DEPARTURES

I TOOK AN AMERICAN BILLIONAIRE ON A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME SHOOTING TRIP IN THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS

EDWARD WATSON

 

Within shooting circles there are usually all manner of fascinating characters, and during a recent shoot in Wiltshire I met someone very interesting indeed. I was working with a client on one of the best partridge shoots in England when he asked me to go and help a friend of his, a fellow a short distance away.

I went over and started talking to him. He was American and had some beautiful new Holland & Holland shotguns. We got talking about them and I asked him where he lived. When he said that he had just moved over to England, I said, ‘Oh God, you’re not one of those Yanks who comes over here and buys a football team and a castle are you?’ and he smiled and said, ‘I have both.’

Luckily, he was able to have a laugh about it, and we went on to have a great day’s shooting. At the end, when I was talking about various places I’d been, he said his 50th birthday was coming up and that he wanted to do something really special to celebrate. One of the things he wanted was to go shooting somewhere marvellous, and he asked me where I would suggest.

I thought for a moment and then said that to go to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and shoot partridges would be amazing, but I pointed out that the problem would be getting there – landing in Morocco with eight people and their guns would be an absolute nightmare. He looked at me and said, ‘Getting there won’t be a problem,’ and I said, ‘Ah, so you’ve probably got something decent at your disposal?’ and he smiled and said that he had.

It turned out to be a Gulfstream GV, a beautiful transatlantic jet which he, some of his good friends and I all boarded at Farnborough airport in Hampshire. Using a private airport makes such a difference on shooting trips, and getting onto the plane with the guns and up into the air was a breeze.

When we landed at Marrakesh things were a little more complicated, but within no time we were whisked through and on our way to the hotel – all within an hour of landing.

The shooting itself was incredible – we were up in the Atlas mountains, an hour out of the city and among 4,000ft peaks. I’d been working with a chap I know in Spain for six months to make sure that everything would be perfect. He’d been down there three or four months before putting the birds down on the mountain in a specific area so that they would be living there ready for the shoot. He’d done things in the traditional Spanish way, with beaters, loaders and secretarios (the people who count and pick up he birds) and it was all done wonderfully. A really nice touch was that there was a huge Moroccan tent put us for us, which served as a base.

The shooting is right up in the mountains where no one lives and there are no creature comforts, so the tent was a great place to greet the guests as they arrived in the morning and then have lunch later on. It was so strange to do something like that in a country where they don’t normally do it, and to be able to pull it off and with all the proper infrastructure was truly remarkable.

As we left after the 48-hour bonanza, the American said it was the most incredible shooting experience he’d had in his life. For me, too, it was one to cross off the bucket list. When it comes to shooting, I’ve done pretty much everything there is to do in England, Spain and a few other places, but I’ve never been to Morocco before and I’ve doubt I’ll ever get the chance to do a trip of this calibre ever again.

Next on my list? Canada. It’s one of the places that puts on worldclass shooting arguably at a standard that’s even better than at home, because they put in extra-special efforts to make sure people have an amazing time. I hear great things about two amazing English-style shoots out there with English gamekeepers and I’d love to see how they do it. All I need is another wealthy client in need of my services and we’re in business!

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