Graham White, headkeeper at Holylee, began his career at a young age and has some great advice for those who are interested in taking up shooting or are new to the sport.
1. Stay Warm
Nothing ruins a day of shooting quite like being cold, so make sure your clothes are sufficiently warm. And also think about extremities: is it worth wearing a scarf? Is it cold enough for thermals? What about gloves? What sort of hat will work best?
Never place aesthetics before comfort. And remember that you need to have freedom of movement if you’re to move quickly when necessary.
You may start the day in the shade of the hill and the conditions can seem calm, however at the top of the hill it may be blowing a gale. A windproof outer layer is a must for staying warm all day.
4. Be prepared
There are lots of imponderables, but there are also many things you can investigate beforehand. Take a look at the weather forecast so that you’re wearing the right clothes; make sure you have enough cartridges (if neccessary ring the estate and try to get a sense of how many cartidges you will need) look at the estate’s website – if it has one – and see what sort of terrain you’ll face and choose your footwear accordingly – either wellies or boots.
5. Smart attire
Notwithstanding the need to be comfortable, there are occassions when you will need to be smarter than others, so try and get a sense of what sort of shoot you’re on. If it’s a family walked-up day, it’s likely to be a casual affair and in any case you don’t want to ruin your smartest kit wading through heather and gorse.
If it is a driven day, you should err on the side of being smart. Above all, just use your common sense – if it’s double guns and driven grouse on the Glorious 12th then dress to impress. Above all, the best rule of thumb is that you can never go wrong with a tie and tweeds.
6. Wear breathable material
You can get pretty hot and sweaty on a shoot, even if the weather isn’t too toasty. If it’s a walked-up shoot your temperature will begin to rise. And contrary to preconceptions, sometimes you’ll have a good walk to get to your peg – one of our hills has a one-in-three gradient and the only way to get to the peg is to walk!
When it comes to ruining a day’s shooting, freezing cold comes first and then, just before having horrible blisters, comes being wet right through. If it’s pouring all day and you don’t have the right kit you are without doubt going to get wet and miserable. So read the reviews and the bumf on all of your kit and wear what you think will keep you driest if the forecast is for stair rods from dawn to dusk.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask
The best people to ask are your pals and the professionals. If your friends are competent and know the ground you’re likely to be shooting, then pick their brains. Gamekeepers will always try to help as well – whether it’s tips on the weight of shot or on what footwear, any professional worth his salt will try to help because none of them want a gun who is unable to enjoy the day and is unlikely to ever return.
9. Buy one good rather than ten average
When it comes to gear, if you invest in genuinely good quality gear then you will need a small shooting wardrobe. Gear companies have a vested interest in producing ever more technical ranges of gear, but you’re generally better advised to invest £400 in one jacket that you can wear for everything than five jackets for £80.
10. Make sure your gear is activity-specific and geography-specific
Notwithstanding my earlier advice to get the best kit you can afford, sometimes there are bits of gear you absolutely need for specific tasks. If you are wildfowling, for instance, camouflage gloves can be very important as your hands can be horribly visible to geese. If you’re doing walked-up snipe through a bog, then wellies (or gaiters to go with boots) are a must.
If you would like to find out more about Graham and his expert advice, guides and product reviews then please visit his profile on our website.