Sunday, 31 July 2011
Why is the Shooting Media so obsessed with the Top End?
I've just got around to reading the August edition of The Field. Any shooting publication that isn't being deliberately obscurest is likely to feature grouse rather prominently at this time of the year. I don't have a problem with that. I love eating grouse and I'm normally lucky enough to get a few during the season. I'd dearly love to shoot grouse, but I've resigned myself to the fact I'm too poor and poorly connected to ever get the chance.
Grouse shooting is rather "Top End" The elite face of shooting; difficult, cripplingly expensive and dare I say it, rather cliquey. Rather more Top End than most driven pheasant and definitely more Top End than Wildfowling or pigeon shooting. Krug as opposed to Cava.
But it isn't the obvious emphasis on the upcoming 12th that caused me to stop reading the current edition of The Field; it was the sheer lack of balance.
Shooting is a broad church but it seems that our shooting magazines are rather obsessed with the elite aspects of our sport. You only have to cast your eye over the contents to realise that ferrets aren't going to feature in any great prominence. Buffalo shooting in Africa, Which is the best Yacht, Shooting patridge on the Duke of Norfolk's Estate. Hang on what's this, an article on vermin control..... oh no it's luxury ratting with champagne.
I am trying to imagine what impression an outsider to shooting would get if they picked up a copy of the current issue of The Field – probably an unhealthy reinforcement of every stereotype associated with field sports. Braying hoorays, toffs, elitist snobs and segregated luxury. But I have to say what really did it for me is the piece on Tarquin Millington-Drake (no I am not making this up!) a self confessed salmon fishing addict, shown in all his glory across a page and half spread with a rather magnificent 39lb salmon. I'm sure Mr Millington-Drake is a delightful man, kind to his mother and generous to a fault; but please...........Tarquin??? Don't we have anyone out there called David who is addicted to salmon fishing?
Is there any point in publishing a list of the top 100 shots in the UK? Who the hell decides who goes on the list? Obviously if you are George Digweed your provenance is beyond doubt. But what about the rest? How do you quantitatively decide who is a better driven shot between Mike Yardley and James Percy? And more to the point, what bloody purpose is served by publishing a list, apart from massaging the already inflated egos of the Top End.
As we are constantly reminded, shooting is under siege from those who'd rather we didn't do it. Reinforcing widely held stereotypes, be they right or wrong, cannot be doing us any favours.
I for one will be holding off buying The Field and Shooting Gazette for a while, in favour of a rather good monthly publication; Modern Gamekeeping. This is a down to earth, warts and all, magazine targeted at those involved in the shooting industry. Sense and practicality and not at all Top End.