Howard Day weighs up the various sporting options for getting away from it all this summer.
Having had enough breathing space from the British shooting season to miss the sport, bookings are coming in at an alarming rate for the 2017-18 season. All it takes is a few glorious days of sun to get everyone thinking about simulated game days and sporting holidays (however short or long) abroad.
Trips can be chosen by destination or sport. To keep this article from veering into the encyclopaedic, I'm going to focus on bird shooting which offers plenty of scope. Once you add stalking to the menu, the world becomes your oyster. Just don’t use the term ‘stalking’ to describe deer hunting to Homeland Security officers when entering the USA. They only know one meaning for the word and announcing that you’ve come for a 'holiday of stalking' won’t be well received.
If what you’re after is to extend the British driven shooting season, then late season partridge in Spain would be the conventional choice and take you from February to April. Although it’s worth taking advantage of antipodean opposite seasons and considering some of the new driven pheasant shoots springing up in New Zealand.
Beyond the pheasant and partridge, Argentinian doves are probably the best known and most written about sport. Offering high volume shooting and a testing quarry, doves are on many bucket lists. What you might not know is ducks and francolin can be combined with doves. And if, like Mr. Clarkson, you’re avoiding Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia are less well travelled destinations for the same trio of quarry species.
South Africa, famous for its plains game, offers a diversity of winged quarry species. This means something winged is in season most days of the year (although June to August offers the best of winged sport). It might not have Argentina’s vast numbers of doves, but the diversity of quarry lures me back again and again. Combine it with a wildlife safari or some of the fabled plains game stalking to see a South Africa off the beaten path.
August is my season of migration as I flit between Scotland and the continent. At the start of August, Croatia draws in the enthusiasts of anything small, fast and migratory for quail over pointers and the last of the summer sun. Or it could be Bulgaria for the doves before heading back to the Highlands for grouse. If you’ve got itchy feet and the yen to explore sport abroad, get in touch with me at Outside Days and join my migration!
Travelling with a gun is surprisingly straightforward, but if you want to keep the baggage to a minimum, they can often be rented at your destination. What isn’t always so simple is getting the necessary items of clothing in far flung locales. I’m often accused of sloping off to Farlows, having left a bag half packed, to acquire one or two last minute essentials and coming back with more necessities.
There’s nothing that makes sport harder to enjoy than not having the right gear. Fortunately, much of the fishing-oriented attire is also perfect for shooting so long as you choose colours carefully. That vivid blue shirt that looked great on the bonefish flats doesn’t translate to the peanut fields of the Transvaal so for multipurpose it’s best to go drab.
Uncomfortable experience has taught me to check the temperatures at a destination carefully. August in Croatia can achieve safari temperatures that will have you fleeing to the coast for a refreshing dip, but early mornings are positively nippy. Layers are the clever sportsman’s friend and this is where the practicality of gilets, waistcoats and vests comes into its own (not to mention having spare pockets for cartridges, sunscreen, bug spray…
Once you’ve picked your destination and explored the ambient temperatures, vagaries of the weather and colour scheme of the local landscape, there’s no better place to get started picking out appropriate attire than the shooting and safari and travel sections of the Farlows website. Or even better pop into the Pall Mall store and let the team help you pick the perfect kit. Making them green with envy imagining the fun you’ll be having is an integral part to the build up for any trip.