Meeting the public while out shooting
Now we have been given the go ahead for outdoor recreational activities, such as shooting, to go ahead, you may find yourself in a busier environment than before. With lockdown restrictions still in place, more people are venturing into the countryside as part of their daily exercise routine. But, what do you do if you meet a member of the public when out shooting?
It is important that as the countryside becomes more crowded, we are aware and prepared for all eventualities. From making the most of opportunities to educate the public to dealing with any potential conflicts, here is a short guide on what to do if you meet a member of the public when out shooting.
Choosing where to shoot
Firstly, if you are going shooting, think about where you are in relation to a local village and be sympathetic to the living environment. A lot more people are now working from home, so may be sensitive to loud noises or disruptions.
Also consider the local environment and whether there are any horses nearby. Horses can be easily spooked and it is recommended in the Code of Good Shooting Practice that you liaise with any local stables or riding schools to let them know when and where you will be shooting.
If you are shooting on or near public rights of way you should familiarise yourself with the law using these firearm fact sheets.
In England and Wales, if you meet a member of the public when out shooting on private property with no right of way, then you are well within your rights to explain to the person or persons that they do not have permission to be on the land and should leave. Trespass is a civil offence so there are limits to the actions police can take. A court injunction can be obtained against repeat offenders and someone who contravenes an injunction can be held in contempt of court.
In Scotland, the public do have the right of responsible access and anyone shooting on private land would not have the power to ask anyone else to leave. This right applies to those on foot, bicycle or horse. You could politely request that they use an alternative path or route if their presence was going to affect a drive, for instance, but you could not insist that they move. If they were not behaving responsibly, they would forfeit their right of access.
If the member of the public is disrupting your legal activity, then this is aggravated trespass and a criminal offence which means you should call the police.
First introductions and pleasantries
If you meet a member of the public when out shooting, the first thing you need to do is unload your gun and place it in a slip, if possible. Be polite, say “hello” and wish them on their way.
If the person is quite chatty, then explain to them the activity you are doing and why you are doing it. It’s a great opportunity to expel some of the myths around shooting so don’t be shy to interact and get across the point that shooting and conservation go hand in hand.
Without the habitat we would not have the game birds and the other wildlife which benefit from cover crops, feeders, managed woodlands and hedges. Explain how pest control benefits all wildlife including rare and declining birds and that ground which is managed for shooting has far more wildlife than farmland not managed for shooting.
Dealing with conflict
If the interaction turns negative, do not interact with them any further and withdraw from the situation with your unloaded gun in a slip.
I would suggest that you read this code of practice on disruption of shoots by demonstrators. It explains how to deal with disruptions of your shooting activities by extremists but can also be transferable to situations of conflict.