There is inevitable uncertainty about what next season might look like. Many shoots that let days rely on deposits from Guns for cashflow to buy birds, feed them, and pay wages. Without deposits from Guns, they may not be able to go ahead. However, it is understandable that Guns are cautious about paying non-refundable deposits. Guns should speak to shoots - it will help them to know that you still want to go with them next season. Guns may be able to negotiate payment arrangements that reduce exposure to risk. Cancellation insurance is unlikely to be available during the pandemic to cover losses arising from a shoot not being able to deliver days as planned. Where possible, BASC is advising Guns to think seriously about committing for next season – not only will it give something to look forward to but it will make a vital contribution to the future of the shoot, its suppliers and staff, and to the wider shooting community.
Even in a normal season there are a lot of financial and other factors to be taken into account. This year, there will be obvious concerns around the financial implications of the current situation - will guns be reluctant to put down deposits, will there be unsold days, will cashflow and profitability be sufficient? There are clearly uncertainties about the season ahead that increase the risks at the moment, but the right course of action will depend on the structure and finances of the shoot. BASC suggests talking with sporting agents or Guns who have returned year-on-year previously to secure commitment. To alleviate concerns, perhaps shoots may be able to restructure payment arrangements i.e. reducing deposits or providing payment systems. It will pay in the long term to be as customer-focused as possible and to acknowledge that this is a difficult time for all involved. It is important to ensure all booking and cancellation policies are up to date and easy to understand. Depending on circumstances, shoots may also want to consider offering smaller days or start a little later in the season. This might reduce costs and risks in the event that the start of the season is restricted in a way we can’t predict at the moment. Once you have birds under your care, you have a legal obligation to ensure their welfare, regardless of other financial and business considerations. Speak to your accountants or other advisors to ensure that you are taking advantage of any government support schemes that you may be eligible for. Finally, consider that decisions you make this year will have longer-term implications for the future of your business. Whatever you choose to do, keep in regular contact with your suppliers, customers and supporters to give them confidence for the future. You can read Guns on Pegs’ view on the potential disruption and prospects for next season here.
BASC has spoken to many syndicate shoots in recent weeks and each one is different, so it is difficult to give a simple answer. Each will have to think through their plan and make their own decisions. Involving syndicate members in the decision planning process will be important. For some, sourcing birds and looking after birds may be a concern; so, they should speak to suppliers as soon as possible and think about the practicalities of looking after birds once they are in the pens. For example: Is a gamekeeper on site, or will someone have to travel to the shoot? Is the shoot reliant on one or two people looking after the birds, or could the job be shared between more people? Remember, shoots have a legal obligation to ensure the welfare of any birds while under their control. Shoot subs are another point of concern. Some Guns may have lost their jobs, be under financial strain or reluctant to make a commitment until the future is clearer. Understanding the individual circumstances of members will be vital. Phasing the payment of subs may be an option, or perhaps provide a ‘slimmed down’ version of the shoot to keep costs down? Good financial and scenario planning will be essential this year, especially if strict social distancing restrictions remain in place as we head towards the summer. One thing is for sure, the shooting community will be looking forward to the season more than ever - whatever form it takes.
Specific guidance has been issued to vets by government that lays out actions to take when dealing with customers and their animals if they are, for example, isolating with symptoms of Coronavirus. It is important to note that there is no evidence of Coronavirus circulating in pets or other animals in the UK. In line with the general advice on fighting Coronavirus, you should wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals. Read the government’s advice for people with animals here. Of course, vet practices may be short-staffed due to staff being ill or self-isolating and this may adversely affect their normal service. The best advice is to speak to your local practice in plenty of time, where possible. Click here to read the British Veterinary Association’s advice.
BASC is not aware of any problems with feed supplies at present - but it makes sense to keep in close contact with your usual supplier. Suppliers will need to plan production in order to maintain supply and delivery; therefore, it is all the more important to contact them as early as possible with the season’s requirements for a shoot.
BASC is not aware of any regulatory restrictions on the supply of eggs/ day-old chicks/ poults. While game farms have seen a reduction in orders from shoots, most are still operating and will want to supply customers. This year, more than ever, it is important to discuss your situation and requirements with your supplier as far as possible in advance so that both parties can plan ahead.
Clearly, it is not a job that can be ‘done from home’ and so it is essential that gamekeepers continue their work as much as possible. There is a duty of care for the many species reliant on gamekeepers, which means duties such as supplementary feeding and essential trapping must continue. Nevertheless, gamekeepers should ensure that social distancing is in place and should follow stringent hygiene routines. Click here for the latest advice. You can also read GWCT’s advice here.