In 1958, when I was a young boy of eight, I lived in the officers’ quarters where my father was stationed at the Central Ammunition Depot, (CAD) at Bramley, in Hampshire where he also ran the shoot. We were conveniently sandwiched between the Duke of Wellington’s Estate at Stratfield Saye and The Vyne, now a National Trust property, and of course we benefitted from the numbers of birds they put down!
However, they only put down pheasants, because there were still at that time plenty of wild English partridges to shoot, although they declined dramatically in subsequent years, mainly as a result of pesticides, and modern farming practices.
I was fascinated by all aspects of the shoot, and spent every spare minute with the two gamekeepers, helping them with all their tasks, and I learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes on a shoot, including the introduction, by my father, of the first incubators, which enabled us to rear much larger numbers of our own pheasants.
Having shot from an early age, in recent years, I have become increasingly enamoured with the concept of sustainable shooting, encouraged, in particular by the various ‘wild partridge’ projects, which are taking place up and down the country.
I therefore decided to write this article for the many keen shots who share my enthusiasm for the concept of ‘sustainable shooting’, using the success of these Partridge Projects as an example of what can be achieved with the intelligent management of habitat, and constant vermin control, which is what these partridge projects are all about.
To understand the achievement of designing and implementing a successful partridge project, we first need to know more about the species.