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The Code of Good Shooting Practice – why you should read it again

Liam Stokes, head of shooting at the Countryside Alliance, comments on updates to The Code of Good Shooting Practice

woman with pheasant on shoot

The new shooting code enforces that all shot game should be handled as meat for the food chain

If you’re a responsible shooter, then you need to know the standards the shooting code sets …

The Code of Good Shooting Practice — a summary

  • Shooting behaviour: individuals must observe safety, the law and respect for quarry and other wildlife.
  • Responsible shooting: Guns must shoot within their capabilities; shoots must ensure all shot game 
is retrieved and that shooting stops in severe weather.
  • Consideration for others: taking account of local residents and other land users; following the law and best practice when shooting near rights 
of way, walkers or horses.
  • Game is food: shoots must ensure that all shot game is handled as meat for the food chain.
  • Shoot management: shoots must be managed to maximise the conservation benefits of shooting.
  • Rearing game: game husbandry must be undertaken with all due consideration to health and welfare, and those sourcing birds must be mindful of exactly where their stock comes from.
  • Releasing game: birds should be released before the season, following GWCT sustainable releasing guidelines, and not shot until they are mature and adapted to the wild.
  • Predator and pest control: all legal requirements must be followed, with consideration given to local residents and other land users.
  • Legal requirements: 
The laws that a shoot manager and game Shot must follow are enumerated and briefly explained.

There can be no doubt that the shooting sector needs such a code, so does the Code of Good Shooting Practice provide it? It is certainly a comprehensive document, drawing on the expertise of all shooting’s representative bodies from across the UK and from game farmers to game dealers. Almost everyone in the shooting sector who reads it agrees these standards are right.

The five golden rules of the shooting code

  • The safe conduct of shooting must meet the standards described in this code, show respect for the countryside, due regard to health and safety and consideration for others.
  • Shoot managers must endeavour to enhance 
wildlife conservation and 
the countryside.
  • Respect for quarry is paramount. It is fundamental to mark and retrieve all shot game, which is food, and it must be treated in accordance with the Guide to Good Game Handling.
  • If birds are released, shoots must take steps to comply with the relevant sections set out 
in this code.
  • Birds must never be released 
to replenish or replace any birds already released and shot in 
that season.
    Keeper briefing Guns

    Shoots must be managed to maximise the various conservation benefits of the sport

Laws that govern game shooting

The Code of Good Shooting Practice has been around for many years. But how many people have actually read it, and does the shooting community agree it represents the standards to which we should all aspire? And thornier still, if we do all agree, what should happen to people who don’t meet these standards?

We all know there are laws that govern game shooting. Lots of them. 
A code of practice tries to go above and beyond those laws. It is our sector’s way of saying we don’t just want to be legal, we want to be better than that. Better for conservation, better for our fellow land users, better for the birds we shoot and better for the consumer of the meat we produce.

One idea might be for everyone involved in the selling of shooting to commit to only work with shoots that are certified as code-compliant. This wouldn’t have to be onerous. If shoot managers could self-certify online, declaring that they have read the code and will adhere to it, a certification number could be issued that people buying and selling shooting could demand to see to prove compliance. 
The number could be revoked if the shoot was found to be in breach.