Getting Started with Game Shooting
More so than the world of sporting clays, getting into game shooting can be a little bit intimidating. So today, we're going to look at how one gets into it - some of the stuff you need and a little bit about it - Let's go!
So for the purpose of this video, what I'm going to be talking about is the English-style driven shooting or driven shooting in England. Some of these things will refer also to sort of a rough walked up or mini driven-style of shooting, but I'm going to focus around driven shooting more than anything else.
So to start, what do you need to get started? Very little. I mean technically you don't even really need a gun; most places will be able to loan you a gun. So just some basic dress: a shirt, a tie, a waistcoat or a waterproof jacket, but at the very basics a pair of moleskins, a shirt and a tie that could set you back 40 quid will get you ready to go. Obviously nicer clothes are nicer and so a full Tweed suit is preferable or something in that sort of line up. You can expect to drop anywhere from that £40 mark all the way up to over £1000 for your shooting clothing. And that's pretty much all you need when you first go out.
There’s just one more point that I'd like to say that I think shoot day fashion is a personal thing that I absolutely love and a few of me and my friends don't deride other people but we have a lot of in jokes about what people wear, what people don't wear and you've got to enjoy that. Personally I love wearing Tweed. Wearing Tweed is the ultimate clothing and if I could get away with wearing it every day I totally would - apart from I'm not rich enough to have a tailor-made suit that I wear every day!
If in doubt about what to wear, contact the organiser of the day you're going on or if you're joining a syndicate which we’ll get into a minute, speak to the syndicate manager/shoot manager/shoot captain and say what would you recommend. You don’t want to turn up somewhere where there's a big in-joke about something like having a jumper with a pheasant on it and actually have a pheasant jumper on. I mean it would just be bad wouldn't it?
On the final point of fashion: colour. Most people will be wearing green. It's nice to see other colors in the field. I'm a green kind of guy. I like green but I also like having heavily colored accents in my shooting suit, bright orange socks, bright purple socks, bright purple tie, bright shirts because life's too short to be in plain green. It’s obviously horses for courses and if I’m going out somewhere where there might be a lot of Woodcock or wild birds, I’m going to wear something a little bit duller because they're going to be that much more ofay with “oh, there's a human let's fly away”. So there’s an element of camouflage in the field if you want more birds over you for certain quarry species. However, for the most part if you're shooting driven pheasant, they're not going to care too much whether you're wearing a white shirt or a green shirt or a blue tie or a red tie for the most part. Let's move on.
So for just that small amount of money plus the cost of a driven day you can go out shooting. If you contact a reputable sporting agent someone like Howard who we’ve had on the show before and say look ‘I'm new into it, is it possible that I can have a loader and a gun and some ammunition please for when I'm there’ and all you have to do is rock up. That's it. Just rock up.
So it can potentially be very very easy in terms of the kit list that you need. Obviously buying a gun is kind of part of the fun so a gun, a gun slip and a cartridge bag or belt are advised. Some way of carrying enough cartridges for the drive - a drive is a portion of the day that they'll push out a certain piece of ground over the top of you (for those of you who haven't figured that one out already).
The cost of a gun really doesn't need to be a huge amount and neither does the cost of shooting, which we’ll get into in a bit.
So the cost of the gun could be very basic: a £40 non-ejector side-by-side from an auction will kill pheasants the same as a £40,000/£400,000 gun. A nicer gun will shoot nicer, feel better and be an all-round more pleasant thing to own and bring you a little bit more joy potentially.
A gun slip. I'd always say buy a leather gun slip or least a canvas and leather one. A leather gun slip purely based on the fact that you can wipe it down. They last a lifetime and they don't look horrible. It's easy maintenance. Yes, there's a little bit of an investment but not that it really is anymore; you can pick up a leather gun slip for less than £100 now. Buy one, wipe it down. It's perfect and it’s clean. What more could you possibly want? Preferably one with a full zip so you can open it up to dry out because on a wet day you're going to want that.
A cartridge bag. I’d recommend a hundred plus because at some point during the day you might not be going back to the lorry or car to top up on ammo - having a hundred plus cartridge bag is a good idea. Again, I like leather bags purely for the fact you can wipe them down. Other cuff bags are available and everyone's got a personal preference on that.
Cartridge belts aren’t really my thing. Not on game shooting anyway, they have their place for rough shooting walked up when you only need 20 shells and you don't want to just chuck them in your pockets and it's warm for example. So I wore one when I went out wildfowling with Nick perfect application for something like that because you only need 10 cartridges in front of you and you need to be able to go ‘I need that one, I need that one or I need that one’. On a game shoot more than likely you’ll only have one type of cartridge and if you do have two then you’ve got two pockets or a cartridge bag and a pocket; something like that.
So gear-wise you don’t need a lot. Ear defenders are £10 plus, you know, so you can invest pretty much whatever you want in the gear.
So how do you get started game shooting? You've gone and got some gear, buying stuff is really easy, obviously. But how do you actually go out and go game shooting? Well, there's a multitude of avenues.
