Shooting socks and a shoot day with a difference!

The Brief –  A shoot day with a difference – no shooting!. I’ve been asked to organise plenty of game shooting days but never a photo shoot. It would have been great if the assignment was for a saucy country calendar, but alas it was to promote a new range of country, fashion and shooting socks. It turned out to be great fun!

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The company in question is the House of Cheviot which is owned by good friends of mine and is based in Hawick in the Scottish Borders. They specialise in designing and manufacturing the highest quality shooting and kilt socks which are retailed by many famous brands. They recently decided to set up an a-commerce side to their business with a new in-house range and so were looking for a good portfolio of photographs to use for promotional purposes. Somehow this is where I came in! Most of the photographs were to be country/shooting orientated with the emphasis on an informal, aspirational look. There was also to be a “fashion” type shoot in Edinburgh for a completely new range of socks.

Never one to shirk a challenge, I set about organising a cast, crew and photographer. I came up with a shortlist of three photographers and the company chose Jonathan McGee – one of the best sporting photographers in the industry. Not used to hanging around with professional models, sourcing this was a bit harder but a Facebook request found me Georgia Annable, a young up and coming model. The rest of the cast were amateur friends and fellow shots. The venue chosen was the lovely Kames estate near Coldstream thanks to owner Dermot Jenkinson and Head Keeper Paul Clayworth.

Cast Robin Georgia
With the cast, crew and venue sorted the only thing that was needed was some great weather and luckily we got it! On the first morning of the photo shoot we headed off to Edinburgh to find some iconic backdrops to show off HOC’s new range of fashion socks. We got a few funny looks as Georgia changed socks and outfits with Jonathan “clicking” away merrily! Starting at Prince’s street with Edinburgh Castle in the background, we then moved on to the famous Grassmarket area and finally on to Fountainbridge.

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We finished up in Edinburgh just after lunch and headed down to the Borders, trying not to break too many speed limits, so that we could do the next leg of the shoot before we lost the light. Crossing the border into England, we arrived at Tillmouth Park House hotel with plenty of time to spare and this part of the photo shoot was designed to show off the shooting socks in a slightly more formal setting that might take place at the start or end of a shoot day. The setting was perfect!

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Day 2 was to be a shoot day with a difference. The cast and crew met at the Kames Estate bothy and we all brought along a selection of tweed, shooting wear and accessories – it would have made for a pretty good car boot sale! With a huge range of socks to choose from,we soon looked the part.

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It was then off to the first “drive” and we lined out on a stubble field in glorious sunshine. Paul, the keeper remarked that it all felt a bit strange – the guns were facing the opposite way to how they would on a real day and there were no birds to worry about – he was pretty chilled! Next was “elevenses” with sloe gin and home made brownies! Jonathan took some great shots and although it was completely staged, the end results look pretty good.

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All in all we had a great couple of days and Jonathan’s photos really show off the beautiful range of socks that Robin has created. I haven’t shown any close up shots of these socks as the new website isn’t online yet but I’ll put some on as soon as it goes live…….

Grouse Shooting with Tasmanian Devils

It’s not often that you get to go grouse shooting with Tasmanian Devils,  but that’s what happened a couple of weeks ago. I had been booked by another shooting agent ( I can’t name him of course – Charlie you know it’s you!), to look after a couple of clients over from Tasmania for there first ever grouse shooting experience. Guns and cartridges were supplied by Castle Gunmakers and I was to be their guide. On the first day we headed off to Bisley at Braidwood to sharpen up on some clays in the grouse butt. Although the guys had lots of shooting experience walking up over pointers in Australia, simulated grouse shooting on low driven targets was a whole new ball game! They soon caught on. After a quick briefing on the etiquette of the day we were ready for the real thing.

