Game Shooting UK Guide
In the UK shooting is a popular field sport which attracts people from all over the world. Shooting is an integral part of country life and plays an important role in conserving wildlife. Those that work in this area deserve recognition for the impact they have on the protection and regeneration of the British Countryside.
For those of you who are looking to learn a little more about the different types of shooting in the UK, we’ve prepared this guide which highlights the season and what to expect when tackling the specific species of bird.
In our Game Shooting UK Guide you can find out more about what’s involved in shooting different species of bird and the different seasons.
Season: 12th August (‘the Glorious Twelfth’) to 1st February
Grouse shooting is a wonderful sport and whether driven or walked up you are bound to come off the hill with a huge smile. The birds are totally wild and generally fly very low and fast, hugging the contours of the British uplands to provide the most challenging sport for the best of shots.
Types of Grouse Shooting
Driven grouse shooting – a large area of heather is walked in towards a line of butts where the guns are hidden. Initially the guns shoot forwards until the beaters get closer at which point shooting is either above or behind the butts.
Walked up grouse shooting – a fantastic day’s exercise and the birds can break ground at any point and in any direction. Quick reactionsb are important as the birds accelerate very quickly and normally curl with the wind or the grounds contours.
Shooting grouse over pointers – a superb sport where dog and man are both put to the test. The dogs cover the ground in front of the guns until they find the quarry and point with their noses while the rest of their body remains absolutely still. The chosen gun then moves forwards before the dog is commanded to flush the grouse.
Season: 1st October to 1st February
Pheasant shooting is potentially the most common type of game shooting but it can vary hugely depending on the breed of pheasant, the numbers within a drive and the layout of the land. Pheasants fly at all heights and nobody can deny that a very high curling pheasant is a challenge for the best of shots.
Types of Pheasant Shooting
Driven pheasant shooting – The birds are normally pushed through a wood towards the guns. The beaters normally walk in a straight line with the guns standing parallel to the beating line. The birds often ‘flush’ where there is room for natural take off and this enables the gamekeeper to ensure the pheasants are flying high and fast by the time they reach the line of guns. Wind and terrain make a great difference and the odds should always be well in favour of the pheasant!
Semi-driven pheasant shooting – This is generally more informal than the driven shoot and guns will take it in turns to beat and shoot. Walking guns will often be used within the line of beaters, particularly on the flanks, to shoot at the birds that curl back over the beating line. A great way to take exercise and also experience the excitement of a driven pheasant
Walked up and rough pheasant shooting – The ultimate in getting back to the roots of shooting and walking for your dinner! An opportunity to walk across stunning countryside and work your dog. Walked up and rough shooting tends to be harder than driven as there is no warning when and from where the birds will come from (if at all!). In my view nothing beats the fun and anticipation that a really good rough shoot provides.
Season: 1st September to 1st February
Partridge shooting has evolved hugely since the 1900s. Originally the quarry was the Grey ‘English’ Partridge but as the numbers declined post war the majority of the sport focuses on the red leg ‘French’ Partridge. The partridge ‘manor’ is where the birds are found and this habitat has been impacted by modern land use and the increase of predators (raptors, badgers and foxes). There is substantial effort being made to revive the fortunes of the Grey partridge and initial indications are very positive. The grey partridge was traditionally driven over hedge rows and the birds would ‘explode’ in all directions when they saw the guns offering superb sport for those with excellent reactions! The red leg partridge is shot very much in the same way as Pheasants but offers a different experience. Many upland shoots have introduced the red leg very successfully as they fly fantastically off the high ground and over the guns below.
Types of Partridge Shooting
Driven partridge shooting – A driven day at Grey partridge is almost un heard off and it would be fair to say that this is because those of us involved in shooting and the countryside are determined to do all we can to allow the grey to recover its numbers. The Red-leg is very diverse and it is equally at home on a heather or bracken bank, game crop or craggy hills side. They generally fly in coveys and the excitement comes from the variety and unpredictability of their flight path. Although slightly slower than a pheasant they more than make up for it in agility! Occasionally partridge are mixed with pheasants and this provides tremendous sport as the differences tests the most agile gun.
