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Securing game shooting for future generations

The biggest strength of game shooting is its inclusive nature, and a change in focus is now required to preserve our sport for future generations

Could smaller bags and fixed prices for a day’s sport be the business plan of the future?

I feel a change is coming and I wonder if we have seen the peak of the second ‘golden age’ of game shooting. I have felt it for a while and others I have spoken to are feeling much the same thing.

Just to be clear, I don’t think live quarry shooting is in any danger of being stopped, nor do I think people are going to pack up shooting and find something else to do in their spare time. It is just that I sense a change in how we do things and a slow return to what we value most about a day’s sport. It isn’t always about the number of birds killed or the number of shots fired, but more the camaraderie associated with a day out with friends, and the hunting element of game shooting that driven shooting misses out on.

The Covid pandemic changed game shooting in a number of ways, not least the rules associated with social gatherings and what was, in effect, a ban on all but the most informal of rough shoots for most of the season. More recently, avian influenza reduced the supply of eggs, chicks and poults, and many shoots shot fewer, smaller days. 

The most noticeable things about both the restrictions associated with the pandemic and last year’s supply issues are that most people still managed to shoot and those who did still enjoyed themselves, regardless of the size of the bag.

The high rollers will still want and be able to afford their days, regardless of price, and there will always be shoots that are happy to cater for them, but will the same be true for syndicate and DIY shoots where costs are shared between Guns? I am not sure. Some will undoubtedly dig deeper and agree to pay more to keep things the same, but others might decide to keep the subs the same and be content with shooting smaller bags — as they did last season and during the pandemic.


Fixed price

For keepers employed by sporting tenants and the self-employed, these are worrying times, but only if we stick with the current ‘per bird’ pricing. Perhaps we should start to move away from paying so much per bird to paying a fixed price for a day’s sport. There would still be a rough estimate of the bag, but no guarantees and maybe a more flexible approach to how we do things. It’s a case of paying for the experience and not what gets shot.

A friend of mine who runs a very successful driven shoot is looking at doing just this. He feels his shoot is on a treadmill; the more days they do and the more birds they put down, the higher the costs. And while the profit stays the same, the risks get bigger. He runs a number of smaller fixed-price days, where the Guns are given a guide to the bag size but are very much paying for a day out. 

He has a smaller beating team and a couple of pickers-up. The Guns meet in his yard, provide their own lunch, work their dogs if they have them and walk and stand depending on how the mood takes them and what and where they are shooting.

The smaller days are sold out well in advance and he even has a waiting list. Admittedly they are not everyone’s cup of tea and there needs to be a certain amount of trust between the people buying the days and the people letting them if the price is fixed, but it can work.

If people are prepared to pay a similar amount of money for a slightly smaller bag, the figures will still stack up. Shoots that need to will still turn a small profit, and both paying Guns and shoot owners will at least be able to slow the treadmill of ever-increasing costs. The last thing any of us want is for shooting to become elitist and out of reach. Its inclusive nature is its biggest strength.