I was invited by a good friend of mine to a day’s shooting at his estate in Yorkshire. I acquiesced immediately as his driven shoots are renowned for being tremendous fun, a fact I can attest to, having spent many a winter day on his estate in the company of friends, drinking bullshot and shooting at a plentiful stream of birds driven high into the air by his first-class team of beaters.
As I loaded my prized 12-bore, side-by-side Purdey, my cartridge bag and various other essential shooting items (including my lucky pheasant tie and matching cufflinks) into the back of the Bentley, my thoughts turned to the keeper managing the shoot. Whilst he is an amicable enough man, get on the wrong side of him or catch him at a time when the shoot seems to be going slower than expected, and you’ll wish you could fly as fast as the bird that your neighbour just missed.
I’m not saying that this man is bad at his job, in fact, quite the opposite. He is an excellent keeper, one of the best that there is… he’s just not very sociable. He has been known to shout down the line at a particularly selective Gun “This one’s for you!” in a bid to try and get them to spend some cartridges. This sort of behaviour often costs him tips from the lesser-seasoned Guns, a terrible shame as I have never once attended a bad shoot run by him.
The etiquette of a shoot is often just as important as the shooting itself, so for those who don’t already know, here are some things to keep in mind;
- First and foremost, shoot safely. Never swing your gun in the direction of fellow Guns.
- Shoot sportingly- you should know which birds to shoot and which would be a better shot for your neighbour.
- Avoid being over selective, don’t wait for the best birds & ignore the rest. This reflects badly on your host & his team who are working hard to keep a steady steam of birds sailing past you.
- Don’t try for a bird that is at a range so close that it would be ruined for the table.
- Ensure that each bird you’ve shot is accounted for and collected, either by yourself and your gundog (if you have brought one with you) or the pickers-up.
- At the end of the shoot remember to thank the keeper and his team. This includes handing a tip to the Keeper.
- It’s good form to send a thank-you note to the hostess. Without them, we wouldn’t be fed and watered. They always put on a good spread.
- If you have imbibed a tad too much after the shoot, get a lift home, engage a driver or find somewhere to stay.
- Always accept the brace of birds that is handed to you at the end of the day.
- Finally, enjoy yourself!