Since this was my first experience at this kind of shooting, I wondered how well one must shoot to make a creditable record. I never did find out. All of the other shooters had done this many times before. I should consider all of them excellent shots, but it was difficult to measure their performance statistically. The last day, when the shooting was considerably slower than usual, I decided I would keep a record of my kill. That day I shot at 40 birds and killed 20, but in several cases I got the bird on the second shot, after a miss with my first barrel, and since I was consciously keeping track, I may have been unconsciously more selective in my shots than usual.
On that first day, when eight men shot 830 birds—the best day of the week—I suspect there was considerably more shooting than two shots per bird killed. I regret that I did not find out how many shells were fired. During the week we made a total kill of 2,376 in the six days. Did we use up three times that many cartridges? I would suspect we did.
It is difficult for a hunter from the States, brought up under rigid U.S. shooting restrictions, to understand that in Europe a different set of conditions prevails. In Europe the birds belong to the landowner. He is not ruled by governmental laws and restrictions. The owner of an estate, where such shooting as I have described exists, himself sets the rules and is his own conservationist. He protects the birds and often raises them for the pleasure of shooting and on the side considers it something of a commercial venture as well.
The birds that are killed on his land by his guests belong to him, and he ships them off to market and sells them as a product of his farm, just as he does other crops.
This was the first big pheasant shoot of the season on the Stirling place, and its purpose, aside from giving pleasure, was to harvest just as many birds as possible. Colonel Stirling told us that he hoped to have 2,000 pheasants killed after our week's shooting—we missed his goal by 12 birds, having shot 1,988 pheasants in six days. Most of these birds were sent to market, fish and game being a significant part of the food supply in the British Isles.
Knowing these things quickly converted me from a hidebound conservationist to a benevolent and happy harvester of game. And never did a harvest hand enjoy his labors more!
After tea, I went to my room, soaked in a hot tub almost as big as a swimming pool in a Phoenix subdivision, went to bed and slept an hour, then got up to dress for dinner. I found my dinner jacket, dress shirt, cummerbund, socks, shirt studs, etc. all neatly laid out by the quiet and efficient servant. I donned them with smug satisfaction and a mental note to speak to "my man" about this superb service and—after some wandering through endless halls and reception rooms—found the living room, where cocktails were being served.
The cocktail hour was a brief one—time for a leisurely martini or two hurried ones—and then in to dinner. The table was beautifully decorated with silver and fine china, lighted only by candles and the leaping flames of the fireplace. Afterward, I learned that each night the service was changed, even to the silver on the sideboards at the sides and ends of the room. The collection of silver and china, I suppose, was the accumulation of many generations of discriminating people, and it was a delight to the eye of a connoisseur.
A souffl�, beef, potatoes and cauliflower, fruit, cheese and four wines, with coffee and brandy or port and cigars, comprised the meal served by three well-trained men.
After dinner, ping-pong was played in the living room and bridge in the card room, Bryan and I took on Lord Chandos and Frank Denton. (We played two evenings and ended up winning 1� sterling—due more to luck than our skill.)