Want to impress a gamekeeper? Head keeper David Whitby describes how it's done
Over the years I have read a number of articles on the topic of what constitutes a good beater, a good shoot and a good picker-up. But I don’t recall any pieces on how a Gun can earn a gamekeeper’s respect. (Read our piece on whether beaters and pickers-up get paid enough.)
Here’s my wishlist
Guns who follow the below will go a long way towards earning a gamekeeper’s respect.
- Safety comes first. No compromise here. Guns must be safe, not just no low shooting, but also in the carriage and handling of shotguns. There is no room for anything less than 100 per cent safety.
- Next, quarry respect and care from start to finish. A good Gun will know their quarry, know their limitations and never shoot at game they have small chance of killing cleanly. A good Gun is not one who achieves the odd long kill, but one who kills cleanly out in front, analyses those they miss and has a high average, not just able to bring down the odd stratospheric pigeon with a lucky pellet. A good Gun will collect close birds around their peg and always inform keepers or pickers-up of anything wounded that may have escaped their attention. They will know how to quickly despatch anything wounded and never shoot beyond 40 yards at anything.
- A good Gun will also be neither greedy nor selfish; to shoot 60 pheasants on a 200-bird day on one drive is not really going to impress the rest of the team, nor will shooting your neighbour’s birds. Manners maketh the day and greed will spoil it.
- Laughter between drives – and occasionally during, given the way some of them shoot – is essential for a great day. This in no way should breach respect either at a personal level or for the tradition and seriousness of the event. (Read our advice on what to expect on your first day pheasant shooting.)
- Guns who show their appreciation to the entire workforce that makes a day possible. Saying hello and thank you to beaters and pickers-up that they meet. Yes they are paid, but let us be honest, it is minimum wage and barely covers transport, clothing and dog food. Your day would be a good deal more expensive but for beaters and pickers-up working for far less than a banker’s salary. (Some useful hints on tipping on a shoot here.)
- A good Gun will also be aware that much of our sport is steeped in history and tradition, following the dress code for shooting and shooting manners. (Read what to wear shooting.)
- The words pricked, tickled, hit, should all be replaced with one less forgiving: wounded.
- A good Gun also enjoys the entire day, not just the shooting but the picking-up, beating line and wonderful British countryside, all of which is part of this sport we call game shooting.