A shoot couldn't do without its beaters - so why do many feel undervalued?

It’s sad to know that many shooting beaters feel treated like second-class citizens by the Guns on a shoot. (Which suggests that some of the Guns haven’t ever been beating themselves or understand just what is involved in the work.)

A few years ago Shooting Gazette published an article: “Letter from a fed-up beater”, in which a seasoned shooting beater listed some of the gripes he and his fellow companions experience when out in the field. (Here are a list of golden rules every beater should follow on a shoot.)

beaters in maize field

Driven shoots couldn’t do without beaters

Complaints from shooting beaters

  • Being made to wait in the wet and cold in the field for half an hour or more waiting for the Guns to arrive – particularly when shelter in a barn is available.
  • Not being treated with politeness and consideration
  • Not having what is going on explained or the reasons why the shooting beaters are having to wait around.
  • An “us and them” attitude when the beaters are told not to speak to the Guns
  • Being told it’s preferable if they can keep out of sight if possible

The letter obviously sparked a real chord with other beaters, who made their feelings known on the Shooting UK Facebook page.

 

So here’s what beaters wish the Guns knew

  1. Beating is tough work and challenging to get right.
  2. Shooting beaters are an important part of the shoot day and should be treated as such.
  3. Tapping out the cover and forming the line is the culmination of the legwork of working down hedges, cover crops, and copses.
  4. It takes a great deal of work to get the bird out of the cover and into the air.
  5. Timing and judgement are needed. If the beaters push the birds too hard, the drive will start before the Guns reach their pegs.
  6. A wrong wave of the flag or a badly trained dog can break the whole manoeuvre down.
  7. Beaters are a mixed bunch. You will get doctors and lawyers beating with mechanics and contractors. Plenty of very intelligent types.
  8. Beaters often have a great deal of experience and will assess the Guns’ skills with a practised eye.
  9. Good shooting is a joy to see.
  10. Saying “hello” and “how are you” is welcomed. A shooter watching a line of beaters pass by without offering a word? Not so much.
  11. Having a bird thrust at you by a Gun afterwards isn’t necessarily well received. A beater may be off on their way somewhere else entirely. Don’t assume. If you’ve shot them, you should carry them.
  12. Guns loitering on the way to the peg, chatting, can be very irritating. As is the use of mobile phones.
  13. Guns should get on the peg promptly, get loaded and get started.
  14. Don’t hold back on the first drive. It’s hard to make up a short bag later in the day.
  15. Don’t shoot the beaters. (Or flankers).
  16. A word of thanks when packing up is welcomed.

Read more advice on shooting etiquette here.

This piece was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.