The mornings are getting colder, the sun glinting on the first light blanket of fog means the shooting season is about to get into full swing. It is an exciting time for all of us fieldsports enthusiasts and especially for me in my first season since becoming CEO of BASC in February.
It has been non-stop since I arrived but I am looking forward to getting out stalking a bit more and enjoying my half gun on my local shoot. The shooting kit is being dusted off, and I am looking forward to eating more game and experimenting with ever more inventive recipes.
As I reflect however, I wonder if I am doing enough personally to convince folk of the good work shooting is doing.
We ARE conservationists, we bring in much-needed revenue to the economy, we provide jobs, we leave the countryside better than we found it and we eat sustainable game; the quality of which is entirely in line with the aspirations to eat more healthy and better-reared meat. Game meat is pretty much as good as it gets.
At a time when so many question what we do and how we do it then we need to do more to ensure we are better understood and that the benefits we bring are understood and acknowledged.
A non-shooting member of the BASC staff recently said: “at this time of year I would rather be a pheasant than a turkey”. She has a point that we, as game shots, would understand. But are we doing enough for others to understand that sentiment?
While pushing the positive, we need to tackle illegal activity and poor practice. I judge the sector’s stand against raptor persecution as strong and credible; it could still be better. And what of our own standards on our own shoots? Well, it is time to dust off the Code of Good Shooting Practice and ensure we deliver on it
If you doubt that there is a job to do in convincing others that sustainable shooting is of benefit, then you only need look at what has just happened in Wales.
The decision by Natural Resources Wales to ban all shooting on public land came as something as a shock to all of us. Especially so as NRW is an evidence-based organisation whose evidence points to shooting being a benefit, not only to the Welsh economy but also the environment.
There is now a real risk to jobs and conservation efforts.
This news, which came about after an 11th-hour direction from Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn, came just a few months after Bradford Council banned grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor.
So, now is the time for all grassroots shooters to not only enjoy the sport but also help us educate others.
There is a real responsibility on us all to play our part in taking the story of shooting into the mainstream.
As well as the well documented financial benefits to the UK economy as a whole, many rural economies rely on shoot days and the tourism that comes with them to survive.
We also need to educate everyone on the benefits of game meat. Not only is it a sustainable food source, which should be championed, but it is also delicious and healthier than most meats which are in the mainstream.
Venison, pheasant and grouse all regularly feature on menus at high-end restaurants, but we want to see it available in more places and enjoyed by more people. The supermarkets are certainly doing their bit with plenty of selection at the likes of Asda and The Food Warehouse.
As part of our Game Changer project, Taste of Game has pledged to teach 60,000 students how to cook game by 2020. This is a great way to introduce school children to the meat but what more can we all do to help?
Maybe you can think about sharing your game for the table with family and friends? You’ll find plenty of recipes at www.tasteofgame.org.uk to inspire you, and it could be the perfect excuse for a get-together.
Shooting means so much to so many families. It was my father who first took me shooting, and I have taken my children out with me. It is a great way to spend time together, and I for one would encourage more people to try it for themselves.
That’s why we have designated November as Take a Mate Shooting month, to encourage members to help us educate the nation and the political parties one person at a time.
So click here and take a mate shooting with you in November and you could be in with the chance of winning a new Browning Shotgun worth over £2,000 (or BSA air rifle and ‘scope combination worth up to £1,000).