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The Field guide to the CLA Game Fair 2013 Ragley Hall. We guide you through the essential elements of the CLA Game Fair, whether it’s shopping for hats or trying something new.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Find a good watering-hole
Game Fairing is an extreme sport, and there comes a time when only a decent gin and tonic will fortify you for the rigours to come. The best watering-hole is the Salmon & Trout Association’s bar next to the casting lake. The catch is that it’s members only, but if you pop along and proclaim yourself a Field reader you’ll be able to join for 15 months for the price of 12. Individual membership is £40 and once you’ve signed up you can ship in the whole family, though only one spouse per member is allowed, which seems a little tough on Mormons.

Best-gun Dreams
There are many beauties we can handle here without a public gralloching from the loved one. Escape the hurly-burly of Gunmakers’ Row for the Holland & Holland pavilion where, surrounded by the work of artist Michelle McCullagh, you can gawp at the flowing lines of its Royal rifles and shotguns. For the other beauties in your life there’s a new collection of silk scarves and ties based on working gundogs. On the James Purdey & Sons’ stand craftsmen demonstrate their skills while Purdey owners are invited to register their guns prior to the firm’s bicentenary celebrations next year.

Measure up your bambi
Think you might have culled a medal head? The UK Trophy Commission (CIC) will be present on the British Deer Society stand. The official judging team will measure heads on all three days of the fair, with a CIC technical advisor using current CIC formulae. All trophies are welcome and, it should be noted, the judging team is able to assess trophies using the Rowland Ward method where this is requested. There will also be an exhibition of trophies formerly owned by JG Millais, author of British Deer and their Horns.

Hunt down a trout peg
No, it’s not for shooting fish but a tethering system designed by top fly-angler Peter Cockwill. The Gardner Tackle Trout Peg has four loops that slip through the despatched fishes’ gills and are attached by cord to a plastic peg that you heel into the bank. You can then carry on fishing, knowing your fish are chilling in the water, not cooking in the sun. Just watch out for otters.

Have a go at the clays
There are demonstrations and competitions at the clay lines each day. Taking your own gun can be a bore, but John Bidwell’s High Lodge Shooting School provides 12- and 20-bores or you might be able to “try before you buy” a piece you’ve spotted on Gunmakers’ Row. You won’t beat the pros but it’s fun – and you won’t have to clean the gun afterwards.

Admire tiny tweed confections
Not the best combo for bramble bashing but the minuscule-tweed-skirt-and-leather-boots look still provides one of the more cheering sights at the Game Fair. To see the spectacle at its finest, pop along to the Really Wild Clothing Company and Dubarry Boots stands, where gazelle-like ladies show you how to pull it off.

Buy your feathers, fur and silk
If your fly-tying skills still produce battered creations that look more Chernobyl than chalkstream, do not give up. Glide along to Fisherman’s Row and stock up on chicken capes and enough glittery stuff to give an Essex girl palpitations. It’s the only chance you’ll have to ask for a nice selection of Boobies without getting a slap round the chops.

Get a gun you don’t need
Well, that 32in-barrelled howitzer will be handy for the cock archangels next season, a camouflaged semi-auto useful on the Solway saltings, the hammergun perfect for black-powder invitations and a second gun good for grouse. Take your shotgun certificate and cash: bargaining is de rigueur.

Acquire a hat
From panama to partridge feathers, tam o’shanter to topper, hats are essential for all events during the season. And, with the vagaries of weather, no Game Fair is complete without an emergency hat purchase to relieve a pinking pate or protect the blow dry from the rain. If you’re a chap, try Olney tweed shooting caps. They look and wear like St James’s finest but are half the price.

Camo up the kids
Hunt down the army surplus stands for bargain kit, such as Norwegian mid layers (about a fiver), green jumpers and nets. As well as being top stops for dressing-up stuff (who hasn’t needed a pith helmet at some point?), you can bedeck the small people in shrubbery-like garments and lose them for the remainder of the day as they stalk imaginary Jerries.

Waggle a rod
Forests don’t just come to Dunsinane – they sprout at the Game Fair, too. Walk by the lake under a canopy of offerings, from beefy sea-rods capable of hurling half a squid across the Channel to incy-wincy wands that allow dace to fight like marlin. Chalkstream connoisseurs should head to Orvis, whose kit graces the Test and Itchen, but look for knockabout kit at knockdown prices. You should be able to buy fly-rod, reel and line for less than £50. Most places let you try before you buy at the casting platforms. Then, pop along to the Salmon & Trout Association to sign up.

Spend the night under canvas
Drinks parties at the Game Fair are notoriously libatory. Thirteen engagements in one day would test the most hardened constitution, so staying on site is often the wisest option. It is sensible to stake your pitch out before things get interesting, but if you have left it all to chance there is always the fall-back position of a blanket in the back of the car. For those in the know and in their cups, offering to guard somebody’s stand for a night could offer welcome relief.

