Rachel Draper gives her advice on how to transition seamlessly from the clay ground to gameshooting

So you’re considering taking a step from clays to game? For many, the world of gameshooting is an interesting, if rather daunting and intimidating place. You may be comfortable on the clay ground, but how do you take the next move, to bridge the gap between shooting an inanimate object and being confident and capable enough to shoot live quarry?

People from all walks of life gather shooting

You need to get practising

Moving from clays to game

First, get practising. Shooting game is very different to shooting clays in the sense that your quarry deserves respect, and this can be conveyed in accurate, clean kills. As a game shooter, or indeed anytime you take your gun out, you have to take responsibility every time you pull the trigger. It is your duty to make sure you are confident that your shot is both safe and sporting. Practise game style targets at your local clay ground, focusing on driven and crossing clays. It’s unlikely you will see a looping battue in pheasant form.

Once you are happy with your shooting abilities, it is time to start looking for your first game day. Start small and local if possible. Lots of shoots are advertised online, but it’s also worth asking at your local clay ground to see if they can recommend an estate.  Beaters and keepers sometimes indulge in a round of clays, so you may even be introduced to someone that knows the shoot, and a first-hand recommendation can be invaluable. Say that you are considering moving from clays to game

When I say small shoots, I mean nothing too extreme; I would personally recommend starting at between 100 to 200-bird days, if you have the budget for it. This may seem strange, as there are lots of wonderful walked-up or smaller driven days available.

My experience has always been that slightly larger shoots give you more of an option to pick your bird.

With smaller days, sometimes you may only get a couple of birds over you and your natural instinct is to feel pressured to take the shot, even if you’re not comfortable with it. Don’t. There is no quicker way to ruin your day than a badly thought-out shot. Having a good selection of birds over your peg allows you to pick exactly which ones you are confident with.

If your budget permits, then a sporting agent could be a good way to find the right shoot for you. They are usually knowledgeable, with access to a range of different shoots and will have contacts all over the country.

If you can find a friend to go with you, then I would highly recommend sharing a peg, if the shoot captain is happy for you to do so. And always make this arrangement prior to the shoot day. Some shoots are perfectly OK with this and it can save a bit of money, give you a confidence boost having someone you know with you on the day, and still provide the full game shooting experience.

shoot briefing

Always listen keenly to the safety briefing

What to expect on a game day 

All shoots are slightly different but most traditional game days will be run in a similar format. You will be greeted on arrival, often with refreshments, welcomed to the shoot, and then you will receive a safety briefing and pick your peg. Always listen keenly to the safety briefing, as this will give you the main dos and don’ts of the day. This will usually be done by the shoot captain, who is the person to go to if you require any extra information or need assistance throughout the day.

You will then head to the first drive. It is the norm to shoot two or three drives before elevenses and then perhaps one or two more before lunch. Some shoots have more drives in the afternoon; some go right through and enjoy a late lunch when the shooting has finished. This depends on the shoot and often the weather.

At the end of the day you will be expected to tip the keeper. Do your research on amounts and always take a bit extra just in case. Although it varies, the normal amount is around £20 to £30 per 100 birds.

You may be offered a brace or two of birds to take home which, if you can, you should gratefully accept and try to use. Game is a wonderful source of protein and actually surprisingly versatile and easy to cook.

country clothing

What to wear shooting

We advise you on what to wear shooting, whether at the clay ground or in the field

driven shooting

The origins of driven shooting

Throughout the UK and Europe, driven shooting has become one of the most popular facets of our sport. According to…

shooter with pheasants

You should accept and try to use any birds you are offered

Some tips

  1. Make sure you know the location of the shoot and leave plenty of time to get there. Being late is not a good start to the day and is sure to irritate your host and the other Guns.
  2. Prepare your kit and clothes the night before. Ensure you have everything you need; that your clothing fits and is in good condition. The last thing you want in the morning is to realise your breeks are too small or your waistcoat is missing a button. If you have bought new clothing, try it on around the house to make sure it’s comfortable.
  3. When you arrive, introduce yourself. Be confident and friendly, and make conversation with other Guns. You can meet some wonderful, interesting people, and you are guaranteed to have at least one thing in common, a love of the countryside.
  4. Mark your bird and tell a picker-up roughly were it landed. All birds should be retrieved, and it helps the picking-up team if they don’t have to scour the whole field.
  5. Take a mini gun-cleaning kit with you (cloth and silicone-based oil), especially on wet days. Dry your gun after each drive if it’s raining and apply a thin layer of oil to the barrels at the end of the day to prevent rust forming. Don’t at any point leave your gun in a wet slip, as the warm, damp environment will create rust incredibly quickly.
  6. Take a gift for your host, such as a nice bottle of wine or something the whole shoot party can enjoy. This doesn’t have to be expensive; a home-made cake offered up at elevenses is a real treat.
  7. Don’t be self-conscious. While on the peg, none of the other Guns are judging you or your shooting abilities. They are focusing on their own birds.
    If in doubt, don’t shoot. Only take shots you are absolutely certain are safe and that you are comfortable with.