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Letter from a fed-up beater

A Shooting Gazette reader and beater makes his case …

Beaters out in the field

The driven shoot day is a team effort and by no means the least important team consists of the beaters. These men, women, boys and girls turn out in all weathers mostly not for the money but because they enjoy what they do.

Beaters not given due consideration

However on some shoots it would seem the beaters are not being given due consideration when planning the day. One example I will now relate from a shoot I beat for. The weather was atrocious when we all met in the morning in a woodland parking area. They have a barn that we could meet at but it is preferred that we wait where we park our vehicles. After about 45 minutes we piled into the vehicles and set off to be dropped off at various points to start the drive. We were told when to advance or hold and the drive went OK. We were then driven to the next drive and were on station awaiting the arrival of the Guns in the rain for 20 minutes. As the drive progressed the weather got even wetter and colder.

After the drive we stopped in a farmyard and took cover in a shed while soup was distributed. We were all wet and cold and after less than 10 minutes we were told to get back in the vehicles to go to the next drive. We were put on our places to start the drive and it was still raining and the wind was bitter. I was standing in a field then for the next 45 minutes. I am 63 but some of the beaters who are in their mid 70s did feel the cold that day. Eventually the shoot manager got the guns lined out and off we went.

What was the delay? Having a leisurely soup stop or maybe the weather stopped them from getting on stand. This has happened on a number of occasions and I find myself asking why. It would seem that the beaters do not figure in some shoot manager’s minds. A little bit of planning would mean not being kept waiting in the weather longer than necessary. I do not think it would be too much to ask that he or she tell the keepers that they will have the Guns on stand at such a time and to time getting the beaters on station so they have minimal time waiting. And if the weather is foul and the Guns are taking time to get on stand or are waiting in case the weather breaks then let the keepers or whomever is in charge of the beaters know.

Don’t talk to the Guns

On this particular shoot there is an ‘us and them’ attitude where the shoot manager has actually said to beaters not to talk to the Guns and he would prefer that we are not seen at all. I have beaten on many shoots over the years from Sussex to down here in north Devon and I have never come across this way of thinking before, so I hope it is a one off.

Beaters are a mixture of young and old they turn out in all weathers. They are cheerful and keen to get on, and they are just as pleased as the Guns or the pickers-up when the day goes well. From talking to them and the keepers it seems that it is a struggle for the shoot to always get enough beaters for the days so it will not help the situation if things like I describe happen too often. The people who beat may well get fed up and not bother in the future.

Remember it is a team day and the outcome does indeed depend on many things, but without the beaters the day cannot even start.

(Letter from Graham Hill to Shooting Gazette)