Despite their small size, the British Isles offer an extraordinary variety of opportunity for hunters. Good shooting is accessible to those of modest means and the great camaraderie between hunters means you will always be welcome. But be careful how you use the word ‘hunters.’
In Britain the term ‘hunting’ is traditionally associated with hunting with packs of hounds. Those who use guns are not hunters but ‘shooters’ or ‘guns’ – the word can apply to the person as well as the weapon.
This is just one of our little eccentricities, like the love of tweed, a strong feeling for tradition and the importance of giving the gamekeeper a tip at the end of the day. But the British have great love of sportsmanship and if you are unsure about any aspect of shooting just ask for advice and it will always be given.
Shooting is generally owned and controlled by individuals, rather than clubs or local associations, except for wildfowling, where foreshore shooting can usually only be obtained through wildfowling organisations. Overall, the representative body for country shooting in the UK is the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, which is supported by 130,000 people. Its specialist departments can give advice on all subjects and you are strongly advised to join the association if you are thinking of shooting in Britain. There are political threats to our sport and BASC fights these resolutely. It also produces a regular magazine which will keep you in touch with developments in the UK and, most importantly, your membership provides automatic insurance cover. BASC’s address is Marford Mill, Rossett, Wrexham LL12 0HL.
Shooting falls into several categories and you will decide which interests you most. Obviously rough shooting is far more active than driven shooting and is particularly appreciated by those who enjoy working dogs. Wildfowling will take you to the remotest places in the roughest weather – this is the sport for the would-be Ernest Hemingways – but if you have a great affinity with wild places it can have an almost magical appeal.
What to wear
British weather is notoriously unpredictable and can change very quickly in a day, so be prepared. The usual drab colours are worn and although camouflage might be perfectly acceptable for wildfowling it would be wrong to wear it for driven or rough shooting. Certainly on a formal shoot men should wear a collar and tie but the important thing is that you are comfortable, warm and dry. If you need any guidelines, just look through any British shooting magazine and you will soon see the kind of clothes that are appropriate.
There are two very good paperback books which will give you a more detailed picture of shooting in the UK. The Handbook of Shooting – the Sporting Shotgun. Available from BASC £16.95 The Gameshooter’s Pocket Guide by Michael Brook published by Merlin Unwin Books, price £7.99.