We've made a list of must-reads
The best fieldsports books
We’ve picked out a list of our favourites below and we’re adding to this list of the best fieldsports books as new publications come out.
There’s nothing like settling down with a good read after a day out in the field. Maybe you’re looking to brush up your shooting skills. Or maybe you’re new to game shooting and want to fill in your background knowledge. You might want some ideas on cooking the game you’ve shot. (Read our game recipe section here for more ideas.)
Alternatively you may be the owner of a new gundog puppy and want to carry out some gundog training under the guidance of an expert. Or maybe you simply want to drift off to sleep with the best fieldsports books that cover the countryside.
Author Jamie Blackett arrives home from the Army to take over a small family estate on the Solway Firth in Dumfries and Galloway and finds a rapidly changing countryside.
In a humorous and occasionally moving tale he describes how he grapples with the intricacies of farming, conservation and estate management and tells the story of founding a pack of foxhounds and a herd of pedigree beef cattle. Part childhood memoir, part biopic of rural life, readers are transported to a remote and beautiful part of Scotland and acquainted with its wildlife, its people and its peccadilloes. One minute he is unblocking his septic tank the next minute he is watching Glenn Close film a sex scene in his bedroom.
Jeremy decided to do the farming himself on his Cotswold farm with hilarious and heartbreaking results. This book follows the the Amazon TV series which has amassed an army of fans and given Clarkson a new credibility. Author and farmer James Rebanks comments: ‘Clarkson has done more for farmers than Countryfile has managed in 30 years’.
Shooting Times contributor Patrick Laurie sets to work on his family farm in southwest Scotland and discovers how cows shaped people in this remote landscape.
English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse and how the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. But James Rebanks is salvaging his tiny corner of England, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy.
Denys Watkins-Pitchford – better known as BB – was a writer, illustrator and countryman. He writes stories of wildfowling in Scotland to fishing for carp. If you love the countryside and wildlife then this anthology of his writings is a must-read in this list of best fieldsports books.
A classic, first published in 1941. BB writes about the English wildlife and countryside with essays on; an encounter with a wildfowler on a frosty dawn, night fishing on the Solway, the rescue of a black labrador, village characters, hedgerows and much more.
Ever wondered if bats and moles can swim? You’ll find the answer inside this charming mixture of countryside questions. From household to garden, sporting lore to legal, animals to natural history as well as food, drink, fishing, sporting, gardening and more, help is at hand.
Books on shooting
The great BB wrote about this book which he compiled in 1946: “After a day on the moors, stubbles, or a woodland day, I like to take up a book beside my fire and read of other good long days past and gone. Such I have tried to make this volume.”
A wonderful tome to pick up in the evening after a day in the field, with writing from authors including Richard Jefferies to John Masefield. This wouldn’t be a list of the best fieldsports books without it.
The ideal gift for a novice shooter or for somebody who is thinking of taking up the sport. Shooting Times contributor Graham Downing gives a comprehensive guide to sporting shooting covering the history of shooting, safety, law, pigeon shooting, rough shooting, walked-up shooting, guns, gundogs, gameshooting and wildfowling.
Written by Shooting Times contributor Liam Bell, chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation, who presents the subject in an informative and friendly way. If you have a question about running a shoot you’ll find the answer in here. An invaluable guide for shooting syndicates, keepers and anybody who has an interest in how a shoot is run.
Ex gamekeeper and shoot captain Jeremy Hobson has written a hilarious collection of anecdotes and experiences from the shooting field. Makes our list of the best fieldsports books because it would be the perfect gift.
Expensive admittedly but this book is regarded by many as the bible of pigeon shooting. Pigeon shooter and Shooting Times contributor Tom Payne says: “The tactics Archie Coats used have become the basic skills for all pigeon shooting and the phrases he coined are still used as part of the pigeon shooter’s idiolect.”
Copies can be hard to track down but we’ve found some second-hand issues on Amazon.
One that shooting enthusiasts will want to keep by their bedside. Contributors to this book by the late Chris Catlin include Frederick Forsyth on pigeon shooting and Max Hastings on pheasant shooting.
Simon Garnham writes: “The three ‘letters’ written by Payne-Gallwey between 1890 and 1896 are credited with fuelling the interest in shooting in Britain and the Empire at the turn of the century. ” New reproductions available as above or buy a first edition from £248.
Lez Graham’s informative books are still a must for owners, says Shooting Times contributor David Tomlinson. “Don’t be put off by the word pet, for the advice here is as useful for the working dog as the pet, though if most of us were to be honest we would admit that our working dogs are also pets. All three of Lez’s volumes share the same clear layout and easy-to-follow instructions, coupled with Nick Ridley’s excellent photographs.”
David Tomlinson advises: “When Lez had her original idea for these books, it was to help anyone who had acquired a gundog as a pet but had little idea of what their dog was capable of, given the right training. The books advise in a simple, straightforward manner how to understand your dog and how to motivate it, then the best way to train it in a way that is fun and rewarding for both dog and handler.”
David Tomlinson says: “It doesn’t matter whether the dog was of pure working stock or from generations of show breeding – follow Lez’s advice and you can be sure to have a dog to be proud of. Lez is not just a gundog trainer but a qualified animal behaviourist, so she always has a sound reason behind her advice and it’s invariably worth heeding.”
Regarded as a classic in gundog training circles, this book was written leading gundog trainer, the late Joe Irving. It covers caring from spaniels from puppyhood to maturity, advice on breeding, field trials, first working season, behavioural issues and remedies. In July 2021 Shooting Times reported that six-year-old Brackenbird Lucas, owned by Wesley Travis, had won the Kennel Club Open Retriever Test at Chatsworth. Mr Travis said he trained his winning dog with the help of books by Joe Irving.
Shooting Times reviewer Laurence Catlow says: “The book is full of good humour, written in lively and informal prose but rising on occasions to a lyrical intensity of great beauty…. through the bond of fishing, I can travel through time to the village of Hurstbourne Priors.”
“One of the best books on fishing” says Laurence Catlow.
The Compleat Angler – Legacy Edition: A Celebration Of The Sport And Secrets Of Fishing And Fly Fishing Through Story And Song from £15
A book that has really stood the test of time is Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler, the English language’s most reprinted book after The Bible. Its rustic charm and delightful phrases make the effort to read it more than worthwhile. One that every fieldsports fan should have on a bookshelf.
Eating what you shoot is a key part of being a Gun and so we’ve included a list of cookery books in this list of best fieldsports books.
Written by Shooting Times contributor Tim Maddams, this is a comprehensive guide to preparing and cooking game. If your game cooking repertoire is strictly limited to variations on pheasant casserole, then this is the book for you with plenty of inspiration. Tim shows you how to assess pheasant, grouse, venison, partridge, hare, rabbit, boar and duck and cook it in the best ways.
Buy this book and you’ll be doing your bit to support The Moorland Communities Trust and The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. It’s a collection of game recipes from chefs including: Skye Gyngell, Simon Hopkinson, Tom Kerridge, Tom Kitchin, Giorgio Locatelli, Vivek Singh, Cyrus Todiwala, and Brian Turner.
Sporting Gun contributor Ed Cook advises: ” Learn how to make your own nets and to buy the only book worth reading about long-netting – Harold Wyman’s Art of Long Netting.” What more can we say.
Finally, Shooting Times and Sporting Gun are key reads for fieldsports fans and so have to be mentioned in a list of best fieldsports books (although of course they are magazines). You can save £££s by taking out a subscription here.