Those embarking on a driven shoot in Britain, where the quarry will be mainly pheasants and/or partridges would do well to learn a little about the forms and conventions of this formal and ritualised style of shooting. In my experience, this advice should not be restricted to overseas visitors. Plenty of experienced home-based and regular Guns would benefit form the occasional review of the rules.
We have covered attire elsewhere and attire is what often causes the anxiety in a novice. However, this is relatively easy to get right. What is harder to grasp is the basic concept of driven shooting and the discipline required of the entire team if the day is to be a success.
Nothing causes more arguments or harsh words than indisciplined Guns shooting birds that are rightly claimed as somebody else’s. So, what is ‘your bird’?
Firstly, put into your mind that it is driven bird shooting, not crossing bird shooting. If you want to shoot crossing birds, go duck shooting. Birds crossing you and on a trajectory towards your neighbour or someone further down the line is not yours to shoot. If you shoot it and it falls on its way to another Gun, landing closer to them than to you, you have messed up! Your birds will be high and passing over your head. You will not thank others for shooting them down before they get to you.
Remember that nobody is going to starve if you don’t shoot every bird you see. This is not a pot hunt. a gentleman is admired as much for the birds he does not shoot as for those he does. In short, your high, stylish kills will be noted with approval but your propensity to slaughter every low and easy bird that comes within your line of sight will get you a reputation as oafish, greedy and un-selective . Every time you pillowcase a 15-yard bird, everyone else pays 10% of its cost as it hits the deck. an easy, unsporting bird counts and costs as much as the highest skyscraping rocket that you will remember forever.
My mental calculation tells me “I know I’ll kill that one, so why bother?” If it poses no challenge, leave it be. Save your effort for a bird worth the effort, which will challenge you and which will represent an achievement if you can kill it. You will remember it. Don’t fill the bag with forgettable birds. It is not a numbers game. You are not ‘The Man’ because you killed more than anyone else.
Forget what the day cost and don’t try to get your money’s worth. Guns who calculate the success of the day by whether or not they shot more than ‘their share of the bag’ miss the point. Learn to shoot what pleases you and develop high standards so you are pleased by excellence and style rather than bodies littered around your peg. Better to engage and miss a high bird than kill a low one. I have loaded for American guests who have gleefully shouted “I got a double, did you see that?” while I reflected that neither bird was worth lifting a gun to and noted that birds in the same flush 50% higher than the ones engaged actually offered the sport, yet were ignored.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that will ensure you remain respectable and respected when shooting in formal settings.
1. Wear a tie.
2. Take a spare gun.
3. Take a cartridge bag to each stand, with more ammunition than you expect to require.
4. Wear a hat.
5. Tip the ‘keeper: £20 is a safe start, plus an additional £10 per hundred birds in the bag. If you have enjoyed a particularly good day, tip more. If you are a guest, tip a lot more – you will be remembered for your generosity but you did not have to pay for the day. A £100 tip on a 300 bird invite is still a cheap day out.
6. Thank the beaters. They work hard. They will appreciate it.
7. Thank the catering staff. Politeness costs nothing.
8. Introduce yourself to all the Guns when you arrive. The fun will begin as soon as the ice is broken.
9. Congratulate other Guns on well taken shots. It promotes good shooting and makes people happy.
10. Have a discreet word with the shoot captain if you feel another Gun is dangerous or unsporting. It is his role to sort it out, not yours.
11. Relax. It is supposed to be fun!
12. Be generous. If your neighbour is out of the shooting and you are getting a lot, invite him to take the occasional bird over you.
1. Shoot crossing birds, which are heading towards another Gun.
2. Shoot low birds. This means easy ones, not just dangerous ones.
3. Shoot birds over another Gun’s head.
4. Shoot anything on the ground.
5. Tell everyone how many birds you shot unless they ask.
6. Judge the success of your day by the number of birds you killed.
7. Tell everyone that you are having a bad day; even if you are.
8. Ask the ‘keeper or owner how many birds he puts down.
9. Run out of shells; some will be insulted (you underestimated the quality of their shoot).
10. Tell everybody how they should be doing the drives differently. Offer advice only if asked (and you actually know what you are talking about).
11. Allow your dog to run around picking up birds while a drive is active. Wait until all shooting has stopped.
12. Shoot anything you don’t recognise or have not been told is quarry.