A young Shot should learn about all aspects of the sport, not just how to shoot straight, says Tom Payne


I started shooting at the age of eight. I’m lucky to come from a farming background, so there were opportunities to be involved in and around shooting from an early age. I followed my father’s lead and learned as many aspects as I could, whether tagging along with keepers, going beating, or working as a “retrieving machine” for Dad.

I would get really excited when we went roost shooting and, when my father made me a wooden gun to carry on the farm, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to start shooting properly. From that wooden gun, I moved on to a small break-barrel air rifle. These airguns are brilliant for learning gun safety because you carry them as you would a shotgun, always open and never closed. I was finally allowed to shoot my grandfather’s .410, which signalled that my shooting journey had begun.

My first proper gun was a single barrel Baikal and I spent five happy years shooting with it before moving on to a side-by-side. I can still take you to the spot where I shot my first pigeon, not knowing at the time the journey that bird would take me on.

One of the major lessons that I learned besides safety was the importance of being a shooting person, not just someone that shoots. Fieldcraft and understanding all aspects of gameshooting are so important and I try to pass on this ethos to as many young Shots as I can.

Six tips for young Shots

  1. Young Shots should not be in too much of a hurry to start learning to shoot before they know a bit more about what is involved. In the long-term, this will benefit their prowess.
  2. When a young Shot starts shooting, safety is the first and only priority.
  3. Make the most of the shooting organisations out there. They are all proactive in teaching young Shots about all aspects of the sport.
  4. Take your young Shot to game fairs and country shows. Here you can watch demonstrations and take part in different activities all aimed at helping young people learn about gameshooting.
  5. If there is an opportunity for a young Shot to be involved in your local shoot, such as helping out or going beating, make the most of it. There is no better place to learn about gameshooting than working with the people behind the scenes.
  6. Young Shots should have fun learning to shoot, but it is a process and it takes time. There is so much to enjoy with gameshooting, not just pulling the trigger.
Yarlington Shoot, Somerset, November, 2011

Getting young Shots out on the beating line is an excellent place to start

Getting young Shots started

I strongly believe that, for the future of our sport, it is vital that young Shots focus on the other aspects of the sport and grasp everything that goes on before they start shooting. This may sound boring, but young Shots will truly benefit with their own shooting at a later age if they understand the ins and outs. If they understand the quarry they are shooting, they will perform to the best of their ability. There are many organisations that offer great courses for young Shots. BASC has always done its utmost to provide courses for youngsters, and the emphasis is not all on shooting. Consider joining BASC and see if there are any courses available to attend during the school holidays. All young Shot courses are based on fun and are a good way for your children to meet other enthusiasts. Game fairs and country shows are also great places to learn, because you can watch displays of gundogs, ferreting and gamekeeping. There are other rural-based activities to join in with, all aimed at the young country person.

For more information visit BASC

In season – the beating line is best

As with many of my friends, I was not allowed to stand in the line shooting until I had gone beating for a few seasons.

It is a brilliant way of learning what it takes to run a day’s shoot and the number of people involved.

It also gives you an understanding of the year-long effort that gamekeepers put in to get to the end product of a day’s shooting; the importance of the beating line and the respect those people deserve to turn out in all conditions for the benefit of the shooter; and the important role of the picking-up teams. The young Shot will gain more respect from the team involved if he or she understands and respects their roles on a day. It is a privilege to stand in a line and shoot game and this is forgotten far too often.

Another huge benefit of working with the team behind the scenes is learning the safety aspects on a shoot day. When the opportunity comes to shoot for the first time, the young Shot will be far more aware of what to look out for, arcs of fire and what could be a potentially dangerous situation. They will also start to develop their fieldcraft, understanding how drives work and how birds behave and fly in different conditions.

Teaching young Shots

At what age should young Shots start?

When it comes to the ideal age to start learning to shoot, it’s all down to size and maturity. Just because a youngster is 14, for example, it doesn’t mean he or she is mature enough to learn and understand the safety aspects of shooting. At the same time, you could have a very grown-up 10-year-old who is just not strong enough to handle a gun safely. It is very much down to the individual.

Of course, the shooting is the fun bit, but when a young Shot starts, it is imperative that they fully understand safety. They must realise that if a gun is used incorrectly it could be harmful to themselves and other people around them. All the shooting schools that hold courses for young Shots will have safety at the top of the agenda.

Any youngsters whom I teach for the first time are not allowed to move on with their shooting until they are safe and confident in handling a gun — only then will they be able to start learning to shoot properly.

A lot of young Shots do put unnecessary pressure on themselves to shoot straight. It takes a long time to become a good Shot and it is a process. What is important is that the young Shot enjoys learning to shoot and to shoot well.