Friends and shooting
are the perfect tonic

Curtis Mossop

Curtis Mossop

Head of pathways to shooting. Curtis grew up in the Lake District and has over 25 years’ experience shooting. Starting out as a gamekeeper on a mixed sporting estate in Perthshire, he later moved to Sparsholt college to teach game and wildlife management courses before becoming a senior lecturer at Newton Rigg College in Cumbria.

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, BASC head of pathways to shooting, Curtis Mossop, explains how shooting plays an important part in his own happiness and feeling part of a community.

There are few other occasions where I laugh and enjoy myself as much as when I am shooting with friends, in the company of people I shoot with, or surrounded by people who share my deep-rooted passion for the countryside.

Shooting and other countryside pursuits are an incredibly sociable affair. I firmly believe that the people and personalities around you are the biggest catalyst of the overall enjoyment of the day – you will never have a bad day’s shooting if you’re with friends and the banter is flowing!

Life is better with friends

Friendships have a huge impact on your mental health and happiness. Good friends relieve stress, provide support, and prevent loneliness and isolation. The vast majority of my strongest friendships are with people I’ve met through shooting in one way or another. 

The importance of friendship to our wellbeing has been widely recognised, including by research carried out by BASC. Our study found that the average number of friends made through shooting was 20, and 77 per cent of people said their social life would suffer without shooting. I wholly agree, and fall into the latter group myself.

Approximately one-in-four people experience mental health problems each year. It is clear that mental health issues do not discriminate – they can affect anyone at any point during their lives – which is why it is important to have a support network around you. People you can call or meet up with, chat to and put the world to rights, pull each other’s leg, or simply spend time doing something you both enjoy.

Cue shooting

The positive impacts of shooting sports on our mental and physical wellbeing are well documented, as are the benefits of spending time outdoors connected with nature.

According to the mental health charity, Mind, “spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression.

WThis might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature”…“Being outside in natural light can be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year.”

How you can help

Despite spending much of their time outdoors, gamekeepers and deer stalkers often do so alone. Outside of the shooting season, the working hours are extremely long, unsociable, and the work is physically demanding. Loneliness can easily set in.

From personal experience within this profession, I can recall the excitement of the shooting season commencing and being able to finally catch up with the beaters, pickers up and visiting Guns.

The year of 2022 is a continuation of the Year of the Gamekeeper which is a multi-organisational initiative to support, raise the profile, and ensure the future of the Gamekeepers Welfare Trust to help bolster its tireless work supporting gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies, and their dependants, past and present.

The GWT is an invaluable charity within our community offering a confidential service called Jamie’s Helpline (03001 233 088) as well as providing financial support to those in need.

For Mental Health Awareness Week for the two previous years, I have shaved my head in an attempt to raise the awareness and profile of mental health. All proceeds were donated to the GWT. Please consider donating directly to the GWT here.

So, if you’re reading this now thinking about the difference shooting makes to your life, why not introduce your friends and family to shooting this year to allow them to experience all of the social, physical, mental and economic benefits associated with it? 

Whether it is beating for the first time, visiting your local clay ground for a lesson, or accompanying you on a stalk, try to do your bit to widen the participation of shooting sports. 

Hopefully, you will positively impact someone’s personal and mental wellbeing, too, which is something truly priceless in itself.

Introduce a friend to BASC and you both benefit

Introduce a friend or family member to the benefits of BASC membership and you could BOTH be in with a chance of winning one of these prizes in our annual Member Get A Member free prize draw:
  • A Browning B725 shotgun worth up to £2500
  • A Sako rifle worth up to £2500
  • BSA air rifle package worth up to £1500
  • A three-night stay for two people with breakfast at a luxury country hotel
CLICK HERE to find out more.

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