The Schöffel Ptarmigan Trophy 2018
It’s not often that I get to shoot at charity/PR clay shoots but thanks to the invitation from Martin Puddifer, my editor at Shooting Gazette, I enjoyed a splendid day at Sir Edward Dashwood’s beautiful estate in West Wycombe as part of the magazine’s team of three. We were there to mark the 25th anniversary of the manufacture of the first Schöffel Ptarmigan jacket and the boys and girls at E J Churchill put on their usual flawless display.
There are few prettier areas of Britain than Buckinghamshire in spring and the estate looked immaculate in the bright sunlight adorned as it was with the delicate fresh green of the new beech leaves, more so than whiskers on kittens, one of my favourite things. It was great fun to be wielding a gun rather than a brace of cameras, even with modest success, and the food and hospitality, as always when Rob Fenwick and his team are involved, were second to none.
Having photographed at West Wycombe on a few occasions it was very interesting to actually shoot the stands – they are much easier when one is using a Canon rather than a Beretta I must say. In general I am quite a competitive person (too much so some would argue) but, as with fishing, shooting is a relaxation and the competition is with myself. It’s not that I am not interested in catching a fish or breaking a clay, I surely am and can be single minded to the point of obsession, but it is a question of what I can achieve measured against myself not against the skill of others – unless they are friends of course.
Not so with my fellow shooters. There were obviously reputations to be made or upheld and points to be scored. Tactics were discussed, strategies suggested and plans implemented and some very fine scores achieved, but not by me. Perhaps if I were a better shot it would be different. I was just happy to smash a few clays and if it was a pretty shot so much the better. It was an opportunity to be among friends, colleagues and like minded folk enjoying the countryside and doing something in which we all take immense pleasure.
I felt a certain kinship with Edward King who was part of The Field’s team and much to Jonathan Young’s disgust brought a rather fine AYA hammer gun – a beautiful weapon but not perhaps best suited to the cut and thrust of tough competition. Edward won best dressed gun on the day and did indeed look very fine in his ‘statement’ tweed shooting suit – oh to have the élan.
Elevenses were taken by the lake, a stunning setting, and the viands were just what the doctor ordered after a hard morning at the shooting coal face. Then it was off for two more stands followed by the final reckoning. It was no surprise that the boys from Purdey won the shoot off. They had been part of our group and I had been able to observe their skill at close hand. They had obviously done this sort of thing before and were rather good, the best on the day in fact.
Then it was time to saunter down the hill for lunch in the magnificent loggia of the grand house. What hardships we have to endure. We were honoured by the presence of Mr Peter Schöffel himself, who flew in specially from Germany for the day and who, with Corry Cavell-Taylor gave us a brief and enjoyable history of the Ptarmigan jacket. Then it was prize giving time followed by a leisurely departure.
And, of course, thank you to Marcus Janssen and his Schöffel team for the invitation and kindness on the day. Any time you need competitors I’m your man – and I might even practice next time!