If there is anything you should know by now about Judith O’Keefe, it is that she is always up for a new experience, regardless of how foreign it may be to her. Now join her on the front lines of her visit to the Highland Hills Ranch in Condon, OR for a traditional driven shoot.
Steeped in tradition and history, some claim that driven game shooting is an unrivalled sport. Originating in the United Kingdom, the driven shoot is a mecca for sportsman looking for the next great challenge.
In Scotland, you might find yourself standing on a gun peg where it is possible a king or his noblemen may have stood long ago, gamekeepers, dressed in fine estate tweeds, many the same pattern going back generations. It is not an uncommon sight to see the brave wearing kilts in the Scottish winter.
You don’t need to travel to Scotland to experience a traditional British driven shoot. On a bright and chilly January morning I set out, camera in hand, to photograph a shoot. Highland Hills Ranch, located eight miles east Condon, Oregon is as close to Scotland as you’re going to get here in the continental US.
The proceedings were formal, as world-renowned and British born wingshooting instructor, Chris Batha, served as the gamekeeper. The job of the gamekeeper is to oversee proceedings with a good deal of emphasis on safety. Seven traditionally dressed guests stood behind their pegs, or shooting stations, and waited for the first flush to appear overhead. Customarily, “beaters” are employed to walk through woods and over moors or fields. At Highland Hills, “beaters” drove the birds off of over hanging cliffs. The birds flew high and fast and it was immediately clear that this is not a sport for the faint of heart, or those with less than excellent shooting skills. The pheasants dropped by the dozens from a clear, blue sky and “pickers-up” with dogs were at hand to make sure all shot or wounded birds were collected.
The Highland traditions were found from the field to lodge, with a Scottish piper performing through the afternoon shoot. Guests enjoyed chef-prepared gourmet meals, but were also encouraged to sample a traditional meal of haggis, tatties and neeps. Highland Hills Ranch is, according to Mr. Batha, “the perfect place in North America to host these events.”
Stay tuned for Part 2: The Story Gets Personal. I will observe and record, as best I can, the story unfolding in front of my eyes.