European Driven Shooting – An experience like no other

The words, Driven Shooting, evoke a feeling in me that is hard to explain, but it is a deep and rich feeling. To understand that I can stand where Dukes, and Earls, and even Kings have stood and shoot birds in the same manner they did 100 years or more ago is very moving to me. The opportunity to participate in the past while living in the present is a rare and cherished experience.

If you like fine guns of any make and caliber, and want to be the skillful shot you have always dreamed you would be, then head to the other side of the pond for an experience that will only make you want…more! And here are four places you will find reasonably priced and accepting of and supporting of their American brothers and sisters of the gun – Wales, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.  England and Scotland are also available with Best Wingshooting, but these four countries offer traditional, high quality, hunts at much more reasonable prices than some of the others.

Your ‘Driven Shooting Odyssey’ will begin when you fly to Manchester, Vienna, Budapest, or one of the other major airports servicing our hunting areas. There are usually some direct flights from here in the US. Once on the ground, you will be met by the marvelous staff of our brother agency there, usually Britannia Sporting or Shooting in Slovakia. From there you head to one of the quaint Inns or to prepared housing on the estates themselves. From the moment you arrive, you begin to steep yourself in the rich history of the shooting sports of a time gone by. Fine linens, silver, and crystal adorn your table for the evening meals. Excellent wines appear for dinner, or perhaps a ‘pint’ is more your style. There are fine liqueurs and even cigars for those who partake after dinner.

Best Wingshooting driven pheasant shooting in Europe

Breakfast is pleasant and not too early as the first drive will start at 9 sharp. Breakfast is sweet breads and sausages, fine teas, and coffee for the Americans. Guns, shells, and shooters are loaded into the cars to travel to the assembly point for the first of several drives. Here you meet your loader, if required, the various pickers up and their dogs, the host of the hunt, the gamekeeper, and your fellow shooters if you are joining an existing party. You draw for pegs in the traditional English style, and once your peg is established, you will head off for the first drive of the day.

The anticipation of the first drive is always a grand one. Will the birds be too high for my skill level? Will I shoot well? Where does my peg fit into the overall shooting panorama? It will be this way until you hear the horn sound for the beginning of the hunt, and shortly thereafter you hear the cackle of a pheasant taking to air somewhere in the distance. Then focus and concentration come to the fore, as the shoot has begun.

Your first bird is straight on, a cock bird 35 yards high and flying straight and true. You bring the gun up smoothly; pass from tail to beak; the gun barks; and the bird sags in the air and falls magnificently to the ground behind you. Other birds are in the air, but you take the time to savor this first shot as a wonderful beginning to a fine day of Driven Shooting.

After the third or fourth drive, you will break for “Elevenses”, either near the cars or at a prearranged pavilion for shelter from the wind or occasional rain, with something light to eat and drink as respite before the drives leading to lunch. This is gentlemanly hunting in its best form, not too hurried, but paced to be appreciated and consumed slowly, as are the pastries and the champagne of  your break. From there it is on to more drives and a special lunch at a country house, or perhaps at grand tables set up near the fields. More drives, and as you rotate two spots each drive, you get to sample red hot action, the most difficult of shots, and sometimes only you get to admire your companions who seem to be where the birds are wanting to fly.

You return to the chateau, or cottage, tired, happy, filled with stories and good humor, and praise for birds and beaters, and dogs and ‘pickers up’, and keepers, and host, and the day that is Driven Shooting. Tomorrow you will do it again… perhaps for more pheasants, but perhaps for woodcock, or partridges, or even ducks – and each day, and each hunt, will be just as lovely, if not more so, than the last.

I like wearing ties when I hunt, here and there. No, not because I want to look British, but because I find dressing up as a way of showing respect for the sport I love. Besides that, it keeps the winter wind from blowing down my neck at the front of the shirt, a comfort for sure.

I like wearing breeks on occasion too, here in the US. No, not because I want to look snooty, but because they are comfortable in my knee high leather or rubber boots. The socks are long and warm, and my legs don’t get cold. They work well in the duck blind actually, and the tall leather Bean boots work well when following the bird dogs.

I like a wool hat. It keeps my head warm, even if it and my head get wet. I like leather gloves, light ones that protect your hands but let you feel the gun. I like gunning bags full of shells, and an easy, big, open pocket in which to put them.

I especially like all these when I am headed to Europe for Driven Shooting. In Europe, these are the standard order of the day because they make sense for the terrain, temperatures, and demands of European driven hunting.

I like the fact that after the hunt, they lay the birds out, and say a prayer of thanks for a safe hunt, a good hunt. They thank God for the beauty of the day, the beauty of the hunt, and the beauty of the birds. They are genuine prayers, given by genuine people, who love and understand well what they have and what they do.

Welcome to the world of Driven Shooting.