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Shooting manners for those new to going out in the field

Will Hogan offers some key tips

DIY shoot

A DIY shoot can be very rewarding

Have you been invited shooting for the first time this season? Worried about shooting manners for beginners?

Here are the guidelines you need to follow so that you conduct yourself perfectly. Because you’ll almost certainly want to be invited again.  To start off, read our guidance on what to wear shooting.

letter writing

Respond to an invitation promptly

The right way to reply to a shooting invitation

You’ll have been invited in person or by letter or e mail. However the invitation was made the shooting etiquette is to reply promptly. This is because your host will be putting a team together. If you are unable to accept, they will need to find a suitable replacement. It’s not very easy to put a team together and ensure that the personalities and abilities will work together, so a quick response to your host or hostess is key. You can reply by phone, e mail or letter but make sure you respond swiftly. (More on shooting etiquette here.)

How much should you 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.

Shooting ties

A tie is a must at a formal shoot day

What to wear shooting

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.  (Read our list of the best Tattersall check shirts for shooting here.) Smart trousers are now becoming more accepted instead of traditional breeks, although breeks are a safe bet if on a formal shoot. Ear defenders are essential.

loading shotgun

You can learn a great deal from your loader

Should 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. You can read more guidance on borrowing and lending guns here.

shoot briefing

Always listen carefully to the shoot briefing

What to expect on the day itself (which will differ depending whether you are game or clay shooting)

Game shooting manners for beginners : 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.

Damson vodka recipe

Be careful about drinking alcohol

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!

Chris Warren

Always chat to the gamekeeper afterwards

Chatting to the keeper

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. 

Always write a thank-you letter

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. It’s a good way to ensure that you may be invited again.

Sloe gin

A bottle of sloe or damson gin is always a welcome gift

Should you arrive with a gift?

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. For more ideas, read our suggested list of best gifts for shoot hosts.

Follow these shooting manners for beginners and you’ll have gone a long way towards making the right impression. And enjoy your day’ shooting.