To ensure you have all the gear and some idea, look no further than Nick Hammond’s wish list.
At first glance, a cape may appear a slightly strange sartorial choice for a determined gun, but when the heavens open, you won’t just look like a superhero, you’ll feel like one, too.
‘Buy yourself a Purdey cape,’ advises James Horne, chairman of the famous English gunmaker. ‘It will keep you dry, which can’t be underestimated. With outerwear, I’ve learnt the more you spend, generally the better it is.’
This wide-belted Shooter jacket from Cordings and Grenfell (named after medical missionary Sir Wilfred Grenfell) is stylish in the extreme. Based on a classic design from the 1940s, it’s made from a densely woven cotton-gabardine mix. Although it will withstand the worst winter can throw at it, as Cordings co-owner Eric Clapton succinctly says: ‘It’s perfect for an early-season day on the moor.’
You can have as much fancy gear as you like, but it won’t make a jot of difference to your shooting unless you have the right materials ‘at the sharp end’.
‘What are you going to shoot?’ enquires Robert Everitt, business development manager at Hull Cartridge. ‘A partridge in Norfolk is very different to one in the West Country. I’m really enjoying using a 65mm Imperial Game 28gram No.4, which is light to shoot and can be used in fine English guns.’
The cartridge bag
All guns will recognise the ecstasy of fumbling that occurs in your pocket as birds sail overhead. This ingenious contraption from William Powell may look like something the bus conductor left behind, but, in fact, it’ll speed up your loading, and therefore your shooting, to an extent you won’t believe.
‘Good shooting equipment should not be purely conceived by designers,’ maintains Mark Osborne of William Powell. ‘It needs to be really practical—and that means you have to know how it’ll be used in the field.’
Don’t forget headgear. Whether you’re a wide brimmed, feather-in-the-band sort of gun or you put your trust in a classic deerstalker, headwear is a must for all shooting. A good old-fashioned flat cap such as this attractive tweed Musto Technical Tweed will keep you surprisingly warm, shield your face from wary game and protect your eyes from whippy twigs and thorny branches, as you clamber through hedge or woodland. It’ll also keep a surprising amount of the weather off, too.
The Wellington boots
This pair of neoprene-lined Wellingtons, available from William Evans, zips completely down the back, is fully waterproof and, once worn in, is the ultimate in welly comfort.
‘I shoot in some pretty wild and remote locations, so my footwear has to be up to the job,’ says GB shooter and game Gun Rachel Carrie. ‘My Arxus pair was really put through its paces last season, including torrential rain and mud at Whitfield in Northumberland and 4ft of snow at Rievaulx in North Yorkshire. In all conditions, my feet stayed warm and dry all day.’
Shooting socks are your friend. A decent pair won’t bunch up in the bottom of your boot (is there anything more annoying?) and they’ll do almost as much as your hat to keep you warm and dry. They’re also a good excuse for extravagance. These handmade beauties from Oliver Brown are certainly flamboyant, but are eminently practical, too. Just keep an eye on them when they’re not in use; good welly socks seem to spread through the family like wildfire.
The shoot box
If you’ve got all the gear, it might be time to spoil yourself with a shoot box from Blackwood and Locke. Custom-made for both the boot of your vehicle and your needs, these beautiful pieces of furniture come in a range of hardwood and leather luxury finishes.
‘No two boxes are ever the same,’ declares Philip Moorsom of the Cotswolds-based company. ‘We’ve made drawers for silver-plate Champagne flutes, tot cups, bottles of Bollinger and bottles of brandy. The top drawer often holds a large bespoke foam cutout to secure guns safely and the drawers are removable, so we can build picnic sets to replace gun drawers for use outside the season.’
The crème de la crème of gunslips, the Croots Waxed Bridle from Farlows is vegetable-tanned and hand-cured using a blend of fats, oils and waxes to feed the leather. It will age gracefully alongside you, each season adding new creases and layers of lustrous sheen.
There’s nothing quite like an English gun as a celebration of craftsmanship moulded around your distinct measurements. The Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe, available as a side-by-side and an over-and-under, is no exception – it’s truly a work of art.
If you spend the £100,000 necessary to own one in either 12, 20 or 28 bore, you’ll spend as long gazing at the exquisite engraving of gamebirds as you will at the swirl and patina of the polished walnut. This is the one sporting purchase that your great-grandchildren will thank you for in seasons to come; as well as being a pleasure to shoot with, it will become a treasured family heirloom.
In pursuit of a truly mixed bag, Adrian Dangar goes rough shooting in Co Durham.
'You can tell a Purdey person when out shooting - they’re understated, not flash'