Such is the height of the birds on the drives at Molland the bag is well earned.
Tuesday, 12 June 2007
Molland is synonymous with high bird shooting in Devon. Bettws Hall's shooting manager, Will Criddle, explains how Molland is run and what plans they have for the future.
Who are the people behind the scenes at Molland?
The estate is owned by Mrs Throckmorton and the shooting is let by Bettws Hall, who also have five shoots in Wales, including Kempton and Brigands. Gwyn Evans is the owner of Bettws Hall and I am the shooting manager for the company. The shoot manager at Molland is Caleb Sutton and the gamekeepers are Neil Willison, Robert Luxton, Paul McCarthy and Tomos Bennett.
How did Bettws Hall come to be involved?
A good friend and shooting guests mentioned to Gwyn Evans the Molland shoot would soon become available and the owners were looking for a reputable person/company to lease the shooting rights for the 2005 season and onwards.
We met the owners, looked over the ground and were convinced it could be a fantastic, world-class shoot and one which would complement our existing portfolio of mid Wales' shoots admirably.
What size is the whole shoot?
The estate is about 5,000 acres in all and the vast majority of it is used. There are so many valleys on the estate the number of drives seem endless. However, the estate is essentially split in half, forming two beats: Molland and West Molland. In addition to the woods, gorse banks and valleys, approximately 200 acres of cover crops are used between the two shoots.
Where do visiting guns usually come from and what is the average bag?
In the past the vast majority of Molland's guests were from America. However, as shoot sales are now arranged 'in-house' the shoot has been exposed to many more UK guests who are taking an increasing number of days each year. We do still organise many trips for foreign guests and many will shoot with us in mid Wales for three or four days and then travel to Devon for a further two at Molland.
These work brilliantly and have proved very popular in the recent years, this year is no exception! We usually run days with anticipated bags of approximately 400 birds.
How many different drives do you have at your disposal and how many days' shooting do you provide?
There are approximately 35 drives at Molland which we use on a regular basis. In the past there were more, however we are very conscious of quality and therefore only use the best of the best on a day's shooting. We aim to show all our guests very high and testing birds, which they will all remember throughout the season. Hopefully everyone will have one or two 'bath birds' (the real corkers you will remember for years to come). We usually shoot about four days per week throughout the season.
Which different cover crops do you use?
From our experience with game crops on our mid Wales' shoots and, Caleb Sutton's experience of the Molland estate, we have found that maize and kale are the best crops to use. The maize is ideal for flushing and feed while the kale holds birds steady throughout the course of a drive. We have experimented with other crops and still do in an attempt to find the ultimate game bird crop. However, for the time being maize and kale are king of the crop.
What, would you say, is the extreme range of bird you present and what cartridge to kill ratio would you expect a good team of guns to achieve?
With a keen eye, they should tumble out of the sky on a regular 6:1 cartridge to kill ratio.
What is your recommended load in a 12 bore and what are your thoughts on smaller bores?
While many guests shoot at Molland with 12 bore over-unders with 32 inch barrels, choked full and full using 34 gram No.4 cartridges, there are others who prefer a side-by-side using a 32 gram No.5. Both groups seem to perform well but, above all, the good shots know the capabilities of their guns and cartridges and do not chop and change between days or even between drives. However, I think a 32 gram No.5 should be the favoured choice for pheasant and perhaps a 30 gram No.5 for partridges.
Is there a showcase drive?
Some of the true jaw droppers would be West Molland Wood, Gourt, Folley, Barn, Pullery, Good Evans, Inkwell and South Down. On these drives even the very best guns are seriously challenged.
What are the plans for the future?
We are always looking to improve the shooting on the estate, ensuring that when guests return on an annual basis they will not be disappointed. Therefore pens are altered, crops are adjusted, woods are thinned and the estate accessibility improved continually.
In addition to the shooting there are also the lodges. A day would not be complete without the trimmings such as a great lunch in a fantastic lodge and nibbles throughout the day to keep the team going. We are therefore also improving the lodges to ensure they are as good as the shooting.
For further information contact Will Criddle, telephone 01686 650 628 or visit the website www.bettwshall.com
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