Walked up and rough partridge shooting – Walking over winter stubbles, vegetables and game crops on a frosty day is one of the greatest way to shoot grey partridge. Often the guns can be split either side of hedges to encourage the birds to fly in multiple directions and offer very challenging shooting. Care is taken to preserve covey numbers so it is a day that the finest sportsman appreciates.
Season (Scotland): All year
Season (England, Wales, N.Ireland): All year subject to having a general licence from DEFRA or shooting with or for someone who holds one
The ‘grey grouse’ is a great nick name for the wood pigeon and this common bird can offer outstanding sport at any time of year. The classic pigeon flight is in tall hardwoods is hard to beat but amazing sport can be had shooting over recently planted or harvested crops. Shooting pigeon can be a great help to your local farmer as thousands of pigeon often congregate on a single field doing a great amount of damage. The wood pigeon is also a great addition to a day’s shooting and can offer the guns some immense sport….and a delicious meal.
Season (England, Wales, N. Ireland): 1st October to 31st January
Season (Scotland): 1st September to 31st January
The British Isles is renowned for its woodcock and particularly the outer isles in December and January during the birds’ migration to northern and eastern Europe to breed during the summer. There is a small population (78,000) of resident birds but this swells to around 1.5 million during the winter months. Woodcock live in mixed woodlands and feed in clearances/the edges of the woods. A jinking woodcock whether flying away or towards the gun offers a unique challenge and victory is often won by the woodcock as it swerves moments before the gun fires! As ever safety is paramount so often the shot is not taken as these birds can and will fly amongst the line of guns – the decision not to fire being the sign of a true countryman.
It is worth mentioning that care should be taken not to disturb woodcock during periods of hard frost as they will be struggling to access their usual food source.
Types of Woodcock Shooting
Driven Woodcock Shooting – a great treat and a day to savour. There will never be a guarantee of numbers but who needs this when the challenge is so great! The sport offers a very different experience to other types of driven shooting and as ever the maintenance of habitat is the key to ensuring the strength of such a fantastic game bird.
Walked up and rough woodcock shooting – The wild habitat where woodcock thrive ensures that such a day will be one to remember. It is normal that such a day will combine other species and often the result is that the number of species shot almost equals the total bag! This is an absolute joy for the hunter gatherers amongst us and often results in a feast of game at the end of the day!
Season for common snipe (England, Scotland, Wales): 12th August to 31st January
Season for Common and jack snipe (N. Ireland): 1st September to 31st January
The bogs of the Britain are home for both the Common and Jack snipe. The Jack snipe (the smaller of the two) is protected in the UK except Northern Ireland. Snipe flourish in both lowland bogs and upland moors. Snipe shooting is a fantastic sport and more recognition needs to be given to this small beaky bird! In the past the snipe’s habitat has suffered due to the drainage of land but more recently great efforts have been made by farmers and estates to reverse such moves. The snipe is thriving in Ireland but more time and effort is required to ensure its success on the mainland of Britain.
Types of Snipe Shooting
Driven snipe shooting – The birds are pushed towards the guns by a line of beaters crossing a bog and hence the terrain is normally flat but surrounded by stunning scenery. The snipe will fly high and also jink to avoid the guns, so a test of the best sportsman’s skills.
Walked up and rough snipe shooting – as good as it gets and these little birds rarely make it easy for a gun. For many of us they will represent our finest moment as a shot and often seeing them in action is all that is required!
Season: 1st September to 31st January
There are many varieties of duck in the UK but the most common game birds are mallard, teal and widgeon. A duck flight (wild duck only!) is a very special experience as it takes place at last light in the winter months. The birds offer great sport and the whistling of wings raises the anticipation to fever pitch in any wildfowler. A good wind will add to the challenge and the speeds of the duck can be very difficult to judge as light fades. The other challenge is that the different ducks offer very different flight paths so you have to be very alert at all times. A good dog is critical as some of the duck will need to be retrieved from the water.
Finally ensure you wrap up warm with proper shooting clothing and footwear (brings me nicely back to why we started Ardmoor!) – The best sport is often when the British weather is at its harshest!
For more information on what to wear on a shoot, please see our Shooting Buyers Guides.