Showing courtesy to beaters
The best courtesy to the beaters is to shoot well says Giles Catchpole
Courtesy to beaters
A cheerful “good morning!” is always a reasonable start, I find. If there are sundry folk milling about when you arrive at the agreed meeting point, wishing them a good morning can only do you good. If you are a visitor in these parts, you might follow it with inquiries as to whether you are in the right place. I know Guns who have downed coffee, enjoyed a bacon roll and drawn a peg before finding that they were one farmyard short of their intended venue. We should never lose sight of the fact that the beaters — and the pickers-up and the bloke who drives the Gun bus, and all the assorted cogs that go to make up a properly organised shooting day — are vital to the pleasure we derive from our sport. Showing courtesy to beaters and every respect is their due. (Read things beaters know and which Guns did.)
There was a time, perhaps, when the social abyss that divided the gentry on their pegs from the staff beating the weeds was so vast that communication was difficult. But that is by no means the case today. Indeed, so many people now participate with guns, dogs, sticks and flags that the bloke leaning on the gate in the shredded leggings might just as easily be an orthopaedic surgeon as a fork-lift driver, while the lady yonder with the cavalcade of spaniels in the Suzuki Jimny might also be the deputy sheriff of the county. This may suggest to you that the whole thing is a bit of a social minefield, but I say it means that being cheerful and pleasant to everyone is clearly the way to go. (Read the best clothing for beaters and pickers-up.)
Several years ago, a visiting Gun passed a box of chocolates into a beaters’ wagon where I was sitting with a few words of thanks. I thought that showed good form, so when I visit shoots as a guest I equip myself with one of those tubs from the supermarket for the purpose. I didn’t know, of course, that the “special offer – two for just…” are actually smaller than the standard-issue product until it was pointed out to me by the recipients one day. “Special offer at Tesco this week, was there, Giles?” they chorused. Mind you, the comment that “his lordship brings us Quality Street — in a tin!” probably cut deeper and stung for longer.
There is, however, one thing that is guaranteed to make you popular with the beaters and that is to shoot well, both individually and as a team.
If there is a specific bag expectation — as there mostly is these days — it is as well to put a hefty dent into it on the first drive. Birds can be blanked-in from far and wide while the Guns are faffing about with butties and cartridge bags. There should therefore be plenty to shoot at in the first drive, so don’t be shy. Get stuck in. Put a third of the bag on the game cart first crack out the box and everybody can relax and enjoy themselves.
Be too picky — or just a bit useless — and you’re playing catch-up for the rest of the day. Or, worse still, scratching about in the gloom trying to round up another dozen to make the bag. Nobody enjoys that. Everyone would rather be home in daylight. There are dogs to exercise, stock to feed, places to go and people to meet, and no one likes a rush. You don’t have to kill everything, but you do have to get on a bit.
Or, better still, shoot beautifully. Pick the best birds and kill them high up, far out and stone dead in the air. We all know what good shooting looks like and it’s a pleasure to watch. It makes everyone happy. So remember, courtesy to beaters at all times.