What does an ethical shooter look like?

David Gervers

David Gervers

David Gervers has been BASC’s regional director in the South West since 2011 with previous experience working in the aquaculture, economic development, and service sectors. As an Environmental Biology graduate, he retains a keen interest in the sustainability of shooting sports. David’s main shooting interests are game and rough shooting on the wilder bits of the South West peninsula; he also enjoys air gunning and clay shooting, especially simulated game. If not out with the gun he is most likely to be found with a fly or lure fishing rod close by.

I’m sure that all of us pride ourselves on going about our sport in an ethical manner; and I’d hazard a guess that most of the time, most of us think that we can recognise an ethical shooter (ES) when we see one.  Equally we might occasionally spot someone who we feel doesn’t quite fit the bill – even if we are not entirely sure why.  This is where it gets interesting, what do we mean by an ethical shooter? 

I doubt that there is an absolute definition, but a good starting point would be that an ES behaves within the rules and standards of ‘good and bad’ generally accepted by the shooting community.  However, an individual’s ethical position is also influenced by other factors – values and beliefs, experience, the views of others, history and tradition, or even age.  One man’s right may be another’s wrong – but both may have merit.​

Certainly an ES knows the laws of the land relating to their sport, and more importantly follows them. They also strive to go beyond simple compliance adopting the accepted moral codes and explicit codes of best practice, (Code of Good Shooting Practice and BASC’s Codes of Practice). They even encourage their shooting companions to follow suit!

The ES is willing to challenge things that aren’t right – whether that be poor safety, bad practice, lack of consideration towards other users of the countryside, or asking questions when something doesn’t ring true.

They know the limitations of their own skill and those of their kit – and they shoot within those limits.

The intention must always be to strive for a clean kill. If a clean kill is the best outcome then they understand that a clean miss, or at least a quick retrieve and despatch, is the next best option.

Equally, they are comfortable in the knowledge that when they do the job properly their quarry has lived a wild life and was unaware of its impending fate. In a world that values ethical food sourcing, far better to be a pheasant or deer than an intensively reared chicken.

Our quarry are not simply animated targets for our amusement, they are living creatures that deserve our respect.

Acknowledging that pulling the trigger is an act of consequence, and the kill is just a part of a bigger picture, something far more all-encompassing. Whether that be putting food on the table, protecting ground nesting birds, lambs or crops, or managing deer to prevent forestry damage and road accidents.

What we do today influences tomorrow

Shooting plays a massive role in the well-being of the countryside when done right but when done badly, it can have a negative impact.

The ES is proud of the great tradition and history of their sport but is not hidebound by it. The world is constantly changing and what served us well in the past may not be what will secure our future.  Relevance, along with sustainability in terms of our environmental impacts and putting food on the table, are key to our future.

This understanding is important for an ES. They must be confident in their own mind that their sport and lifestyle stand up to scrutiny from the wider world.  If challenged, they can not only extol the joy and excitement of a day out, but also rationalise their position with evidence and the benefits to society as a whole.

Perhaps, it just boils down to two things at the end of the day:

In a world of identity politics and social media campaigns, shooting sports is under scrutiny like never before.  Each and every one of us can play our part in securing our future by being ethical shooters.

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