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Fighting to protect shooting

The fight to protect shooting has been going on as long as most people can remember, so maybe we should celebrate the fact we’re still here, says Alasdair Mitchell

grouse shooters in gaiters

Giles hands a shot grouse to Jez Thornton Usd 20 sept 17 walked up shooting

I have been making hay — literally. To walk over a fragrant, newly cut hay meadow at dawn during a heatwave is a joy. We shooters face challenges, but let’s not lose perspective. Bad news may sell media content, but it can also distort our sense of reality.

Reading about BASC giving a taste of clay shooting to thousands of Scouts and Guides reminded me that when I was a boy, you generally had to have some sort of family connection to get into shooting. Nowadays, young Shots are given encouragement and training as never before. Wonderful. (Read more on how to start shooting.)

Look at deerstalking. The explosion in deer populations has meant that stalking is no longer a rich man’s sport, but is now enjoyed by record numbers of people, from all walks of life, in almost every corner of the UK. Muntjac weren’t considered worthy quarry when I was a boy — they certainly are now. As for wild boar, this is our next new major quarry species, it seems. (More on wild boar shooting.)

It is worth remembering that you don’t even need a firearms certificate to go deerstalking, providing you are over the age of 17 and use an estate rifle under supervision. Some of our continental friends are surprised to hear this, given the plethora of mandatory tests, medicals and costly hunting permits they face in their own countries.

Gamebird shooting used to be largely at the behest of private invitations. These days, however, you can buy an individual Gun on a driven day, or join a syndicate to suit any purse. American hunters look enviously at our absence of statutory bag limits and lengthy open seasons. With a mix of rough shooting, pest control and wildfowling, we can shoot in every month.

Some are concerned about saying goodbye to lead. I haven’t used lead rifle or shotgun ammo for three years, so I don’t have that worry. If you are unsettled by claims steel doesn’t work, I suggest you read the report of the Texas dove lethality study. This painstaking two-year research project entailed firing 5,094 rounds of lead and steel shot to bag 1,146 birds. It is the biggest such comparison ever undertaken and cost $500,000. The peer-reviewed analysis was published in March 2015 in a respected scientific journal, Wildlife Society Bulletin. It showed steel can kill as well as lead, with no increase in wounding.

Cheaper ammo

There are various shortages affecting shooting, as with everything else, but I have found no difficulty in buying enough non-lead rifle and shotgun ammo to see me through the next two seasons. Yes, eco-wadded steel loads cost a few pence more than lead. But as a proportion of average wages, shotgun cartridges are much cheaper today than when I was a boy. I spoke to a chap who lets dozens of driven days and recently stipulated no lead. He hasn’t lost a single Gun as a result. (Find out whether your gun is safe for steel shot.) 

For as long as I have been on this planet, we’ve had to fight to protect shooting. And yet we are still here. There can be no justification for throwing in the towel and wallowing in despondency. Not while the sun still shines on hay meadows, anyway.