When American shooters think of driven pheasant shooting, our imaginations instantly take us to England, Scotland or some other region where the exercise of pushing birds over a line of Guns has been practiced for hundreds of years. Our mind’s eye conjures images of fancy estates, gamekeepers and tweed clothing. Such musings also frequently raise the question about whether such shooting can be experienced in the States.
The answer is yes—although to varying degrees of quality. The fact is that Continental-style shoots are not uncommon in the US, but true driven shooting as it is orchestrated in the UK is a much rarer commodity. Actually, there are precious few driven shoots in the US, with one of the most popular offered at Primland, in Virginia. So how do driven days at this Smoky Mountains resort stack up against those of its UK counterparts? We get the answer from Ralph Morgan of Brooklyn, New York, who is a lifelong wingshooter, a Shooting Sportsman subscriber, a Trustee of the Game Conservancy USA and a highly experienced driven pheasant shooter.
What is your background shooting driven birds in the UK?
I went on my first driven shoot in England 20 years ago, fell in love with it and have gone back just about every year since. I don’t know the exact count, but I have shot somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 days in Devon, Wales, Cornwall, Sussex and a handful of other counties. Along the way I’ve had the opportunity to shoot some good “value” shoots as well as some of the top places like Chargot, Mulholland and the Bettws estates.
What is your history with Primland?
I had been curious about Primland for a while and decided to join a group that Holland & Holland was putting together in 2015. I was impressed with the experience and have been back four times in the last five years.
How closely does Primland simulate a true English driven pheasant shoot?
I would say 95%. Primland’s drives are set up like those of the overseas shoots. Primland uses the terrain and positions the Guns the same way as overseas, and the resort employs beaters, loaders and pickers-up (to retrieve shot birds) in the same manner as you would see in the UK. Primland’s gamekeeper, who runs the show, was trained in England, so he knows exactly what to do. If you shot at Primland before going to the UK, you would already know how everything works when you showed up for your overseas shoot.
How do you rate the quality of the birds?
I think the birds at Primland are very good. There are places in the UK that focus on very high birds (over 40 yards), and there are a lot of really good places that show birds in the 30- to 40-yard range. Primland falls into the latter category, which is an excellent achievement for a shoot here in the States.
How does the cost compare to a good British shoot?
The price in the UK can vary dramatically depending on the estate. I would say that the price is slightly less than a comparable shoot in England. Also, the cost to travel to Virginia is obviously less than flying to the UK. More convenient too.
How would you rate the accommodations and amenities at Primland?
Primland is actually a five-star resort, so the rooms and food are excellent. They also have a great clay-shooting facility where guests can shoot sporting clays and simulated driven targets. I have been fortunate enough to have stayed at some of America’s foremost upscale wingshooting lodges, and Primland is one of the best in my opinion.
How would you sum up your analysis of Primland?
I love shooting in the UK and will continue to go back annually, but I appreciate the rare opportunity to shoot real driven domestically, which means I will be doing more at Primland. I also like to shoot walk-up birds, and Primland has excellent walk-up shooting, too; so that’s actually another incentive for me to return.
Photos courtesy of Primland Resort.