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Game Shooting Etiquette


Game shooting is without doubt the most formal of all shooting disciplines and as such demands certain standards of dress and conduct from participants

We must not forget however that every year in the shooting community our numbers increase as new younger enthusiasts join us on our game days, often replacing dear friends who are no longer fit enough to join in the fun.

Game shooting is without doubt the most formal of all shooting disciplines and as such demands certain standards of dress and conduct from participants.We must not forget however that every year in the shooting community our numbers increase as new younger enthusiasts join us on our game days, often replacing dear friends who are no longer fit enough to join in the fun.

It follows then that this game season, just like any other, you may find yourself on a peg next to a fellow gun who is experiencing game shooting and all it’s wonderful traditions for the very first time.

Should this be the case, please do give this new comer the benefit of your experience in a warm and friendly way.

This young person may have only ever experienced clay shooting where a bright yellow base-ball cap and jeans are perfectly acceptable, or even worse, his shooting experiences may be limited to woodpigeon shooting. This being the case, he’s been shooting at all comers near or far, on the ground or sitting in a tree. For the pigeon shooter, standard dress is camo clothing and camo face mask. I’m not knocking it, this how I dress when decoying pigeons from a hide. But clearly it’s not acceptable on a game day.

This look is great when shooting pigeons from a hide – but not good for game shooting

"This look is great when shooting pigeons from a hide – but not good for game shooting"

A number of years ago I arranged a day on a local shoot and let the pegs to a mixed group of guns, some of whom had shot together before and were well known to me. A group of three younger guns were coming to me for the first time. The guy booking the three pegs assured me that they were all experienced guns and there would be no safety issues.

After our safety brief and cup of tea we were taken to our pegs, I was a little surprised that one of the three guns was wearing a camo coat and not dressed in quite the way one would expect.

My concerns were heightened when arriving at his peg, he pulled on a camo face mask.

I quickly scurried over to him and enquired why he was wearing the mask. He though for a couple of seconds and then said it was to keep his face warm.I suggested that he didn’t need it as it wasn’t a cold day and anyway it’s not the sort of thing you wear on a game day. He promptly removed the mask but I had decided that I should stand close to this young man until my faith had been restored.

It was as well that I stuck around as one of the first birds that appeared was a young hen bird lifting just over the hedge row fifty or so yards in front of us and flying just a few feet above the ground. My young friend quickly fired two shots at the bird before I could get to him.

The angry shouts from his neighbour of “you bloody idiot” didn’t make for a good team spirit on the day. I quickly advised the young gun that there were beaters the other side of the hedgerow and they were heading this way if they were still alive. I also pointed out that under no circumstances should he shoot at low birds. I stood next to him for the rest of that drive to make sure there were no repeats of the earlier incident. As soon as the drive had finished he got a very quick lesson on game shooting etiquette and safety.

This incident was not only down to lack of common sense, but also a complete lack of understanding for the principles of game shooting.

I can’t think of any other sport where it’s acceptable to discharge a deadly weapon when you are surrounded on all sides by people and animals. We have beaters to our front, fellow guns either side and picker-ups with dogs behind us, yet we all have sufficient trust in each other to carry on without a care in the world.

The fact that there are not more accidents is in its self, testament to the good manners and safe practices of most of us who shoot game.

Whilst watching the news a couple of months ago, the image of one of our young hero’s patrolling the dusty streets of Afghanistan, automatic weapon cocked and ready to fire and carried at waist height, whilst surrounded by local women and children reminded me of a game day several seasons ago.

One of our syndicate had brought along a young soldier who I believe was to be his son in law. Whilst the team of guns were walking from one drive to the next through a wood, I was suddenly aware of the young soldier carrying his shotgun in the same fashion as the young hero in Afghanistan. Gun closed, pointing directly ahead and carried at waist height.

I thought I should need smelling salts and so quickly and politely pointed out that a sporting gun should be broken at all times if not in use at the peg. The young man was perfectly polite and opened the gun immediately; I didn’t dare look to see if it was loaded.

 

This look is fine for game shooting – bowler hat optional

"This look is fine for game shooting – bowler hat optional"

TIPS FOR BEGINNERS;

Clothing.

Good country clothing is generally acceptable, it doesn’t need to be expensive tweeds but a shirt and tie is always a good idea. Always have a look at what the other guns are wearing, you can’t do much about how you’re dressed today, but it’ll give you a “heads-up” for next time you go out on that shoot. No camo/face masks please.

Always take water boots, crossing rivers or flooded ditches in trainers is not a great idea

Guns broken, or barrels in the up position

"Guns broken, or barrels in the up position"

Etiquette.

Be ready to draw your peg number when asked to do so. Listen carefully to the safety brief where you’ll be told what you can and can’t shoot. If you’re told “no grey partridge” and you can’t tell the difference between grey’s and French, ask a neighbour to shout “grey” assuming of course he can tell the difference. If in doubt, don’t shoot.

Never shoot at a neighbours bird unless he’s a close friend and wont take offence. Never ever shoot a low bird. It’s dangerous and unsporting.

Remember the maths of game shooting; a 150 bird day for 9 guns means your share of the bag is 16/17 birds. If you shoot more that this, you’re shooting someone else’s share and you will not be very popular.

Remember who’s on your right and left and what peg you were on during the last drive. There’s nothing more frustrating than a gun who continually forgets what peg he is on.

Always introduce yourself to the other guns, it’s good manners to do so and it’s surprising how many good friendships develop on a shoot day – you have one big thing in common - shooting.

Always observe the “no ground game rule” It’s the quickest way to get thrown off a shoot if you don’t. If you’re not sure ask.

Always pick up your spent cartridges.

Always let the picker-up know if you have shot birds around your peg that you can’t find or carry.

Safety.

When you go to your peg, take a minute to look around you. Where are the beaters, the shoot bus, the pickers up. Be aware of who and what hazards there are around you.

Always keep the gun broken until you are going to start shooting. Always keep the gun in the “barrels up” position when the gun is closed.When the final whistle or horn blows, break the gun and take out the cartridges immediately.

Never shoot after the final whistle or horn, the game keeper will want your blood if you do.

Always put your empty gun back into the gun slip.

Never carry your gun closed, you may know it’s empty but others don’t.

Here endeth the lesson.      


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