Well this is a first! An actual blog, never thought it would come to this but it’s a good way to get information to people and for you to see what actually happens behind the scenes and how we got here.
My Husband Stuart and I took on the lease of a 1500 acre shoot in the glorious Scottish Border this summer when the previous tenant (who Stuart was the Keeper for), pulled the plug. Not to go into all the details, but we couldn’t see all the hard that we had put into the shoot the previous season go to waste, but what an almighty risk!
Personally I have not received any payment since March, my own shooting school was closed during the first lockdown and now I can now only do a small amount of professional 121 lessons from a safe distance. More refunds going out of that business than income.
We receive no furlough, no Government assistance at all, we do not qualify for anything. Any income from game shoot days goes back into feed and fuel & the trucks maintenance and upkeep, I suppose we will know where we stand in Feb once we’ve done the calculations, but we will not give up! We can live like Kings on game and venison….!
I am really proud of ourselves, especially Stuart for his achievements to date. The shoot days are pretty spectacular and the drives and birds are a sight to behold! We have added Gun Dog Training days & Field Trials Training on live game, as our ground is absolutely perfect for this and it has been a real success so far. I still wake up at 3.00 am with a head full of worry, but that’s just me. Then shoot day arrives and I don my Tweed and host my clients and take a lot of pleasure in their enjoyment!
It’s not all glamour and Tweed though, I am covered in mud from head to toe, feeding birds, pegging out drives, trying to sell shoot days in dwindling Scottish tiers, rescheduling days, stressing out in between, turning away bookings from out of area clients, keeping on top of the COVID risk assessment, sorting all the admin, answering texts and emails from clients worried about their deposits, keeping on top of social media and the website. You just have to get on with it.
COVID has had a massive impact on all of us, but our small business will need to hang on by the skin of it’s teeth if we are to survive, as we do not have much time left in which to reschedule all the postponed shoot days.
I am not sure if people actually understand that we do not put their deposits in our pocket, it goes back into feed and fuel, ammunition, our time (NOT 9-5, pest control is out of hours most time), maintenance of trucks and quad bike, insurance – we do not take a salary! If their day is cancelled that just means no final payment to us which might give 2 people a tiny return for many months work. The birds still need to eat until they are able to be shot, that’s just the way of things in this industry.
The shot game is another issue, the game dealer has fewer outlets and therefore doesn’t really want to take very much. So I have been encouraging our Guns to take as much of the game as possible, if they want to shoot and continue their sport they have as much responsibility as we do to help use up the game. Thankfully most of our Guns understand this and take plenty of the bag. I do ask them a week or 2 prior to their shoot to inform friends and family to make preparation to take some of the game and give them assistance on prepping it.
In October we hosted a Ladies day and they took the whole bag between them!
So tomorrow we have a shoot day and I am sanitising and charging the radios, sorting out my shoot brief, making sure my truck is loaded, dealing with last minute requests from the Guns, organising my deer stalking kit for later on today (squeezing in a bit of deer control), making the lunch for tomorrow and writing this blog!
Finally, I wanted to say if anyone is feeling the pressure of this year, of this awful virus, of things they just can’t control, please reach out. I am here to talk to and sometimes that’s all that is needed, a friendly voice and someone to listen.
Just. Be. Kind.