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Day 2 was to be 30 brace driven grouse with 8 guns. Charlie was generous to let me invite two guests and good friends Darren and Paul didn’t take much persuading! However when first asked, Paul said – “do you need me to pick up?” He was glad he brought his gun! Charlie and I stood alternate drives with Wayne and David, our Tasmanian Devils, and they soon got into the swing of things, both bagging grouse in the first couple of drives. There were smiles all round at “elevenses” with Paul admitting he had never shot grouse before. The weather was fabulous as was the company and it was a memorable day for all those involved. We achieved 26 brace which was pretty good for such an inexperienced team.

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Our final day was walked up grouse shooting over pointers. Wayne was really looking forward to seeing the dogs work and he was not disappointed. Despite the hot weather, the abundance of grouse this year meant the first dog was soon on point and the guys walked in just in time to get a shot and one bird fell! We criss-crossed the moor for a couple of hours and the guns got to lunch with a couple of brace each. The hot weather meant that the dogs were only worked for an hour after lunch leaving the guys with some true walked up grouse shooting to finish the day.

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What a fantastic 3 days! Simulated driven grouse, actual driven grouse and walked up grouse. Wayne and David had been looking forward to this trip for many years and they weren’t disappointed. They were true sportsmen and appreciative of all aspects of the shoot management and the value of grouse shooting to Scotland. Hopefully they may be back again.

From game fair season to Scottish game shooting season

Game fair season

This year is really flying by quickly and no sooner was the game fair season over than the Scottish game shooting season began. Not long after exhibiting at the West Country Game Fair, we headed off to attend our first Badminton Horse Trials for a joint Exclusively Scottish/Castle Gunmakers stand. Although not a shooting show, Badminton is a Mecca for country and town folk alike and we took a wide variety of products – from guns to socks and throws. The weather was indifferent which saw attendance down and unfortunately sales as well! However we had a great time, aided by volunteer salesman Darren Hawkins.

Bespoke, new and used shotguns on display  Luxury tweed fieldsports products to buy  Preparing for the Scottish game shooting season at the Badminton game fair
After Badminton our next stop was the CLA Game Fair at Blenheim Palace, where we once again shared space on the Lairds Sporting Directory stand. The weather was good and we had a successful show selling guns and Scottish products as well as talking to lots of people wanting to come shooting in the Scottish Borders – some booked, some didn’t! Thanks to eveyone who came on the stand for a chat.

Great choice of stalls at the Badminton game fair  The Exclusively Scottish/Castle Gunmakers stall   Overnight accommodation at the game fair

The Scottish game shooting season

With our game fair season over it was straight into the game shooting season in the Scottish Borders and The Glorious Twelfth came round pretty quickly. A local estate were having a small driven grouse day and the owner asked me if I would help load for a good friend of his. And so it was that I met John and his wife Janice who were over from New Zealand. After being a keen shooter all his life, John had a brain haemorrage 16 years ago which left him partially paralysed on his right side. Encouraged by his friends to carry on shooting, he has taught himself to shoot using his left arm only and continues to be a passionate game shooter. Once the grouse started coming, he soon got into them and finished with a couple of brace – more than many can do using both hands! It was a great pleasure to be with John and Janice on the grouse moor in the Borders and I look forward to seeing them in the future.

Driven grouse day on the moor  Janice and John - shooters from the USA  Enjoying the Scottish game shooting season

The following week saw our first client of the year – Sean Hastings from the USA. Sean was attending a conference in Glasgow and his father told him not to miss the opportunity to experience some walked up grouse shooting in the Scottish Borders. We fixed Sean up with a couple of other shooters new to walked up grouse and he headed out onto the moor with a nice little Spanish 20 bore side by side supplied by Castle Gunmakers. The first bird got up and he fired a single shot but missed….a second bird got up and he fired a single shot but missed! The keeper yelled ‘use both barrels!’. Then a brace got up and he fired both barrels and got a ‘right and left’ – the keeper kept quiet! Sean finished up with two and a half brace, a morning well spent.

Walked up grouse shooting in the moors  Sean with his grouse and the hills in the background  Relaxing during the walked up grouse shooting
And so with the Scottish game shooting season in full swing, clients are coming to the Scottish Borders thick and fast. Next were a couple from Tasmania and a couple from Switzerland – I’ll tell you about them next time!