It was a still, soft October morning. I was feeding my pheasants and enjoying every minute of it, because there were lots of birds on show and already they looked more or less ready for sport. There was still over a fortnight to go before the first shoot.
Slowly I walked from ride to ride. There were pheasants on all of them, the trees were glowing yellow and gold, robins were singing their sad autumn song and, whenever the gentle breeze roused itself for a minute or two, it brought the soft thud of crab apples and acorns on to the fallen leaves.
It was lovely and peaceful and, in my contentment, my thoughts turned by way of contrast — partly prompted by a conversation with the Editor — to a time in my life when feeding pheasants on a still, soft October morning more often than not found me in tears.
I couldn’t understand why I had released birds when the thought of shooting them brought only pain. Because I knew that if I did force myself to go shooting, my experience of a High Park day would be an agonising mockery of what a High Park day used to be.
For three years my guns and fishing rods went virtually untouched, though the sight of my cabinet and rod cases frequently produced a yearning that they would once again play a central part in a rich and happy life.
I think I knew that, if I was ever to recover from the crippling depression that had so unexpectedly overwhelmed me, fishing and shooting would somehow be at the heart of the healing process. And so indeed it proved.
Depression is a terrible affliction. The stricken shooter, moreover, is faced with a particular problem and fear. The problem is what to do with his guns. The fear is that his condition might lead to a permanent disqualification from the sport.
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