Fieldsports need not be expensive – indeed the best are sometimes the cheapest. We track down the best ten days available for under £100
Rabbit shooting over ferrets: £100
There are many ways to catch a rabbit, but ferreting them out of a warren is the most exciting. The anticipation grows every second the ferret is underground, your eyes flicking from one exit hole to the next, waiting for a flash of grey fur. Often, the warren is on the side of a steep hill, so the rabbits reach top speed before your reactions kick in. Don’t aim: just twitch the barrels in front.
It’s just £50 a morning with North East Shooting Breaks, but, in warm weather in open countryside, with canny ferreters and a good picnic, you’d gladly pay double for a whole day.
www.northeastshootingbreaks.co.uk; 01888 544424
No pack of foxhounds can match the music of beagles in full cry. Beagling mixes physical pleasure and adrenaline with access to some of the most beauti- ful, privately owned parts of Britain.
The Weardale and Tees Valley Beagles is a friendly pack, whose followers will, for a mere £5, show you the best of Co Durham’s moorland. If you want to test your fitness, try keeping pace with hunt staff up the steep-sided valleys.
www.hunting-directory.co.uk/ directory/Weardale-and-Tees- Valley-Beagles.htm
Roe-deer stalking: £80
Visiting Belgian trophy-hunters will pay many thousands for gold-medal roebucks, but they’re seldom interested in the bare-headed doe, which is a fraction of the price, yet more valuable from a conservation point of view, as controlling her numbers is vital for keeping on top of the deer population boom. She’s far less biddable, too, requiring every ounce of fieldcraft and patience, especially in thick cover where she can melt away in moments.
On the Hockham estate in the Thetford forest, Norfolk, watching the woods awake on a cold winter morning, with the promise of a hot porridge breakfast, it’s a trophy worth pursuing, especially at a cost of £80, plus £50 if you shoot a doe.
07894 833165; www.hockhamdmg.co.uk
Wild-brown-trout fishing: £15
Access to the country’s most famous trout rivers in Hampshire can cost upwards of £300 a day. However, the true wild trout is more difficult to catch and offers the ultimate challenge for many fishing enthusiasts. The fish are infinitely more beautiful than their stocked relatives.
In some parts of the Highlands, you can with the landowner’s permission fish brownies for free. England also boasts trout-rich rivers, such as the sublime Eden Valley in Cumbria, where a day pass to gin-clear water and pristine riverbanks costs just £15. With skill and good fortune, you’ll be able take home an exquisite fishy for your dishy.
www.penrithanglers.co.uk; 01768 88294
Wildfowling is inexpensive for a reason, as only a few hardy souls are prepared to brave the cold, distant foreshore in the slim hope of dropping a duck or goose for the pot, yet the sense of freedom is unparalleled. You’re a speck in the wilderness with just your dog for com- pany, a silent observer amid the mud and grey sea. It’s you against Nature, with the odds heavily weighted in her favour. Many of our greatest shots regard this as the ultimate challenge.
The wildfowling clubs are the best places to start, with the Humber Estuary boasting some of the best sport in Brit- ain. An annual subscription is £120 great value for a five-month season.
Muntjac stalking: £80
If a Highland stag is the prince (with a regal price tag to match), then the Reeves muntjac is the pauper. However, these plucky South Asian colonialists demand just as much fieldcraft and riflemanship as the Monarch of the Glen and they taste a lot sweeter. Devotees will tell you there’s no better meat on the barbecue.
A medal buck with handsome tusks will set you back plenty, but you can book an early morning’s stalk of a cull beast in Worcestershire for £80. See the best of the English countryside (muntjac haven’t made it to Scotland yet) and fill the freezer at the same time.
01527 892466; www.stalkright.co.uk
Pike fishing: £42
The pike has enjoyed an image make- over in recent years. Once cast as the villain of the lake, this big-mouthed slugger is now a regular on many a fly fisherman’s wish list. The power of its strike is more akin to sea fish than fresh- water and Wales is the top destination if you want to land a monster.
Llangorse Lake in the Brecon Beacons, where the fee of £42 covers the cost of boat hire and permit, has mythical status in pike circles, laying claim to the world record at 68lb, caught by O. Owen in 1846, although Llandegfedd near Pontypool holds the official British record: just shy of 47lb. Don’t expect them to come quietly. www.llangorselake.co.uk; 01874 658226
Rook flighting: £10
The wily carrion crow and his rook cousin have never had it so good. Sharp-sighted and quick-witted corvids take some coaxing into range, but the Honeycombe Shoot, on the Sherborne Castle estate in Dorset, has a novel solution, gathering 40 bandoliers every Saturday evening in the off-season. For just £10, each gun waits alone with a pocketful of cartridges on the woodland rides, as the rooks and jackdaws (pigeons are also fair game) ghost back over the trees to roost. Contact Mike Appleby, who runs the shoot, at email@example.com
Pigeon shooting: £60
Regarded by many as the grey grouse, you can spend a day shooting pigeons for less than the cost of a single driven grouse. Supreme fliers, they’re the fav- oured quarry of many of the nation’s finest guns and, as they’re a pest species, it’s always possible to find excellent shooting at reasonable prices, such as on the Morghew Park estate, near Tenterden in Kent. It’s better to hire an expert guide, however, who will have all the right gear and will know the local flight lines like the tufts on his dog’s ears.
Pigeons will test your accuracy and technique, but there’s every chance you could end up with a sack full of plump birds. The only downside is that, after this, you’ll think twice about paying £20 for a plate of ‘pan- fried breast of barley-fed woodpigeon’ in a fancy restaurant.
01580 766874; www.morghew.com