We all like to get good value for our money, whether it be on our sport or for the groceries we buy at the local supermarket, and in straitened financial times such as these, there is even more reason to make our limited

supply of cash go a long way in terms of enjoyment and satisfaction.

For the countryman, born and brought up to shooting and settled in an environment where fieldsports are a way of life, sport may often involve little or no exchange of cash — a season’s beating, regular feeding and watering of the pheasant pens or helping with the haymaking can result in the opportunity to go shooting or even an invitation to run a small shoot on a few acres of farmland. But for the majority of shooters who have no such contacts, shooting usually follows the opening of the cheque book. That’s where the unwary or inexperienced can trip up or get bogged down, for while there might be plenty of opportunities to spend £7,000 or more on a smart driven shoot for eight Guns, the small walked-up day for two with the chance to bag a few pheasants plus a handful of rabbits, pigeon and the odd woodcock just does not seem to poke its head above the horizon. So what’s the best way of tracking down quality sport on a budget?

Sporting agents are in touch with a huge range of estates and shoot owners throughout the course of the year and they usually have their finger on the pulse. The big names may well be interested only in letting big days, so go to a smaller agent.

“If we know people are looking for a smaller day on a budget then we can arrange it,” said Nick Elsdon of Anglia Sporting. “Small walked-up days are very popular at present and it’s what I like doing, so organising a 30-to 40-bird walked-up day is enjoyable for me too.”

Most days of this sort will be on the fringes of a sporting estate with a substantial driven shoot. You’ll be working the hedgerows, boundary coverts and small gamecrops, perhaps those where the keeper knows that a bit of walked-up shooting will assist him by pushing birds back to the centre of the estate. Nick will be running at least one day like this a week throughout the season, with a lot more in January after the bulk of the driven programmes have been completed. Expect to pay up to £200 per Gun, based on between four and eight Guns, mostly walking, but with perhaps a couple of mini-drives and shooting 30 to 40 head.

Wild duck over flightponds offer very good value for those who are up to the challenge of shooting teal in the half-light. “We’ve got good shooting in Norfolk at present over fed flightponds with mallard and teal in the early part of the season, but expect wigeon later on,” said Nick. A butt at a fed pond will set you back £75 per Gun, based on between two and eight Guns, with a bag limit of around five birds each.

And if you want fast and furious sport but are bored with pheasants, then why not try a day’s rabbit shooting over ferrets. “A lot of our foreign clients love it because they don’t have rabbit shooting in their own countries. We’ve already got up to 14 days booked in,” said Nick. Expect 20 rabbits or more — sometimes much more — between four Guns over two ferret handlers and three or four ferrets at £115 per Gun.

An agent provides a more human touch than a web-based sales operation and a good one can tailor a day’s sport to exactly what you are looking for. However, don’t leave things to the last minute or you’ll find the best shooting is already gone.

For a local shooting association, a sporting auction is an excellent way of raising money, but for the keen sportsman it can often be a way of picking up an unusual or exciting shooting trip. As each lot will usually have been donated by a club member who will host the sport himself, you will be guaranteed that personal contact, which may result in a long-term sporting friendship. Usually, the lots offered in sporting auctions will be the opportunities that you would never otherwise be able to buy on the open market.

The Blackwater Wildfowlers Association’s auction took place on 26 September and included such delights as duck and goose flighting on the Wash, the Broads and the Severn and Exe estuaries, plus guided pigeon decoying and deerstalking.

“We think that a live auction is an interesting and enjoyable social event that mixes club members with other local shooters. You can spend anything from £50 to £250, depending on what the competition is and how much the auctioneer can wring out of you,” said club secretary Martin Batt. “But it’s all going to a good cause.”

Gloucestershire Wildfowlers Association’s recent auction was held on the Internet, offering the chance of online bidding to a much wider circle of shooters. “Guided pigeon shooting over decoys for two Guns was going for £100, guided wildfowling on the foreshore went for £70 a trip, and a day’s knockabout roughshooting for one Gun made £100,” said the auction’s organiser Darren Greaves. “We got many different sporting opportunities in front of lots of people and had more than 1,500 hits on our website,” he added.

Wildfowling clubs are a good place to track down sporting auctions. Visit the wildfowling page of the BASC website for links to clubs’ own websites.