The sight of chirruping English partridges breaking over a hedgerow in a howling gale is a rare sight. I count myself extremely lucky to have witnessed it more than once. The grey — or English — partridge is one of the most testing and beautiful game quarries to engage.
The grey partridge is native, making it inarguably British. So you feel strangely proud as the birds emerge in their coveys towards you with bewildering speed and agility. They used to outnumber the red-legged (or French) partridge due to the combination of land enclosure, increased cultivation and intensive predator control in the 18th and, especially, the 19th century. These farming conditions boosted its numbers considerably and it became the most popular sporting quarry of the past century.
I was cleaning a dusty shelf in March when I came upon an old book at the back. It was entitled Partridge Driving by Charles Alington and was published in 1904. I was immediately fascinated; chapter one begins: “No bird has advanced so much in general favour during the last 10 years as the partridge. This is due, in a great measure, to the popularity of driving, a form of sport which is being more widely adopted every year.”
The bag records show that the largest numbers of grey partridges were shot between 1870 and 1930, during which period around two million birds were killed annually. The same records indicate that, after World War II, the numbers plummeted by 80% in 40 years. This was due to farming alterations, removal of hedgerows, reduction in gamekeeper jobs and other factors.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Anyone Fancy Coney Carbonara?
Cooking rabbit well can be a real challenge but with some expert advice our aspiring chef reckons he’s cracked it
How To Make Sure The Gunline Is In The Right Place
Liam Bell offers some guidance on how to make sure the gunline is in the right place
Wild greys need the ‘three-legged stool'
Successful reintroduction of our native partridge is complex and there are several things we can do to give it the best possible chance
Just another bloke on the Gun bus
George Browne crunches the numbers as he tries to build up a realistic pen portrait of the ‘ordinary shooting person’
There are some beasts that you simply cannot walk past and a redletter day on the hill with a former mentor ends with a perfect stalk
The ‘grey grouse' is a very fine pretender
Opportunities to take on the king of the gamebirds are few and far between, but the humble pigeon is a worthy stand-in for Blue Zulu
Find a fungi for that bunny
Rabbit, brown trout or venison pair beautifully with four of our tasty native mushrooms; John Wright simply has to pick the perfect wine
Terrierists at large
It would be almost unthinkable to go anywhere without the dogs but travelling with them is often a bit of a nightmare, says Petrel
Nippon out to bag a monster
The Ukrainian forests contain a subspecies of sika much bigger than our own — but they can be very hard to find, says Thomas Nissen
Scottish gamekeepers oppose ban on lead
The SGA remains unconvinced by the evidence when it comes to how humane and safe non-toxic loads are for wildlife management
Guns line a track that winds through a steep valley and birds zip over the contours presenting spectacular driven and crossing shots Bereleigh Estate East Hampshire
A passion for fieldsports has inspired the Tyrwhitt-Drakes to create a top-quality shoot at their home near Petersfield, with conservation and bonhomie very much to the fore
A wealth of considered elements are the hallmark of the reinvention of this heritage house into a haven of contemporary living for a young family.
MAKE IT yourself
Check out the latest workshops, books and making must-haves
Manors fit for an Englishman
Restoring our grey partridges and the farmland ecology they depend on reaps conservation rewards far beyond just a shootable surplus of the gamebird, as work on four pioneering partridge manors proves