A reader writes to Shooting Gazette with some thoughts on tipping and a gamekeeper responds ...

Ray Leake from Adelaide writes:

Having recently spent a mostly enjoyable 10 days’ shooting in the UK, which I do every year, I am prompted to add my thoughts to the increasing number of comments made by Guns. Tipping the keeper is and should be a personal way of saying thank-you for what was hopefully an enjoyable day.

Using the ‘bag to tip’ method is one way of working out what to offer, but it is not the only way. I will not be party to being told to tip X amount at the end of the day. It is my choice and I will do it personally.

Your expert Uncle Giles, in his wisdom, rightly says the tip should not be an expected part of the keeper’s wage, but I feel he might be a little out of touch with the changing times. One shoot that I visited was a good, average commercial farm shoot and the day went as expected. However, our shoot captain received a phone call from the owner afterwards, complaining that the tips given by the guns were not good enough and that he had to make up the difference. Just how this was done and how much was involved is unclear but, suffice to say, it left us all bemused, and we will not revisit this shoot.

I might also offer the following scenario: two of the eight guns on a particular day were unfortunate in the draw for pegs, and throughout the day saw little shooting, with the bulk of the day’s bag being made by the other six Guns. Should the two Guns be expected to tip the same amount as the others?

Could I ask Shooting Gazette’s columnist David Whitby for his thoughts on this touchy subject?

A long-standing tradition

David Whitby responds: As a keeper it would be vulgar of me to discuss amounts when it comes  to tipping. I do agree it should not be an expected part of the keeper’s wages, though sadly on many shoots it is just that. This is very much a personal view, but as far as I am concerned the following points relate to the keeper’s tip…

First of all it is a long-standing tradition that’s very much a part of the shooting day. Secondly it should not really reflect the bag, more the way the shoot was run by the keeper(s). Was it well organised, was every effort made to present birds well, was the beating line efficiently run, were the Guns made to feel welcome, relaxed and well catered for?

Tipping gives the Guns an opportunity to express their degree of satisfaction and I personally find that it often says a great deal about the man who gives the tip. It is undoubtedly bad form for any Gun (with the sole exception of the employer) not to tip, but the amount has to be down to the individual concerned, not some given figure per hundred birds. The tip should also reflect the overall quality of the day, not necessarily a bad peg draw, unless it was rather obvious that a high percentage of pegs were never going to produce sport.

I am reminded of two stories. The first concerned a politician who is well known for his sense of humour. Having shot on a top grouse moor he enquired about the amount to be given to the keepers. “What?” he exclaimed when his host told him, “I want to tip him, not **** him!” The second was a friend who when working as a young keeper was tipped 50 pence; he gave it back to the gun and said: “I think you need this more than I do sir.”

Ray it is great to know we have readers on the other side of the world.