Your first driven day shooting
The popularity of driven pheasant and partridge shooting has surged in recent years. Never has the sport been so accessible to such a wide range of people from all backgrounds.
New to it all? Whether you’ve been invited to shoot on a small farm shoot or a well-known sporting estate, here’s a little advice on what to expect, things to remember and how to make the most of it…
The keeper’s year
The ‘field-to-fork’ process doesn’t start on a shoot day. From habitat management and pest and predator control to pen building, the rearing of birds, feeding, dogging-in and drive creation, there’s an awful lot of pieces that slot together to make a shoot day possible. Take the time to learn about what happens between February 2nd and the start of the next season – your day’s shooting will be all the richer for it.
From habitat requirements, lifecycles, prowess on the wing and identification when airborne, the more you can learn about the quarry, the more fulfilling your day’s shooting will be. And be sure to add carcass preparation and cooking to your list of things to swot up on; pheasant and partridge is a versatile, healthy and delicious meat. Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite: https://tasteofgame.org.uk/category/recipes
A vast array of wildlife species benefit from sound game management. Don’t be afraid to ask your host or the gamekeeper about the flora and fauna found on the shoot – most are only too happy to discuss the work they do and how this benefits biodiversity.
Safety and practice
Learning the ins and outs of safe gun handling should be priority number one before attending a driven day’s shooting as a Gun. Muzzle awareness, routine checks and learning what constitutes an acceptable shot to take are all key.
We owe it to our quarry to reach a standard whereby we can kill birds cleanly with a degree of consistency. A course of lessons focusing on safety, judging range and shooting driven targets that simulate the real thing are invaluable for the novice game Shot.
If you’d like someone to supervise you on the peg, just ask – most shoots can arrange this. And don’t forget to check your shooting insurance is still valid – it’s a bad idea to shoot without it.
It’s easy to become hung up on tweed, ties, garters and breeks, but the key is to wear clothing that is suited to the conditions and comfortable to shoot in. You need to stay warm and dry, have the freedom of movement required to shoot unhindered, and look relatively smart. Good wellies or boots are advisable, as is a peaked hat. Many people will choose to wear a shirt and tie and dress in greens or other natural colours; denim is no-no, and camouflage patterns are unnecessary.
Ears, eyes and the right kit
Don’t forget your ear defenders. Eyewear is becoming more popular, too; coloured lenses can aid depth perception and contrast, and reduce glare.
Gun and cartridge choice will vary dependent on the quarry. It’s a good idea to pattern your gun at a shooting ground to see how different cartridge/choke combinations perform at various ranges.
On your first day’s driven shooting, it might be wise to leave the dog at home, but if you want to take a dog, check that your host is happy for you to do so and ask yourself honestly, is the dog likely to behave? The last thing you want to do is spoil the day for others involved.
Before making your way to the first drive, whoever is hosting the day will run through some important information with the team of Guns. The ‘briefing’ tends to focus on safety matters, the format of the day and the rules of that particular shoot. Is there a horn to start/end the drive? Will there be somebody picking up empty cartridges? Which quarry species are off limits? How many pegs will you move up/down each drive? This is a good time to ask any further questions.
A good shot is a selective shot
Before you attend a driven day’s shooting, you should have a good idea of what is considered a sporting bird, what is unsporting or dangerous, and what is out of range/beyond your ability.
As a Gun you will typically be positioned 40-50 yards from the next peg. In most circumstances, shooting (at) birds flying over a fellow Gun is considered poor manners. Be selective and, when safe to do so, always do your utmost to dispatch birds with your second shot that have been wounded or ‘pricked’ with your first.
Respect for the quarry is key. Read more here: https://basc.org.uk/cop/respect-for-quarry
Marking your birds
It’s important to keep an accurate mental note of where any birds you shoot fall. Use landscape features as reference points and be sure to liaise with the pickers-up at the end of the drive to ensure all birds have been accounted for and find their way to the game cart. And don’t forget you’re handling something that is destined for the food chain.
Manners and thank-yous
A day’s shooting would not be possible without the beating and picking-up teams, game cart drivers, and sometimes loaders and caterers. It’s important to thank all parties involved and show your gratitude.
At the end of the day, Guns are given the chance to thank the keepers, too. The headkeeper tends to meet the team of Guns, announce the final bag and offer each Gun some game to take home with them. This is the time to ‘tip’ the keeper (discreetly gift him/her with a cash sum of your choosing while shaking hands), ask any further questions, say your thank-yous and make the most of the day’s harvest by taking some birds home.
Finally, whenever you are invited to shoot as a guest, do remember to write a thank-you letter to your host.
Remember, you’re an ambassador
You may well encounter members of the public on a day’s shooting – many of the areas shot over in the UK are also crisscrossed by public footpaths and bridleways. Be polite and courteous and remember that our actions can and do leave a lasting impression. The same applies to behavior and conduct on social media after the day. If you’re going to document your day on social media, think about how that looks to the non-shooting public; it’s important to spread the right message and present driven game shooting in a positive manner.
Are you familiar with the Code of Good Shooting Practice? Use this Code as your yardstick when deciding if you should accept an invitation or what shooting to buy: www.codeofgoodshootingpractice.org.uk