A moment that changed me: I was told to kill the most magnificent creature I had ever seen

My dad loved hunting and I wanted to please him. But nothing prepared me for the beauty of the stag I was expected to shoot

I am not a fan of bloodsports. But, growing up in posh, rural Northumberland in the 80s, it was expected that I would be. When my father, who grew up on Tyneside, moved to the country in the 70s, he rapidly began accepting invitations to pheasant shoots, as well as to grouse moors and fishing expeditions. He enjoyed the company, the sport and the hours spent out in the wild.

From about the age of eight, I was invited to accompany him on these weekend excursions, much like a child being taken to their first football matches. I disliked the early starts and standing around in freezing conditions, waiting for birds to be driven into the sky, to their deaths, over a line of booming guns. But I wanted to please my dad. As soon as I was old enough to make my own weekend plans, though, I made them. They tended to focus more on clothes shopping and cinema trips to the Metrocentre in Gateshead.

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