I am a lucky guy. I get to shoot at the Clovelly Shoot in Devon and have done so (excepting last year due to covid rules) for the last 6/7 years, including yesterday. It is not just about the shooting, it’s the whole Clovelly experience and if you’ve never been, and you fancy a challenge with high pheasants then go.
Let me tell you a little bit about it. To be honest words and photos cannot adequately describe what it looks and feels like in real life. We arrive in the early evening and negotiate (yep that’s the right term) our way from the main road down to the Red Lion Hotel on the sea front. Park on the built up stones (repaired after Storm Arwen) which help to protect the hotel accommodation.
The village looks marvellous in its Xmas decorations and the cobbled path, seen to the right of the Xmas tree, winds its way up the very steep hill and is one of the main ways provisions are delivered to the Hotel, by wooden sled, I kid you not. Contrast the night view with the day view and it gives you a sense of how intertwined the village and sea are.
We spent the night in the Sail Loft – beautifully appointed rooms overlooking the beach – and ate a sumptuous dinner in the Hotel Restaurant.
In the morning we met up with Shoot Captain Charles Goucher and off we went to experience yet again the challenge of shooting high, very high, extremely high and unreachable pheasants and partridges. We were down on guns due to a number of late call offs and so shooting the signature Hobby Drive was unfortunately not feasible (go watch it on you tube), but London Lodge and Hobby Bank was.
I had set up my Browning with full and ¾ choke and had Black Diamond 34g 5 shot cartridges to give me a good chance of cleanly despatching high pheasants. As is always the case at Clovelly there was no shortage of birds and you could pick the ones you felt were right for you, but you’re always drawn to the challenge of the higher birds while responsibly just leaving those that were too far.
We had two drives then stopped off at the new shooting lodge for elevenses and it was just marvellous, like something out of the Hobbiton set we visited in New Zealand a couple of years ago. We met up with the new chef who runs Frisky Pheasant, a rural food company, that now works with Charles to provide first class elevenses and what was probably the best shoot lunch that I have ever experienced with freshly barbecued venison, lamb and specially prepared pheasants and all the trimmings cooked on the open fire in the ‘Hobbit House’.
After elevenses we shot Hobby Bank and finished on London Lodge for a total of 178 pheasants and 16 partridges – on track for a 300 bird day had we had the full complement of 9 guns vs the 6 of us.
But aside from all of the above the experienced and dedicated gamekeeper, beaters, pickers up and their numerous dogs, the variety of drives (they are not all high), the tracks and access routes, the hotel, the environment and the sea make Clovelly special – look at it on ‘you tube’ and add it to your bucket list.