Driven Shooting the European Way
The idea of shooting driven pheasants, partridges, or ducks in England, Scotland, Wales, and even Ireland, has appealed to many Americans for a long time. As a friend of mine puts it, “Wear funny clothes, shoot fine shotguns, and drink fine Scotch in the evening? Where do I sign up?” By ‘funny clothes’, he refers to breeks and ties, which are not your usual American dress for hunting. Breeks are pants that come just below the knees where they button, or Velcro these days. The breeks work well with longer, over the knee, heavy, woolens socks, kept in place with colorful woolen garters, and all fit nicely in a tall pair of Wellington boots (“Wellies”) that keep your feet and legs dry on wet mornings or around more mucky pegs. Breeks and ties are the order of the day for many driven shoots, but while ties are still in fashion, breeks are not always required. Long pants that repel water and high ankle boots that are also weatherproof are the order on many estates today.
I have been blessed to have shot in many places in both Western and Eastern Europe. England, Scotland, France, and Spain in Western Europe, and Slovakia and Hungary in Eastern Europe. I tell you this only so you understand I know personally about the hunts I offer and know the quality of the hunt, the hosts, the birds, the food, the wines, and the lodging.
Does it cost more to shoot in Europe than, say, Argentina?
Yes, it does. And the reason for that is simple. In South America and Africa, and Mexico and Canada, the birds are free. You pay for the opportunity to hunt, plus the costs of your outfitter. In Europe, you pay for the birds and all the maintenance that goes with them, plus keepers, beaters, pickers up, land management, crop depredation, predator control, historical preservation, and a variety of other things that all cost money to the land owners. Driven shooting in Europe is a step back in time to places and a way of life that only exists because we, as hunters, want it to be so. It is beautiful, and charming, and magical, and lovely – and any other good adjective you can add.
The European Experience
As with all of the BestWingshooting hunts, you are met at your arrival airport by our host, or his designee, and transported to the chateau, lodge, or hotel. All of your meals, lodging, licenses, insurance, guns, shells, tips, and anything else related to the hunt are included in your prepaid costs, detailed and explained fully to you. Your first afternoon or evening, you will get an overview of the next few days of shooting – clays, pheasants, partridges, and/or ducks - safety requirements, the role of your loader or helper, locations of the beaters and pickers up, the formality and informality of the hunts, elevenses, lunch, dinner, and all aspects of the day. You can ask questions as well, and there will always be someone serving as master of the hunt to help direct people and make sure all comes together seamlessly on shoot days, and answer your questions of the day.
Years of Experience, Professionalism, and Tradition
On the shoot day, ‘guns’ (the term used for the shooters) will draw for ‘pegs’ (the places they will stand on the first drive of the day). Normally a shoot day will be 4 to 6 drives, depending on the number of birds to be taken over the course of the day and the shooting capability of the ‘line’, shooters at their pegs. ‘Guns’ rotate usually two ‘pegs’ each drive, thus making sure that each shooter has an equal opportunity to be in a very good spot on the drives. Each shooter usually has a ‘loader’ who will carry the gun, shooting bag, and cartridges; load for the gun, and keep count of the number of birds taken and the areas where they fell, thus helping the ‘pickers up’ and their dogs find all the game, which is very important. One’s ‘loader’ may also help with locating and pointing out oncoming birds, and even help with the occasional “Well shot!” or “More lead, sir”. The assistants or loaders are professionals who have years of experience on the shooting lines as a rule. They are hunters and helpers whose joy is to make sure you have an outstanding driven shooting experience.
All Inclusive Means Luxury
As intimated earlier, you could spend a fortune on a driven shoot in Europe. But why would you? We offer spectacular wingshooting packages in both Western and Eastern Europe at affordable prices. You can pay more, but I doubt you will receive more for your money. And our European hunting packages are chock-full of extras – often luxury, breathtaking accommodations, gourmet meals, fine wines, and, as mentioned, loaders, beaters, pickers up, great dog work, game keepers, wait staff, and of course, the distinguished owners and hosts of your hunts - all in one complete, comprehensive, All Inclusive hunt package.
Rich in Tradition
Whether you are looking for high, challenging pheasants, pheasants of medium height, or very hittable pheasants, really fast partridges, the elusive wood pigeon, European woodcock, sporty driven ducks, or all of them together in one spectacular package, Best Wingshooting will work to bring you the most affordable, enjoyable trip available. Best Wingshooting is constantly looking to expand, too, into countries like Sweden and Denmark. Check often to see our offerings for various parts of Europe. We also work with other reputable booking agencies and pass along their contact information if you have a particular hunt that someone else might offer. Just ask me. I am here to help you.
We have driven shooting packages in many locations across Europe. If you have always dreamed of experiencing a European driven hunt, we offer authentic driven shooting packages you'll love. The lodges and chateaus of our European partners are extraordinary and fit for kings and noblemen, or commoners, like me — and always at our all-inclusive price. Ask us about big game and fishing opportunities as well, as we have connections to many of the finest lodges associated with these sports.
Shooting Flying at a Legendary Chateau
Laurie Bogart Wiles writes a stunning article on the beauty, and thrill of hunting in Burgundy, France.
John Wiles and I travel to the heart of Burgundy, France to shoot driven birds on the ancient grounds of Chateau de Villette. Read the full article on Sporting Classics Daily.
Off to the Peg!
Partridge - Pheasants - Tweeds and Elevenses!
It is difficult to think of shooting in Europe and not conjure up thoughts of fast flying pheasants passing overhead in the traditional driven style, with beaters and loaders, and pickers up, breeks, ties, wool tweeds and elevenses. At Best Wingshooting, we want to take you back to those incredible Edwardian days both in style, luxury, and numbers of birds. We are able to offer driven shooting in four of the most acclaimed places available – Scotland, England, Spain and France. For an incredible wingshooting experience in Eastern Europe, check out Chateau Bela in Slovakia, definitely one my personal favorites.
Again, as with all our hunts, you will be greeted at the airport, assisted with luggage and guns, transferred to your manor, chateau, or castle, and enjoy all the creature comforts available while enjoying three days of marvelous driven shooting.
Expect the birds to be presented to the guns in such a manner as to challenge the expert in one area, while allowing even the novice to have a good chance at a nice bag of birds. Each drive will be unique, but you can expect hundreds to thousands of birds to fly over the guns in the course of a day. The birds will be at all heights and one only has to concentrate on their own particular goals to have a wonderful and rewarding outing.
Expect four to six drives per day with a break around 11:00 AM for the traditional tea and cakes. This break is referred to as ‘elevenses’ and usually occurs after the first two drives. You will also enjoy a lunch traditional to the area you are hunting, so Scottish fare may be quite different from the Slovakian lunch, but all will be delicious and a great treat as part of your adventure. Some lunches are a great affair prepared for you in the field. On other shoots, you may return to the chateau for crystal and silver, or you may even have lunch at one of the hunting lodges on the estate hosted by your gamekeeper.
Tours and sight seeing can also be arranged for non-shooting spouses, perhaps even a cooking class.
Call us to arrange your once in a lifetime hunt in Europe at the location and time of your choice. For full details and to book your trip, call John Wiles at 443.624.8719
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