The first is to join a syndicate and again, there's multiple types of syndicates. So a syndicate is a group of people who always shoot together. There's various types of that, one type may be a group that clubs together, rents land, puts birds out and that's called a DIY syndicate as they do all of the work themselves. So essentially you'll go every Saturday for a work party and well, there you go. There's a lot of those about - you can look on Guns on Pegs, Facebook, there's a lot of websites out there, Shooting UK, classifieds that kind of thing and they'll be lots of adverts for syndicates. There might be DIY, semi-DIY. DIY being the cheapest because you're putting in most of the work; set part-time keepered it or semi keepered where you'll be paying a little bit more because you'll be paying a full-time or part-time person to run it for you. Or a true syndicate where you'll all be clubbing in, renting the land or buying a certain amount of days off of an estate so you'll be the estates syndicate. You'll get slightly better rates that way, you'll be able to shoot with the same people every time and you know, it increases the social aspect and if you're just looking to get into shooting and you haven't got any friends who do it or few friends who do it, joining a syndicate is a great way to make an instant seven friends who you shoot with everyday. You’ll have a common bond and actually shooting is about the people you shoot with and the experience, not about the Quarry or the game or anything like that really. Because I've shot some of the best days with some of the best birds with people I dislike and actually they turn into some of the worst days - fascinating isn't it?
So shooting with a syndicate you like really helps! On that note, when going to a syndicate it's really worthwhile meeting the guys, hanging out with them, finding out what they expect from you and you expect from them. All the way from DIY through to a full one, find out what the craic is and go and see if you like them.
What you can expect to pay for a Syndicate - from nothing all the way through to an awful lot. So there are syndicates out there that’ll charge you less than £600 a year and they'll shoot every week and there’ll be 10 of you and you'll come home with 12 birds between you and you'll go home with a brace or nothing or something or just one or two birds but you’ll have a great time.
There are syndicates who will put down more birds and so on so forth. You can pay pretty much as much as you like up to and including the syndicates that are tens of thousands of pounds, which there’s nothing wrong with because you'll get a lot of shooting for your tens of thousands of pounds.
Regardless of how much money you invest in your syndicate, make sure of two things: firstly that you like the people you shoot with and secondly that you can actually meet the requirements of the shoot. If you can't actually make all of the shoot days it might be terrible value-for-money. Make sure that someone could stand in if you can't make it and you know, just make sure you actually can fulfill the contract that you’re paying for, pretty much.
One final thing on syndicates is that there’s a type of thing called a roving syndicate where you and a bunch of mates will go around different shoots, but you'll be the same group of people. You'll set the same amount of money into the pot, the shoot Captain will organise five or six different shoots or maybe more different shoots from anywhere between two and 50 different shoots for the season and you'll travel around and do each of them, but you’ll be a syndicate of people, a roving syndicate.
Anyway, let's move on to outright purchase. So you can just go to a sporting agent and say ‘look I’d like to go and shoot birds. Just me, this is my budget. You can expect to pay anywhere from about 300 up to a few thousand for a day's shooting. So figure out what you want and how much you want to invest; what you want to shoot, where you want to shoot and be as honest with an agent as possible.
They’ll do something called a scratch day where they’ll go ‘All right, well all these people want to do a different day of shooting, let's put them together’. A good agent will be able to have enough people coming to them so that they can decide that person will get on with that person etc. let's actually try and form a group of people that are going to have a good day together, which like I've said is really really important.
Actually before I move on, we at TGS are looking at maybe putting together a scratch day for those people who might be interested in game shooting around September time or maybe January time; beginning or end of the season. So let us know if you’re interested in that, probably about £500 for the day. It might be quite an interesting thing for those who feel uncomfortable perhaps going with people they don't know - why don't you come with us?
So how does one go about buying a days shooting for a single or two pegs? And if you do have enough friends to go together, and you'll want to try it new, go and do it! Just go to an agent and buy a full day. But if you're looking for single pegs or whole days, the best place is to go to an agent. Because it's just easier to buy from someone you trust, you know that the responsibility is all on them and makes the whole thing a more hassle-free experience. So I buy everything pretty much exclusively through Howard. Go on Facebook, there's loads of offers, deals, last minute things on Facebook through agents. Get on mailing lists and you'll be bombarded with opportunities. And take a hold of them.
If it’s your first day shooting I’d recommend wholeheartedly having a loader. A loader is someone who will stand with you, load your gun for you, point out where you're going wrong. They'll keep your etiquette in line and just make sure you don't do anything silly or dangerous.
Safety on your first shoot day. I mean I don't even need to touch on that because it's such an important thing that you should already be fully aware of. But having a loader with you on your first day for the cost of a loader is worth every single penny. So when you're booking your day either ask if you can take a loader or ask if the estate can arrange a loader. They'll have a whole host of people who’d have loaded on that shoot before, will know the drives, know where the birds are coming from, know your abilities, be able to shout where birds are coming from (Shout quietly in your ear ‘there’s one to your right sir’, that kind of thing) and actually that on your first shoot day will just make the whole thing that much more pleasant in my humble opinion.
