Shooting has its own etiquette and a lot of it is common sense and basic good manners. If you've been invited shooting for the first time this season, you'll almost certainly be keen to conduct yourself in the right way so that you have the confidence of knowing that you're behaving impeccably (and more likely to get an invitation to return).
So we've asked an expert, Will Hogan, for advice.
Will was brought up in the Cotswolds and Scottish Highlands and his gunsmith father fostered his shooting skills from an early age. After attending agricultural college Will became a gamekeeper and has worked across the UK on both private and commercial shoots. With this experience, Will is perfectly placed to offer you some sound advice. Take heed of his words and you can be confident that your shooting etiquette will pass muster in any company.
How to reply to a shoot invitation
Being invited to a shoot is either in conversation or by letter/email. However the invitation is made, it’s always best to reply promptly as the host will be trying to create a team and if you are unable to accept, they will need to find a suitable replacement. Putting together a team of like-minded people who will gel on a day can sometimes be difficult, so a quick response is always appreciated.
How much to tip
The keeper’s tip is always a tricky one. It’s often best to ask the host what will be a suitable amount to tip. The old-fashioned way is to tip £30 for the first 100 birds then £10 every hundred after that. Tipping is a personal thing though. If you feel you have had a good day and really enjoyed yourself then tip above the expected rate and do remember that keepers work long hours for the extra they receive at the end of the shoot days.
What to wear
Gone are the days where everybody had to be ‘dressed to the nines’ in formal tweed. The shooting world is becoming more and more open to different styles – although sticking with the traditional smart look remains essential. A shirt and tie is always a must on a formal driven day – many view it as a mark of respect towards the quarry and to the people who make it all possible. Smart trousers are now becoming more accepted instead of traditional breeks, although breeks are a safe bet if on a formal shoot. Ear protection is essential of course.
Do you bring your own gun?
If you are completely new to shooting and have been invited to shoot, the likelihood is that your host will arrange for a minder/loader to accompany you for the day and guide you on the do’s and don’ts. This is a fantastic chance to learn from your guide and gain as much out of the day as possible. If you are already a regular shooter and possess your own gun, then of course bring it along. Again the host is the perfect reference point to check this with.
What to expect on the day itself (which will differ depending whether you are game or clay shooting)
Game Shooting: When you have accepted your invitation your host will then send you details of where and when to attend for the shoot – it’s always best to be very punctual. An awful lot goes into making a shoot day successful and it involves a lot of people working hard to make it the best experience for you. As far as the day is concerned, firstly the host will brief you on the format of the day, followed by the ground rules for safety which are to be followed. Some shoots stop for a lunch and then continue to shoot in the afternoon whereas others will shoot straight through until around 2-3pm and then stop for the day. Days like this are often accompanied by a substantial elevenses which act as a pause in the day to refresh and socialise. Which of course is a huge part and enjoyable part of the shoot day.
Should you drink at the shoot lunch or not?
Drinking to excess and being in control of a gun is never a good idea or advisable. Alcohol is usually offered at lunch/elevenses. It’s down to the individual to know their limits and abide by them, remembering that you are in control of a firearm. Once the day is done and all the firearms are stored away safely then I don’t think it’s dangerous to accept the odd glass of wine!
Good questions to ask the gamekeeper
A gamekeeper will be circulating throughout the shoot day making sure everything is running smoothly and trying to put right any situations when things don’t quite go to plan. During the shoot he is often busy but will attend the end of the end of day drinks to receive his tip. This is always a good opportunity to have a chat rather than just tip him in an awkward manner. Good questions to ask him are: How he thought the day went? Which drives worked well? How has the summer been? All of these are quite engaging questions, which most keepers will have an answer for.
How to write a thank-you letter
Writing a letter of thanks is always well-received. There is so much time and effort put into making a shoot day work well and taking the time to write and say thank-you is a nice way of showing just how much you appreciated being invited.
Gifts for your host
As a general rule we are not a gifting culture in the UK. However, being British, we never want to offend by not bringing something to the party, so a bottle of sloe gin or port for the elevenses or end of day will always be well received.
Will Hogan is also the shooting expert and assistant retail manager for Farlows of Pall Mall, who have been involved in country sports since 1840.