Eat a black pudding scotch egg
It can be heavy work tramping the rows, so correct sustenance is vital: a “Black Watch” from the Handmade Scotch Egg Company. It hits a Game Fair-sized spot, provides a robust pick-me-up and acts as ballast before the drinks parties.

Blag forward parking (or get a free pass for Sunday with our July issue if you subscribe to The Field)
No one looks happier than a chap who has just negotiated the parking wallahs and scored a spot up front. If you are looking at a two-mile hike from the back of the car park invoke the spirit of Maggie: the lady’s not for turning. Flash a piece of coloured paper you find in the glove box, gesticulate forwards and don’t stop. If this doesn’t work, pop The Field’s forward-parking pass for the Sunday (subscribers only) on to your mirror and hotfoot it to the front.

Buy yet more shooting socks
The average shooting man owns a dozen or so pairs, but one more set of jauntily coloured woollen stockings is hard to resist. Perfect as Christmas currency, they are charming on the chimney-piece. But remember, not all shooting socks are equal. Unless you find it easier to go under rather than over fences, they need to be long. And your shooting needs to be of Wyatt Earp calibre to wear those emblazoned with “amusing” slogans.

Learn something
The new renewables zone has its own theatre, with a programme of seminars and debates. Expert advice is available for those wanting to know everything there is to know about the industry.

Book a falconry day
Head to the falconry area (close to entrance A) and book a day out with these remarkable birds. It feels medieval (in a good way) to don leather gauntlets and have a gyrfalcon rest on an outstretched arm before throwing her up on the trail of a rabbit. It is thrilling to watch a falcon work, and a day’s hunting is the best way to experience it.

Buy something too big to carry
Do you end the day feeling like a Christmas tree with parcels hanging from every bough or stagger past carrying a dog bed the size of an oil rig, two terriers trotting along behind? You are not a CLA veteran until you have collapsed overburdened on your way to the car park. It doesn’t seem unmanageable when you’re negotiating a fat discount on the duck house or sundial, and you smile to think of the money saved on delivery. Next thing you know you are being woken by St John Ambulance or require the services of the RAC when your suspension gives up. This year, smaller items can be left at a “shop & drop” point in the CLA village while you carry on shopping.

Be seen at The Field’s stand
Visit The Field’s stand [E535] to take advantage of our great subscription offer. Everyone who’s anyone pops in to see us and if you’re lucky you’ll catch the lesser spotted Editor flitting from branch to branch. He’ll be the one in the blinding strides.

Bag that dream holiday
After a long, hard season in the UK this was the year to have had some winter sun. Now is your chance to book a perfect break to lift the coming season. If you fancy a safari, Argentinean doves or some extreme fishing a clutch of agents will tempt you with a range of sporting adventures all over the world.

Cache cigarettes
The Game Fair is a wonderfully outdoor event – bliss when it isn’t raining. Your mother would caution you to take sunscreen and a hat. We at The Field take a more practical tack: decide how many cigarettes you’ll need and treble the number. By Sunday, a single Marlboro light can change hands for the GDP of a small country. Cigarettes are sold on site, but supplies are limited. You’ve been warned.

Hang out with decoyers
Do you secretly admire Dr Frankenstein? Life after death can exist, at least for Colomba palumbus. Head to pigeon-decoyers’ paradise at the end of Gunmakers’ Row and watch the ingenious devices that make corpses flap, flutter and peck before the heat transforms them into decaying monsters. If you’re into wild-bird shooting at low cost or simply adore zombie movies, a visit is a must.

Embrace that farmer’s tan
Whether you waft to the South of France at the end of July or recline at Rock, following a brace of days at the Game Fair it is likely you will be boasting a ruddier complexion, bronzed arms and a luminescent body. Wear that farmer’s tan with pride! The alternative involves sunscreen, covering up the brown bits while exposing the white and is unmanageable without assistance.

Commission a pet portrait
One really should start one’s Christmas shopping at the Game Fair, though there is a danger that the booty will be impossible to find by the time Santa comes to fill his sack. Stroll down Bond Street and its surrounds to see some of the best contemporary animal artists, taking commissions that’ll be delivered before December. Look to James Gillick for stunning oils, Daniel Crane (below) for equestrian pieces and if pastels draw your eye make a beeline for Kate Brooks. Photographic portraits are also an option.

Catch the express
Express eventing makes its Game Fair debut in the main arena. Some of the country’s top names will be competing for the honours. A mash-up of two eventing phases, the cross-country and show-jumping, this new, high-octane sport will have you hooked.

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  • Thomas

    2014 CLA Game Fair is at Blenheim Palace, not Ragley Hall.