alk about a dirty trick. I learned,
during a trip to Dublin two weeks ago, how hunters get birds to fly
over a field so they can shoot them.
It was during a clay pigeon shooting lesson at Luttrellstown
Castle, a gorgeous estate about 15 minutes outside Dublin.
Paddy, the castle's good-natured groundskeeper and shooting
instructor, explained how it works.
"You see we feed 'em here, in a cage," he said, pointing to the
field that spread out before us.
"We get 'em when they're young and it takes about two months for
them to be ready. Everyday we take them over there," he said,
pointing to woods to our right, "and they stay there in the woods
each day until it's time for feeding. We train them using a
whistle, which is a signal that it's time to eat, and they fly back
over the field to the cage."
So, on the day of the sporting event, the birds are sent to the
woods as usual, but what they don't know is that hunters with guns
are gathering in the field and some, or most, of the feathered
creatures won't make it back to the cage for their dinners when the
It sounded cruel to me but then, I am not a big fan of hunting
We were about to shoot pieces of clay, a much more humane form
of recreation, to be sure.
Along with me, as guests of Luttrellstown, was the editor of the
Chicago Sun Times, a travel writer from Toronto and a fellow trade
reporter from New York.
Paddy gave us ear protectors, showed us how to hold the gun, how
to slowly pull the trigger and where to position the barrel to have
the best chance at hitting the flying object.
I took three shots. Paddy said I was coming close. On the fourth
shot, I hit the target. (Not bad following a pint of Guinness.)
This was my first visit to Ireland and it was a memorable
While we were out on the castle grounds enjoying a fresh
snowfall, headlines in the Dublin newspapers screamed The Plague Is
Here, and Foot and Mouth Reaches the North, and Farmers Fear the
Worst, etc., as the dreaded hoof-and-mouth disease appeared to be
spreading quickly from England to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland
and to some points on the Continent.
Farms all over went into lockdown mode, the movement of animals
was halted, cattle and sheep markets were abandoned and many
thousands of pigs, sheep and lambs in Britain were being
slaughtered and then incinerated.
The St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin was canceled so as to
prevent farmers and others from inadvertently spreading the
disease, which can be transmitted on clothing and vehicles.
Nature trails, forests and zoos were closed.
The outbreak was the talk of Dublin, and there was a sense of
impending financial ruin as family farmers figured the value of
their herds and what their loss would mean to families and the
local and national economies.
But on the isolated and peaceful grounds of Luttrellstown Castle
all was quiet, except for the birds in the trees.
Donna Tunney is executive editor of Travel Weekly,
TWcrossroads and Travel Management Daily.