A shooter looking through binoculars
A shooter looking through binoculars

Where do I start?

The shooting of foxes, ground game, pest birds and rats is necessary to ensure that damage to game, wildlife, livestock, and growing crops is kept at sustainable levels. Both in daylight and for certain species at night, it is a safe and effective method of control. It is the responsibility of all those involved in pest control to ensure that it is carried out properly.

Before shooting commences:

  • Written permission from the relevant landowner/farmer must be sought before shooting commences.
    Where applicable, use only the appropriate firearms and ammunition in accordance with the conditions of your firearms certificate.
  • Familiarise yourself with all legal requirements.
  • It is advisable to carry your relevant air weapon (Scotland), firearm or shotgun certificate, or evidence of it, together with your written permission.
  • As a matter of courtesy, you may wish to inform local residents who you are, and where you will be shooting, together with your approximate starting and finishing times. You may wish to extend this courtesy to the local police, but you are under no obligation to notify them of any shooting expedition.
  • During daylight hours, familiarise yourself with the terrain over which you are going to shoot. It is harder to judge distances at night. You must ensure that you have established safe lines of fire and backstops.
  • Always carry a mobile phone for emergency purposes. Mobile applications for location identification such as ‘What3Words’ or ‘OS maps’ are also recommended.

It is essential when shooting that the appropriate choice of firearm and ammunition are used. Correct range judging is also essential to ensure the most effective kills.

The key is understanding the pest you are trying to control as this will impact the equipment you use, the clothing you wear and the times you shoot.

The firearms you use will vary massively depending upon the species you are controlling. Shotguns are often used for avian species, air rifles for small close-range pests and rimfire and centrefire rifles for larger or over a greater distance.

Both shotguns and rifles must be held on a certificate- for more information click here

You will need to identify the target pest’s behaviour patterns and habits. Knowing where the pests are likely to feed and where they might hide can help you locate them and make a more effective shot.


When it comes to using firearms to control pest and predator species, there are a number of ways we can approach this.

When controlling foxes, it can be highly effective to use centrefire rifles at night, with some form of night vision, thermal imaging or illuminating device to spot and aim.

When dealing with smaller pest species such as rats and squirrels, air rifles are very effective for use at close range.