How do you safely shoot ground game?
At this time of year, the topic of shooting ground game and/or low birds often crops up
Q: Are there any reasons, other than the obvious one — which is the safety of the beaters, dogs and Guns — that there is usually a “no ground game” rule on shoot days?
A: The safety of the other Guns, the beaters and pickers-up and their dogs is the reason ground game is not generally shot on shoot days. The exceptions being driven days on hares, which are run very differently to driven pheasant days, and mini driven/rough shooting days where rabbits and hares are fair game. Shooting ground game on rough shooting days is great fun, and as long as everyone is happy that it is shot, and the Guns are conscious of their surroundings and understand what is a safe shot and what is not, I can’t see a problem with it. A running rabbit is no more dangerous than a low pheasant or a head-high woodcock twisting through the trees.
Shooting ground game
Obviously the shoot captain will explain what is and isn’t allowed at the start of the day but, when it’s safe to do so, shooters might be asked to take ground game and vermin, (especially foxes).
Hares and rabbits are the mainstays of all ground game. In fact, some shoots lay on a ‘cock bird and hare day’ as a bonus for the beaters and shoot helpers at the end of the season.
The golden safety rule
As with all forms of shooting, safety is paramount and none more so when shooting at, or just above, ground level. The golden rule is that if there’s a flicker of doubt in your mind about the shot, don’t pull the trigger.
You need to know exactly where other guns, beaters, stops and dogs are every yard of the way. If you are not sure, DON’T lift the gun.