The pheasant and partridge shooting season runs to a close this Friday the 1st of February. With guns back in their slips until the 12th of August on Grouse, 1st of September for Partridge and from the 1st of October for Pheasants. The end of the Driven Game season is marked with what is by some the most anticipated shoot day of the year; “Beaters Day”.
Behind every day’s shooting enjoyed by a team of guns, there is team of individuals, who come together under the guidance of Gamekeepers to produce an enjoyable, safe shoot day. The shoot day production team are a diverse bunch, from all walks of life; young and old, fit and agile, less mobile, there is a place on the team for everyone.
A perfect moment captured, my dog of a lifetime teaching my young nephew a thing or two about how a shoot day works, team work at its best (2005 Sands Farm, Shropshire)
In the last few days leading up to the end of the shooting season those that make up the team of beaters, pickers up, loaders, game cart managers and hosts get the opportunity to stand on a peg for themselves. Giving them their turn to enjoy shooting driven game as a thank you for all their efforts and commitment throughout the season. Shoots are reliant on the hard work put in all year round by the masses of helpers who assist because of their love for the sport and countryside. The end of the season is all about these people, the behind the scenes crew that make each shoot day possible.
On smaller family / syndicate shoots it may be that it’s just a case of turning the tables and the Guns became beaters, taking their turn at getting acquainted with the rough terrain, brambles and shoot day trials and tribulations to give the others a great day out. Usually ending in an afternoon feast where events of the day will be re told and much fun being popped at the expense of others. The friendly banter and community spirit in the beaters’ cart is not something I can easily put into words, something I think everyone should experience to believe it.
Theresa Harrison from Kilvington in Nottinghamshire has been regularly beating on four different shoots this season.
On bigger, commercial shoots, it’s not always possible to have everyone standing at once or indeed on some of largest shoots, shooting on the same day. Some shoots will even operate different beaters days and then within these different days have two teams, each taking their turn to walk or stand. There are so many people to try to appease that beaters days must be the most logistically challenging day for any game keeper to manage. At least on a normal shoot day there is an element of practised routine, with people knowing the routes on certain drives and where they should stand. All this goes out of the window as new teams are formed. I certainly don’t envy any Keeper on beaters’ day. It’s no wonder they are often seen snuggled up, sleeping by the fire after the beaters’ day evening meal. I’ll mention no names, nor include any photographic evidence . . . . . this time!
Deep in thought waiting for the signal to get going.
Enjoyment of the day is key but safety is always paramount. Ultimately the Gamekeeper is in charge and will decide the rules of the day. These rules are made clear at the morning debrief when the gamekeeper presents the day and lays down the rules of by which the day will run. It isn’t however the case that only the most experienced shotgun handlers will be allowed to shoot, this is after all a team event. Often the less experienced game shoots will be coached and supervised by a more experienced member of the team. Coaching and loading for those new to the sport is an ideal role for the more mature or less mobile members of the team, facilitating an ethos of inclusion from the youngest to the oldest. Very often keepers are able to provide coaching out of season on clay pigeons to encourage younger and less experienced members of the team to take up the sport.
If you are looking for an accredited Shotgun coach – Charlotte Marrision (Pictured coaching Teresa Davis – Wildlife and Sporting Artist ) is a BASC Accredited Shotgun Coach & Safety Officer covering the whole of the UK.
For many, beaters day is where their game shooting experience starts, serving an unofficial traineeship as part of the Shoot day production team, over the years gaining valuable knowledge of the countryside and the skills that go with being a safe knowledgeable game shot. Active encouragement of safe and knowledgeable participation is vital if our country sporting life is to live on into the next generations.
This is my own daughter (8) pictured this season out on my home stomping grounds in East Shropshire, proudly sporting her Gamekeepers Welfare Trust beaters flag like a true professional.
To encourage this “sustainable” participation in driven game shooting, The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust have gone one step further and created The Knowledge. The Knowledge is a book that aims to fill the gap in the existing range of shooting resources, to educate shoot participants on countryside conservation work and how land management for shooting affects the wider environment. Those new to shooting will benefit from guidance on some of the most controversial issues affecting shooting, e.g. lead shot and use of medication in game rearing, as well as an introduction to the laws relevant to a Gun on a shoot day.
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust also offer the opportunity to take The Knowledge to the next level and to become an Accredited Game Shot . To achieve this, the participant must read their copy of The Knowledge and then sit an hour long online test to gain Accredited Game Shot status.
This is free to existing members of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)
If you are not already a member join here and the cost of the test is included along with a free copy of The Knowledge, up to £10,000,000 public liability insurance and a host of other benefits.
There is one other vital member of the Shoot production team I have yet to mention and that is the army of canine warriors that work their hearts out, flushing, presenting and retrieving game. They are the reason many of us participate in the sport. I don’t shoot, I’ve never really was inclined to. I had my first spaniel (a black and white cocker bitch) in 1986 an have worked, bred and trained gundogs ever since. They are elite athletes covering rough terrain, entering water, concentrating, listening, sensing and playing their vital part in the shoot day production. To enable these guys to do their job to their absolute best, you will only ever get out what you put in.
All it remains for me to stay is that I hope you all have an amazing few days at the end of the 2018/19 season. I can’t wait to catch up with antics on social media and together we shall count down the days till the 12th of August.