’ Day is one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures on the game shooting calendar.
Through rain and shine, sleet and fog, brambles and maize, every season on every shoot a trusty team come together with dogs, flags, sticks and high spirits to help reap the fruits of the keepers’ hard work. They do it for the craic, the company, the fresh air, the stretch of their legs. And they do it for Beaters’ Day.
It’s a special day’s sport laced with familiarity. Men, ladies, boys and girls stand with a gun in their hands who have waited for the opportunity since the start of the season. It might be their first time shooting game; it might be an annual event they’ve enjoyed for years. Regardless, they’ve earned it. And it’s an opportunity for those typically stood with a gun in their hands to say thank-you, roles reversed.
Everyone knows their fellow Guns, the dogs that will probably run in, the drives that are likely to produce the odd stonker, and the peg numbers that almost guarantee a shot, perhaps hot barrels, and that unique spike of adrenaline. The excited shouts of “forward”, the cracking of flags, the alarmed cluck and clatter of pheasants rising from the coverts, airborne, somewhere. “Look up!”
From ‘cocks-only’ to ‘all-in’, and ‘walk one, stand one’ to ‘move up two every drive’, instructions at the morning briefing will vary – the excitement amongst those gathered about the keeper as apparent as it is infectious. On Beaters’ Day the ‘Guns’ can hardly wait to get going. Bugger a long lunch and idle chatter between drives; they want as much time on the peg as possible, standing in anticipation, numbers irrelevant, scanning the horizon from a different position, this time.
The ribbing and banter is invariably on tap, the keeper(s) appear slightly more relaxed, and all in all it’s bloody good fun. Reputations might be made or left in tatters, but one thing is for sure; it’s a day of opportunity – opportunity to test oneself on the drives that for the remainder of the season are watched from afar. Beaters’ Day sorts the pretenders from the deadeye Dicks; it’s easy to scoff at shot-to-kill ratios whilst holding a flag or a stick...
So who will drop the bird of the day, or the wildly ambitious right and left? Whose wheels will come off completely, securing themselves a year of light-hearted grief in the process? Who will shoot their first gamebird of the season? Who will be the talk of the trailer next season? There are so many memories to be made.
This is the magic of Beaters’ Day...