For the lucky ones, William included, the shooting season is well underway, with the first Pheasant shoots beginning for the season. It is often at this time of year that we are asked in the shop especially what the newcomer to shooting should do when those exciting first shooting invitations come in. Although taken for granted by veterans of the sport shooting etiquette is often daunting for those attending their first shoot. So in an attempt not to just leave those new to the sport agonizing over what it means to “Be sporting and above all be safe”, we have put together a few pointers. There is a wealth of experience out there so we’d welcome any other tips you may have. We are putting together our own Shooting Commandments here at Bredon Hill so all pointers are welcome Feel Free to add your top tips for shooting on our Facebook page.
Starting at the beginning – that all important invitation:
There is so much work that goes into the laying on of a good shoot day that it is often easy for attendees to forget the huge number of hours effort, time and investment that has gone on behind the scenes to make the day a success. It is therefore important to respond to any invitation quickly as possible. Normally such acceptance is in the form of writing. Should you agree to attend it is polite to offer a reciprocal invitation sometime in the future.
Shooting is a sociable sport and a typical day offers plenty of opportunities to cement friendships and make new ones. You are there to have an enjoyable day and relax, your host will have thought about the personality mix of the guns as carefully as possible to ensure that there is a fun mix put together. Far from being stuffy occasions a day’s shooting provides plenty of laughter and merriment.
What to wear … all the gear …
It’s important to dress appropriately if a little modestly if you are unsure as to the skill level you are going to be demonstrating. Of greatest importance is to be warm, dry and sporting field colors rather than a peacocks pallet. There are many fantastic ranges available that can provide you with everything from Shooting Coats to socks. There is so much choice out there now that it can be difficult to choose. Schoffel make an excellent range of clothing which will see you through many a sporting season and indeed we have seen many a coat be handed down to the next generation, tailored for shooters by shooters and are a brand you can trust to provide you technical reliability and excellent tailoring. If your wallet wont quiet stretch that far Alan Paine provide an excellent variety of shooting clothing that will provide you everything you need for your day.
It is best to wear a tie better to be smart than to appear disrespectful. It is important that you ensure you have plenty of cartridges for the day. There is nothing more insulting to the host than bringing too few implying you didn’t think you’d get a very good bag. Ensure you stock your cartridge bag up well for each peg that way you’ll be able to just concentrate on the birds. Ear protection is vital, not something to be vain about, there are lots of fantastic types out there choose one that you find comfortable to wear. Although William finds the excuse of claiming he can’t hear due to years of shooting unprotected very useful it isn’t worth damaging your hearing. There are plenty of ways to ignore the call to take the bins out without incurring permanent deafness.
Loaders? +1? cars and dogs
The invitation will usually make clear whether or not partners are invited; if you will need a 4×4; and whether your dog or loader will be welcome. Well behaved dogs are great on a shoot and will gain you some kudos. Badly behaved dogs are not and are rarely quickly forgotten – as I have learnt to my detriment. If you do bring your dog be mindful of the pickers ups and other guns with their dogs. Don’t pick up everything and certainly wait until the drive is finished before setting your dog to work. The keeper will often advise on this and it is important to heed his advice. It is important to help the other guns pick up birds after the drive. Be considerate, treat your quarry with reverence rather than throwing them into a pile.
What to shoot
Mike Barnes once said ‘Respect for the quarry is everything’. An understanding of the birds you are shooting is part of the enjoyment of the sport. To that end it is important to be considerate. Whilst every ground is different and what might be considered a high bird at one ground is positively low at another – use you common sense, watch what the other guns are shooting and shoot within those parameters. There is nothing that will get you a bad reputation faster than slaughtering everything even if it has barely got off the ground. Watching the other guns will set the parameters for you once this is done you can shoot with confidence. Only ever shoot when you can see clear sky around and behind the bird. You should never shoot towards woods or hedges, this will endanger the beaters working so hard to make your day pleasurable.
If in doubt, don’t shoot.
Eh that’s my bird
Think of every gun as having its own protected air space in which the game keeper with all his years of skill and training is going to drive the birds such that each gun will get his fair share of opportunities to shoot. A gentleman would never shoot another’s bird – nor would any bloke who just wants an opportunity to be invited back!! Your air space is directly above your head and halfway to the left and right of that between you and your fellow guns. Be considerate if the gun next to you isn’t getting many leave a few to give him the opportunity. It’s about quality not quantity here shooting something high is far more impressive and skillful that shooting everything in sight. In some shoots if there is a borderline bird the other gun will shout yours to tip you off. Again a few moments watching is worth hours agonizing!! Similarly it is important to shoot a bird at the correct range. Even if the birds are not going to be on your table treat them as if they are. Don’t shoot them at close range, feathers flying everywhere, peppering them with shot and not clipping birds as the come past. Therefore shoot what you feel you can do cleanly. If you have shot something that is likley to be injured and not killed make a note of where it came down to ensure its picked up after the drive.
During the safety drill, as well as being told what you can and can’t shoot, you’ll also be reminded of the signals to look and listen out for on the day. The Keeper and your host will have put a lot into the day respect their instructions for your safety and your enjoyment.
Although one hopes you are experienced enough not to need reminding it is worth a mention. Remember when closing your loaded gun, always keep the barrel pointing down, bringing the stock up to meet them, never raise the barrels to the stock and when walking always break your gun keeping the barrels pointing to the ground. It sounds basic but you’d be surprised how many people caught up in the moment do something they would never ordinarily do risking everyone’s safety.
At the end of the day:
Make sure you take time to thank those involved in making it pleasurable. Not only is this the right thing to do – they deserve it and you never know when you might meet them again. A few moments thanking them for a lovely day will ensure that they would be happy to have you back again.
Appreciation is more valuable than gold but …..
It is customary to tip the keeper at the end of the shoot, some shoots even leave money for the caterer etc. Find out what the custom is on the shoot you are at and come armed with the cash to demonstrate your gratitude.
Most importantly enjoy your day few things are finer than enjoying a day of sport in the countryside. There will be moments a plenty to saver in the bar afterwards