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.)
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
- Beating is tough work and challenging to get right.
- Shooting beaters are an important part of the shoot day and should be treated as such.
- Tapping out the cover and forming the line is the culmination of the legwork of working down hedges, cover crops, and copses.
- It takes a great deal of work to get the bird out of the cover and into the air.
- Timing and judgement are needed. If the beaters push the birds too hard, the drive will start before the Guns reach their pegs.
- A wrong wave of the flag or a badly trained dog can break the whole manoeuvre down.
- Beaters are a mixed bunch. You will get doctors and lawyers beating with mechanics and contractors. Plenty of very intelligent types.
- Beaters often have a great deal of experience and will assess the Guns’ skills with a practised eye.
- Good shooting is a joy to see.
- Saying “hello” and “how are you” is welcomed. A shooter watching a line of beaters pass by without offering a word? Not so much.
- 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.
- Guns loitering on the way to the peg, chatting, can be very irritating. As is the use of mobile phones.
- Guns should get on the peg promptly, get loaded and get started.
- Don’t hold back on the first drive. It’s hard to make up a short bag later in the day.
- Don’t shoot the beaters. (Or flankers).
- 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.