Simon West is on holiday, but luckily for us still filing his copy from the cereal fields of southern England.

© Alamy

For my first morning of leave yesterday, I chose to reveille early and get out on the ground. With a challenging fallow cull to conduct and some catching up on roe and muntjac, every opportunity to support the team has to be taken.

We are a volunteer group managing 7,000 acres of mixed woodland, grassland and agricultural land in the South of England. Access is not always available, so we have to make the most of it when we are allowed on. Wonderfully, during lock-down we had regular access and I was able to get out at least once a week to target the fallow herds more effectively. 

The forecast for the weekend had not been very attractive but, by good fortune, yesterday morning started clear with light southerly winds. I should have been up earlier but I met up with Matt at the rendezvous and we deconflicted areas. In the past few months we have been maintaining and repositioning the high seats ready for the season.

I wanted to check on a couple that sat overlooking rape and barley fields. I was a little surprised at the height of the rape but climbed up a double-seater to look out to the wood edge running down the far side of the field. A hint of movement caught my eye from the middle of the field. Raising the binos, I was instantly able to see two huge palmate antlers towering above the four-foot rape.

There was no sight of the animal himself, just the huge broad plates moving together left and right and occasionally up and down. Right in the middle of the field and only creeping slowly in any one direction, there was little chance of me getting anywhere near him. I wished him well until we might meet again later in the season. 

Cull buck

Through the hazel coppice to the edge of the next field and up the single seat under a big oak to look over the barley. The sun had been up and showing its face for some time now and I may have missed my chance. But then, less than a hundred paces in front of the seat, visible above the ripening barley were a pair of ears and little antlers. I was happy to sit and wait for a while, but in the end I needed to call him to stand to give me the shot. A good cull buck.

When given the choice, I would always prefer to be outdoors rather than in. Sadly, that choice isn’t always available to us and we get tied to the desk. Emails, telephones, stock, registers, notifications… the administrative demands on the trade are considerable. Do take a break and allow yourself time to do the things you enjoy.

The famous clock tower at Bisley, where the GTA will be celebrating its 130th birthday in September

Bit of a do

That brings me on neatly to GTA130. The Gun Trade Association is 130 years old and to celebrate we are holding a gathering for our 550 member companies at Bisley on Tuesday 28 September. We will be opening our new building, having a long awaited trade-only party and, most excitingly, a range-experience afternoon.

We are working with the National Shooting Centre to lay on an educational round-robin through a number of shooting disciplines. Big game rifle, practical shotgun, skeet, long-barrelled pistol, sport trap and some 1,000-yard shooting with precision rifles, there will be something new for everyone to experience. This generously sponsored and subsidised event will be a wonderful way for the trade to get together to develop knowledge, network and celebrate. 

The legal basis for this trade-only shooting event means that it is only open to RFDs and all will need to be pre-registered. The cost for the entire package—ranges, firearms, ammunition, opening ceremony and party­—is £25 per head. There are only 100 places available for the shooting package so we recommend that you reserve your places early with 

I am looking forward to having a chance to bring us all together—manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, craftsmen—and our partners from legal, media, insurance, transport and finance industries. It will be a day to remember.


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