I often get asked ‘What do you need to know for a shoot day?’ by Ladies who are starting their journey into game shooting. So I have jotted my observations down and hope that they will help you in either this season or next…..
Well that depends on the type of shoot –
What do I wear?
First and foremost dress for the weather!
You do not need to spend a fortune on clothing if it’s your first time or first season – you’ve probably already got it or similar!
Wear a shirt and tie as this shows respect to both your host and your quarry. You could wear a roomy blouse and silk scarf tied neatly around the neck or if the weather is colder a wool polo neck with a pretty silk scarf tied suitably around the neck. Top off the shirt/blouse with a co-ordinated wool jumper.
You can either wear trousers or breeks. These should be in muted tones.
Footwear – suggest arriving in either brogues/decks or country boots and then after refreshment change into either wellies/walking boots/country boots. You may like to wear a smart jacket for arrival/coffee and again at lunch or afternoon tea and at this point you change out of your outer footwear and into that that you arrived in.
Make sure you don’t have a zip or loose flap on your coat on the side you hold your gun (it gets in the way!)
Advisable to have a hat with a peak as this will shield your eyes from the sun or keep the rain off if raining but as we all know it could be both at the same time!.
On a safety note you WILL need ear protection – this can either be in ear or over ear. Again consider what head wear you are wearing as to how you will the defenders!
OK we are now dressed!
Do we get Fed?
Commonly known as Hospitality – Shoots can offer different ‘packages’ This could be breakfast before your start where you would meet your party of guns and the game keeper. The GK or Shoot Captain would then give the safety brief and run of the day and you may select peg numbers. Somewhere between 11 and 12 you will have ‘Field Elevenses’ which can be hot sausages, mini pies, soup/consume, cakes and drinks. Then shoot through to the end and finish with a nice Roast where everyone can chat about their day!
What happens at the end of the day?
At the end of the day it is customary to ‘tip’ the Game Keeper. This is based on £20/100 birds – this little exchange is quite fun to carry out – either passing the carefully folded note as you shake hands or discreetly slipping it into their waistcoat/jacket pocket but with Covid it would be prudent to have it in an envelope before you arrive and then at the end of the day before you say thank you and goodbye ask if they have a little pot.
Always take the brace of pheasant you are offered – it may well be a new task to gut and pluck but you tube is great!
Rough shooting/walked up shooting/shooting over dogs
In my experience these days are less formal and so workmanlike clothing is acceptable and something that wont matter too much if caught in the brambles. You will still need ear protection.
We generally carry our own lunch and flask and stop halfway round for a breather. This is where a good coat with large pockets is useful!
A good idea is to wear your cartridges in a cartridge belt as this frees up the pockets to carry your lunch and then used cartridges and allows for better loading
Clay shooting is very informal compared to any other form of shooting. Dress in comfortable clothing and wear sturdy footwear. As time goes on you may wish to purchase a Shooting Vest which is a long line gilet in a lightweight fabric with large front pockets and a padded panel on the shoulder/chest and allows for better grip by the gun and minimise recoil.
You will need ear protection, eye protection and a cap to protect your head and face.
Simulated Game Day
Run on very similar lines to game days. Usually a minimum of 4 drives. Meeting for tea or coffee and a bacon sandwich between 9.00 – 9.30 am, when a safety talk and the drawing pegs take place. You then head out onto the first drive where you will be pegged out as if on a game day, although the gaps between pegs are closer; one of the big differences between game and simulated game is poaching other people’s birds is not frowned upon and when safe it’s encouraged.
Teams are between eight to eighteen guns, split into two teams so while one team shoots the other team loads. Because clay pigeon traps are so easy to control unlike pheasants and partridge the traps can be stopped halfway through the drive, reload the traps and swap teams. Don’t worry that you’ll feel as if you haven’t had enough shooting, it’s more likely you will have had too much and you are struggling to touch your barrels!
After two drives we stop for an early light lunch giving you a chance to take a breather, then we’re back out to shoot the last two drives, these are usually much higher birds as you should have your eye in by now!
As for clothing, many teams may normally wear shooting clothes i.e. breeks, shirt, tie, waistcoat etc to make the day feel more ‘real’, there is no necessity for this however especially as the weather will hopefully be warm! I would suggest that you wear whatever you’re comfortable in but sensible footwear is a must, walking boots or wellingtons and most importantly a hat and safety glasses and ear protection must be worn whilst in the gun line due to noise and the potential of clay fragments falling close by.
What Equipment do I Need?
A well fitted shotgun and this can be any bore. Suitable cartridges for the activity. Driven and Rough Shooting require Game cartridges For Clay Pigeon shooting and Simulated Game Days a competition cartridge is required and your local Gunsmith can advise on weight and shot required for all activities.
For a Driven Day the size of the bag is what determines your requirements and a reasonable shot should be working on a hit rate of 1 bird to 5 cartridges so if you are attending a 60 bird day and there are 8 pegs that’s 7.5 birds each x 5 = 37.5 cartridges! (pack 100!) These cartridges need to be transported so either a smart cartridge bag or you could fill your large pockets!
If you are employing the services of a Loader/Instructor make sure you have spoken to them to agree what they are providing in terms of equipment, that they know where to meet and at what time – they may wish to speak to the Game Keeper/Shoot Captain prior to the day to make sure you have an enjoyable day. It is advisable that your loader has PI Insurance and recently attended a Loaders course.
For a Rough Shoot/Walked Up Day/Shooting over Dogs remember you have to carry your gun and catridges for majority of the day. Taking 50 cartridges would be ample as birds don’t generally come as thick and fast as a driven day.
For a Simulated Game Day the organiser will advise the approximate number of cartridges – anywhere from 250! It is recommended to use 21g or 24g as you will be shooting lots and quite fast but have a break between each drive.
Ensure your cartridges are fibre wad as shooting over land that is grazed by livestock and they can choke on the plastic wad and the plastic wad doesn’t disintergrate!
If shooting duck you will need steel shot – to combat both of these you could use Eco Wad Cartridges now coming onto the market which are steel shot and have biodegradable wads.
Don’t forget to pack your licence and evidence of your shooting insurance (BASC or CA membership card)
The emphasis should be on an enjoyable day with enjoyable company.