Beating on a shoot day is good exercise and can be great fun. Here's what you need to know.
Beating on a shoot day isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You’re there to be part of a useful team and put birds over the Guns of course. But the weather will have a big impact from week to week and so change things.
- If a gamekeeper asks you to do something new on a shoot you should never reply: “The last keeper here never did it like this” or “we don’t normally do it that way.” The gamekeeper is the boss and beaters need to follow directions if they are to play a useful role.
- Listen carefully and obey instructions. Most keepers use radio-men in the line to pass on guidance which should be followed precisely. Sometimes the information will need passing quickly, clearly and quietly from one beater to the next.
- Walking in a straight line isn’t as difficult as some beaters would have you believe – just keeping looking to left and then right.
- When it comes to high maize crops ask your next-door neighbours where they are and adjust your position accordingly. Don’t walk around brambles, use your stick to beat a path through them.
- Beaters need to be flexible and open to other jobs they may be asked to perform. Obvious ones are going on stop, carrying game back to the game cart or – if you have the experience – standing with a novice Gun, or driving the game cart.
- Be prepared to be asked to hang game in the larder or open and close farm gates.
- Be punctual. Beaters need turn up promptly at the allotted time and be ready to go as soon as they reach the meeting place.
- Let the gamekeeper know weeks in advance which shoots you can make, and these you can’t. This gives him (or her) time to find a replacement.
- If a keeper stipulates ‘no dogs in the beating line’ it’s generally because he doesn’t require dogs for the drives he is doing. Don’t turn up with a dog even if you think it is well-trained. Always remember that an unruly dog can easily ruin a drive (or entire day for that matter!) but once a keeper can see that you understand how his day works he may be more willing to let you bring your dog at a future date.
- Do not assume your dog will be welcome on every shoot!
- Aim to prove your worth as a valuable, reliable, beater.
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A beater’s checklist
- Wear appropriate clothing for the weather on the day. You can always take clothes off if it gets too warm, but not the other way around.
- Turn up at the meeting place on time.
- Let the gamekeeper know if you cannot attend.
- Listen to instruction.
- Be flexible.
- Bring your own packed lunch if one isn’t supplied by the shoot.
- Enjoy your day, there is a lot of satisfaction in helping a day go well. And remember – the keeper is all-seeing!