Real-Deal Driven Shooting

In the States, the term “driven shoot” is used a bit loosely—often describing any type of shoot in which participants (aka “Guns”) take fixed positions at “pegs” and shoot birds approaching overhead. As a result, certain activities that do not actually involve driving game—such as tower shoots and Continental shoots—are erroneously referred to as driven shoots. In a true driven shoot, a gamekeeper—one often boasting professional credentials—orchestrates a team of beaters to walk abreast and flush free-range birds (typically pheasants) over a line of Guns. This feat requires knowledge of how the birds will negotiate their habitat as well as the skill to position Guns so that they will be afforded challenging shots at the escaping birds. The resulting experience is quite different from a tower or Continental shoot, in which birds are liberated from a station surrounded by a circle or semicircle of Guns. Continental shoots certainly can provide fun shooting, but true driven shoots generally are considered more desirable, mainly because the birds fly higher and faster and the drives move about to different locations. In addition, driven shoots provide an experience that closely replicates a form of shooting that was perfected in England several centuries ago.

While driven shoots are common in the UK and various European countries, there are only a few true driven opportunities in the US. One of the best is at south-central Virginia’s Primland resort, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There, a combination of hilly terrain and woodlands allows for high pheasants to be presented over the Guns. The standard shoot is a 300-bird day for approximately eight Guns and involves a full team of beaters; loaders for those Guns who want them; and “pickers-up,” who together with dogs retrieve downed game. Also included are the traditions and pageantry one would experience in the UK, such as the drawing of pegs and elevenses (a late-morning break between drives for refreshments). This, coupled with the fact that many guests opt for traditional attire, results in an experience that very closely resembles an English shoot. Testament to the legitimacy of Primland’s offerings is that British gunmakers like Holland & Holland and James Purdey & Sons regularly host driven days there.

Being a full-fledged luxury resort, Primland can arrange lodging and meal packages that can be paired with not only driven shooting but also Continental shooting and walk-up hunting over dogs. Clay-target shooting and golf on an award-winning course are on offer as well.

Reasons for participating in a driven shoot at Primland can be varied. For some the activity is the ultimate warm-up for shooting abroad. For others it is a great way to experience a traditional shoot without having to leave the country. And still others need no reason other than the belief that shooting high-flying pheasants is about the most fun that can be had with a shotgun.

Primland is a Shooting Sportsman Endorsed Lodge. To learn more, visit Primland.

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