Many of us enjoy a day's shooting, and no matter whether you are a gun, beater or gamekeeper, everyone has an important role to play and by working together, shooting can be an incredible day out for all. Beating is a great way of getting some exercise, meeting new people and a great angle to becoming involved in the country sport of shooting. We often get asked the same questions by newcomers to the sport, so we created this guide as an introduction to role of the beater and what to expect on a day's beating.
The role of beaters?
Beaters are a well organised team that have the responsibility of driving the game through a desired route towards the waiting guns. By walking in formation, beaters will successfully flush game in a specific direction which has been strategically planned by the Gamekeeper and shoot captain. The organised team of beaters will be led by the keeper or an under-keeper who know the ground exceptionally well and who will be well drilled on when and where to drive their beat. Beaters will usually come equipped with flags, whistles and radios to stay in constant communication with the different groups involved on the shoot.
In order to drive the game in the desired route, beaters make noise by clapping loudly, using their voice to make loud, and sharp noises or by cracking sticks on nearby objects. Experienced beaters will have trained dogs with them and these dogs will be controlled to operate in a tight area which allows the beater to cover a wider area than would otherwise be possible and thus flush more game in the desired direction.
Whilst the beat needs to be run by someone who knows exactly what they are doing, they need plenty of people who are simply keen to get involved. You will find that everyone involved will welcome newcomers and that they will be keen to pass on their knowledge.
Who can get involved on the beat?
We are often asked if it’s only experienced people who can get involved in a beat and often people are hesitant to take part as they are unsure of what actually goes on. Hopefully the above section on ‘The role of beaters’ will have encouraged you in consider joining a beat. So long as you abide by the safety rules and listen to those around you, people of all ages and backgrounds are welcome on a beat, that could be friends and family of those involved in the shoot, or people in the local community. Shooting is a popular country sport and is a great day out for the family. If you are considering getting involved, it’s important to know what shooting clothing to wear.
What to wear when beating
The golden rule is layering. Layer-up your clothing from your head to your toes. That means extra socks, long johns, a vest, hat and gloves. It’s much better to be too hot and layer down than it is to be too cold and not have enough spare clothing to put on. This is particulary important as the day can often be made up of periods of activity when you will get hot, interspersed with periods of waiting when you will rapidly cool down. You don’t need to have specialist kit for your first time beating however here’s a quick breakdown of the type of clothing you could wear.
1. Comfortable hard wearing footwear
Beaters cover a great deal of ground during the beat, so comfortable footwear is a necessity. There is also no guarantee that the ground you will be going through will be dry; in fact, you may find yourself trudging thorough soft damp muddy terrain or even shallow water. Some specially designed shooting footwear such as wellingtons or boots that are water resistant and support your ankles is highly recommended.
2. Waterproof jacket and trousers or breeks
Slipping on some tough trousers, waxed leggings or tweed breeks is ideal for beaters. Pushing your way through bushes, high grass and woodlands means that your trousers have to be well designed so that they can withstand thorns and nettles. Tweed is ideal for this, or similarly trousers with waxed bottoms are often a popular choice. Beaters will often match up their tweed breeks with a matching tweed shooting jacket, however as long as your jacket is warm and protects you from the weather you should be fine. Green and brown colours are recommended and will fall into suit with the other beaters around you.
3. Gloves and hats
When walking through the woodlands you may encounter thorny bushes or sharp branches, having a pair of gloves and hat on will make all the difference in not only keeping you warm but protecting your hands and head from your surroundings. Beaters wear different hat styles and this mainly comes down to personal preference, a tweed cap, hat or fleece beanie will be suitable.
What to expect on your first time beating
If this is your first time beating, make sure you understand the role described above and that you are dressed to suit. The experienced beaters in your team will be positioned around you to keep you in formation and will talk you through your first experience beating. If you listen to those around you, you will be set up well for the day. If you have a dog, that you are keen to take along, it’s important that you can keep it in control and keep them close by at all times, otherwise your run the risk of flushing the game in the wrong direction and causing upset on the shoot. New dogs often are kept on the lead at shoots while yourself and your dog gain experience – always check with the head beater or the person that is running the shoot that your dog is welcome before arriving.
You can expect to have drives in the morning and afternoon with a break for food and a warming drink at lunch. Most shoots will tend to operate from early morning to when the light begins to fade mid-afternoon and the general tempo of the day will be set by the time of year and the weather prevailing on the day itself. The most important thing to do is listen to those around you, stay safe and enjoy your experience beating.
The next steps...
After gaining experience beating, you many want to experience the shoot from a different angle and you may find yourself wanting to become one of the guns. If you find yourself in this situation, have a chat with the person who runs the shoot and they will detail how you can go about getting starting. If you have no or little experience shooting, a good place to start would be to book at day clay pigeon shooting. For details on what’s involved, check out our guide on First time clay pigeon shooting tips.