With grouse days well under way on the moors around Thimbleby and less than a month to go before the pheasant season opens for the year, we know lots of our regular customers will be preparing for a day of driven game shooting. Our instructors have been busy over the past few weeks teaching people who fancied a fine-tuning of their shooting, and Max has been working hard in the gun room checking gun fit and kitting people out. If you’re new to game shooting and have a day booked or you’re just curious about etiquette, here are some top tips from our very own Shooting Ground Manager and Senior Instructor Philip Thompson. Once the season kicks off Philip will be found offering discreet tuition to clients on shoots across the country, helping them have a successful and enjoyable day.
Double check your kit before you arrive
That means giving your shotgun a good clean, checking you have enough ammunition and ensuring that you know if there are any rules around what you can and can’t shoot with on the day. More and more shoots are moving away from lead shot and so it’s always worth asking before you set off on the day. Check you have ear and eye protection and all the clothing and equipment you need when you’ve loaded the car. I’ve seen a gun turn up with everything last little thing they needed – bar their shotgun! Always carry your shotgun licence with you too.
Safety always comes first
Driven game shooting can be very exciting, and I’ve seen both novice and experienced guns get a rush of blood to the head – and that can lead to unsafe practices in the field. Always remember to have clear sky around a bird to ensure the safety of beaters and other guns. Without exception, break your gun and unload it when the whistle blows and keep it broken whenever you’re not on peg (though it may be closed for storage in a shoot bus – hence making it a habit to unload it when the whistle goes).
Remember the basics to shoot successfully
You’ll have time on the peg to see (or hear) where the beaters are and where birds might come from. Think about your foot positioning and stance so that you can swing the gun, twist and go for high birds and stay balanced and in control. Dry mount your gun a few times so that you’re comfortable when things start to happen – hesitation in driven game shooting is your worst enemy. Remember to keep swinging the gun and to give those high birds plenty of lead.
Consider employing an instructor
An instructor and loader will help improve your strike rate by some margin, as you won’t be fumbling for cartridges when birds are flying overhead. They can also help spot birds for you and, in lots of cases, can offer subtle in-field tuition. Confidence is so important in shooting and having some words of support and encouragement can make all the difference.
Focus on one bird at a time
This one is key to success. Clients are often keen to make the most of those two cartridges and fell two birds, but my advice is to focus on a clear, clean shot on one bird. That total focus is more likely to reap rewards, and once you’re certain the first bird is folded and dropping, you can move to another if you have time. If missed, shoot at the same bird and don’t go looking for another. This approach also means you’re far more likely to pick up if that bird is your target quarry, or another type of bird caught up the drive – which leads me onto my next and final point.
Listen to the rules of the shoot
The shoot captain’s briefing is a crucial element of the day as you will learn the dos and don’ts of the shoot you are on. That might include woodcock and pigeon rules, ground game, whether you need to be aware of a white or Reeves pheasant lurking in the mix (which could carry a hefty fine for a local charity) and your peg number before you head for the first drive. You will also learn if there are footpaths or bridle paths on any of the drives and what to do if a member of the public appears at a key moment. Good manners and respect for both the quarry and the environment around you will go a long way!
If you would like to book Philip for infield tuition this season, please click here to drop the clubhouse team a line to discuss your dates.