So clay grounds are opening up again on 29th March, but what lies ahead for gameshooting after over a year of COVID restrictions?

What will the shooting season 2021 look like? We asked some keepers, sporting agents and fieldsports fans what they think the autumn of 2021 is going to look like. Here’s what they said.

Alex Farrell, game and gamekeeping officer at BASC, said: “While Covid continues to impact our daily lives, there remains a positivity for later in the year and the opening up of game seasons. The headlines from an ongoing survey of BASC syndicate members sees an aim of a return to the status quo next season, with resilience and positivity the key messages for game shots. Such is the importance of shooting to so many of our members we would expect to see little else.”

Liam Bell, chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation said:  “Costs have gone up across the board. Pelleted feed is up £40+ a tonne, wheat is predicted to be £40-50 a tonne higher next autumn. Gas, electricity, fuel and the cost of producing chicks have all gone up as well. Shoots that sell days to cover costs, and those that are runs as businesses will need to up their prices just to keep pace.
The same will apply to syndicate subscriptions.”

Cash flow challenging

Ian Welch, Marketing Manager of Farlows commented: “ Living on farmland I was fortunate enough to be able to get out for a bit of roughshooting throughout the lockdowns, it was hugely enjoyable being out on my own but shooting is a social activity and that is what we have all missed.

“There is, however, still a lot of uncertainty about how this season will look and cash flow for some shoots may be challenging and many guns may be reluctant to pay deposits in light of that uncertainty. I think communication is the key here and guns, shoots and shooting agents need to communicate early and effectively to help with forward planning.

“It is difficult to crystal ball gaze but, at present, there is a lot to be confident about for the season ahead and I think we can all agree that a return to a degree of normality will be celebrated by the entire shooting community.”

Samantha Brooke of Waring Brooke (makers of personalised boot socks) says: “The pandemic has had a drastic effect on country sports which I feel has in turn, will make it much more expensive when the season starts again. For the larger shoots that have lost millions in the last year, is especially where I see this happening. Hopefully, it will have not had as big of an impact on the smaller family run shoots, apart from an excess of cock birds! We can only hope that we are able to shoot again safely soon.”

Enthusiasm and confidence

Mark Heath, instructor West London Shooting School and Shooting Times gun reviewer says: After the stop start and early finish of last season the shooting community seems to be looking forward to next season with enthusiasm and confidence thanks to the early success of the vaccine programme in the UK.

“Our Sporting Agent Partner Mark Vessey-Thompson of Glorious Game reports a high volume of enquiries and early bookings for next season, this includes days in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Exmoor. With clients also booking grouse days. Some game farmers are reporting increased orders with estates looking to make up the days lost last season.

 Hopefully we will see the back of the virus and the shooting industry can get back on its feet after a frustrating year. Our lessons for both shotgun and rifle were very busy while we were open last year, the corporate market was more challenging with the restrictions. With firms looking to get their staff together as the COVID situation improves we anticipate strong demand for the shooting sports.”