Okay, the final thing I'd like to touch on is shooting culture or driven shooting culture and for that because I'm too involved in it to really know the difference between that and reality because that is my reality, Sasha’s going to come on camera. He’s somebody who's only really been in it for less than a year, whose only just done one season and that's just with me sort of seeing and meeting new people and he's gonna help me explain to you what driven shooting culture is.
So for those of you who don't know, this is Sasha, the man behind the scenes of the camera - the legendary filmmaker for TGS. Sasha’s been with us since November; 7 months.
So you've seen a whole season, you've never been in any sort of country culture before driven shoot culture and we kind of dragged you along to try and make you understand why we do what we do and at least make you a more empathetic filmmaker.
Tell us about your first shooting experience or your shooting experience from the last season. What’s different? What would people expect who’d never done anything like that before?
Sasha: Well, the first thing that gets me is the tradition. Now growing up, football clubs, chess club (I'm actually a Grandmaster, you probably know that about me).
Jonny: You won't play me though to find out…
Sasha: Well I don't want to embarrass you I’m a boss. Right - so it's the tradition. You sort of turn up on the game shoot and everyone meets at a certain spot and then you've got certain rituals. Like you have your breakfast.
Jonny: Breakfast is very important, very important.
Sasha: So you have your breakfast and then it's like sort of stepping in a time machine and going back a couple hundred years ago, in a really beautiful way I must say. You’ve got all the attire, so clothing is very important.
That's the first thing that threw me off because I don't have any smart clothes, particularly when I started this job. So Johnny puts me in his extra extra large trousers and I walk around looking like he’s my dad. So you give me your massive extra large jacket that didn't fit around my chest so we had to get a bigger one. I look like an idiot. Here's one thing if you're not within the shooting community or didn't grow up in the shooting community that you need to understand, right? Invites, this is a key term. It needs to be underlined, highlighted all that good stuff. So It's not a birthday invitation. And now I grow up, someone invites me because I'm obviously cool, quite high up on the list. And I have to turn it down because I have to let them know I’m better than them.
Yeah that's not what it is. An invitation is a formal offering that culturally can and should not be declined without exceptional reason.
Jonny: It’s an etiquette and respect thing more than anything.
Sasha: That's that's not how a lot of people nowadays operate. An invitation doesn't hold the amount of weight that it does within the shooting community.
I’d say just engage in the banter, be talkative otherwise people are going to think you're a weirdo and you don't want to be in that situation. It’s about the social event, you go there for the camaraderie. The shooting is a sort of secondary thing.
Jonny: Yeah, and I've been on a few shoots where there's clearly somebody who’s just there for the shooting aspect and no one likes him. Don't be greedy, we make mistakes occasionally and it does happen to the best of us. However on the whole don't be greedy. Because it's bad.
Sasha: And if you are going to be greedy, be funny and sociable, at least have people like you through that.
Oh and don't shoot birds that should obviously not be shot - you're going to end up disliked by everyone very soon.
Jonny: If they’re too low or somebody else's, unless you know them, right, in which case it's funny. I think that’s pretty much all I would say there.
Sasha: Yeah. Yeah key points, to not be perceived as a weirdo when you first turn up, just get talking to people, be sociable.
It's tough when you don't get any references which are being thrown around.
Jonny: Yeah. I know it’s quite hard to join a long-standing syndicate or a long-standing group of friends as a complete outsider, but on the whole as long as those people aren't complete knobs they’ll include you. Because people are there to have fun and have a great social time and make friends and bond in a very old-fashioned way; bond around a hunt.
Sasha: Yeah, it's not like clay shooting and it's not like deer stalking like the shooting is still very much geared towards getting your shots. It's sociable don't get me wrong. But it's very competitive, whereas the game shoot is all about the camaraderie and spending time with people and having fun and then shoot a few birds.
Jonny: Shooting a few birds and having some fun. But I mean that's. That's literally it.
I think that pretty much sums up getting started in game shooting. Get started. Go on your first day, just do it. There are very little boundaries in front of you apart from potential fear of not enjoying yourself or not going on a day. Yes, it can be a little bit of money, but you don't have to shoot a hundred days a season. One day a season is better than no days a season. Two or three days of season is really nice. More than that, it’s a luxury and it's a luxury to do one day, isn't it?
So get out and enjoy yourself. If you’d like to be involved in the TGS shoot, if you'd like to come out game shooting and you feel like coming with us is going to make it a little bit easier, our email address is in the description below; drop us an email and we'll stay in touch. We’ve got nothing of solid plan, but we think it would be a nice idea to get more people involved in one of the best sports around.
Guys, thank you very much for watching. If you've got any questions chuck them below, and if you got any comments or references also chuck them below. Take care. Goodbye. We'll see you next time!