Having mastered the clay ground, with every clay being turned to dust, you are now wanting to try your hand at game shooting and are wondering how to bridge that gap.
You may be a prolific clay pigeon shot or be new to the sport altogether but, either way, moving to game shooting brings with it some very different aspects, customs and challenges.
We would always recommend starting with clay pigeon shooting so that you get the hang of handling a shotgun and, more importantly, how to hit a target. As you are moving on to shooting at live game, you want to hit it cleanly to avoid wounding anything. If you are new to the sport do have a read through our guide on How to get into Shooting.
You might have been fortunate to have been invited to a day’s shooting, which is a common way of starting. Alternatively you may have bought some shooting on a let day, or managed to secure an invite for yourself by dropping sufficient hints to a friend! Either way, the very environment you are going to be in is very different to a clay shooting ground and safety is paramount.
On the day
If there’s an opportunity to accompany someone you know on a day’s shooting then we would absolutely recommend doing so. Having an opportunity to see what goes on, be talked through what they are seeing, what they are doing and why they are doing it is invaluable when it comes to doing it yourself.
We would always suggest having someone stand with you on your first day just to make sure that you have someone experienced keeping an eye on you and pointing out all the nuances that can occur and that you need to be aware of. If you have had some instruction, then see if they might accompany you. If not, then ask your host if they might have someone who can be with you. Invariably they will have someone they can task up as they themselves will be much more relaxed knowing you are being looked after and aren’t going to mistakenly do something untoward.
You will be given a safety briefing at the start of the day by your host, who will explain the do’s and don’ts for the day and any particular things you might need to keep an eye on. Do pay keen attention; if you have been told not to shoot woodcock, it will not go down well if you bag one!
Which brings us neatly on to the point of bird identification. It always surprises one how many times you have to point out differing bird species to someone who is out to shoot one of them. In these day’s of vicarious liability, your host will be guilty if you inadvertently shoot a protected species and you have a duty to ensure you don’t!
Similarly there are different seasons for different quarry species so make sure you know what is in season for the day you are going on. Again, it won’t go down well if you are on a partridge day in early September and shoot a load of young pheasant that aren’t in season until 1st October. The British Association for Shooting & Conservation have a very useful guide which is worth having a look at to save blushes.
The cast iron rule is if you don’t know what you are shooting at then don’t pull the trigger. The aid of someone standing next to you will also help to keep you on track until you have a grasp on what differing birds look like.
The other thing that is worth doing before you head out on your first day’s game shooting is to have a read through A Father’s Advice which gives you a pretty thorough brief of the stand out safety advice for a day’s shooting and particularly if you are going on a walked-up day. Safety is obviously everything and how you handle your gun and yourself will determine whether you are invited back! As above, if you have the opportunity to go out and walk with someone else before your own day, then take that opportunity. It’s a great day out in it’s own right.
Do not worry about being new to the sport. Every shot, beater, picker-up and host is keen to help others into the sport, to enjoy their day and they will happily keep an eye too and give you advice so don’t be afraid to ask.
If you are heading out after pheasant for the first our guide on what you might need on the day. You might also need some help on tipping the keeper or on what to wear or, better still, on how to pluck the birds you are going to bring home with you.