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A Beginners Guide to Shooting Etiquette

For those who are new to the sport of shooting, it is important to learn the etiquette of the sport to ensure that you keep yourself and those around you safe. It may seem as if there are thousands of rules in the shooting world, and rightly so, as guns can be incredibly dangerous when not handled correctly. Learning to conduct yourself in a safe and appropriate manner is of the utmost importance whatever your age, and it may take a little bit of time to get to grips with all the traditions of shooting. However, the sport can be incredibly enjoyable once you’ve learnt the ropes. The rules of clay pigeon shooting are much more relaxed, so if you’ve just begun to learn and practice, you won’t need to adhere to all of the things we’ve mentioned. Our beginners guide is here to help you to get the best out of the experience of your first proper shoot:

A man and a woman with their leather gunslips and cartridge bags

Before the Shoot

If you receive an invitation to a shoot, it is polite and necessary to reply so that the gamekeeper can prepare for your arrival or find a replacement if you cannot attend. This is the first step in attending your first shoot and will help to build your excitement, so once you’ve accepted your invite; it’s time to start your preparations. If you’ve never shot before, it’s essential to take lessons before heading out on a shoot for the safety of both yourself and those around you.

First off, you’ll need to ensure that you have the correct shooting clothing for the terrain and weather; this will help to keep you safe, warm and protected whilst out on the field. A shirt and tie are essential for a formal day shooting as a sign of respect, and you’ll need suitable ear protection and footwear too. Take a look at our guide on ‘What to Wear for a Shoot’ if you’re in need of some advice on your outfit for the day. Greens and browns are typically the colours of choice for a shooting outfit, helping you to blend into your surroundings and not to be seen by the game.

If you’re new to shooting and have been invited along to a shoot, the host will often supply a gun for you and show you the ropes beforehand. You should always check with the host before attending to be sure. If you have your own gun, it is certainly better to bring it along as it will be correctly fitted, and you’ll have used it before. Don’t forget your leather gunslip and leather cartridge bag either, as these are also essential. Don’t be afraid to contact the host or anyone else you know is attending to pick up some tips and advice, as the shooting community are typically very welcoming and helpful, sharing their passion for the country sport.

During the Shoot

Ensure that you arrive at least 15-minutes early to the shoot, and allow plenty of time for travel, as holding up your fellow guns will not set you off to a good start. Before heading out into the field, the host will have a briefing, and this will give each gun instructions on how the day will flow, what you’ll be shooting and specific signs to keep an eye out for. You’ll also be given a peg number and safety instructions, so it’s important to listen up and ask any questions you may have. Check out our blog on the golden rules of shooting to expand your knowledge on both safety and etiquette.

During a traditional shoot, there will usually be a break for lunch where you’ll have a chance to socialise with your fellow guns. There are often alcoholic refreshments available, however, it is very important not to over indulge, as this can be very dangerous. Remember, you are handling a gun and need to be in full control at all times. Lunches can vary from a quick stop for some hot soup our in the field, to a grand sit-down meal in the nearby house – just be sure to remove any muddy boots or items of clothing before heading indoors!

It is highly recommended to chat with the gamekeeper and tradition to offer a gift as a thank you for their hard work for your day of enjoyment. It is also customary to tip your host, dependent on the size of the bag. A rule of thumb is £30 for the first 100 birds, and £10 for every 100 after.

You should remain polite with your manners and listen carefully to what all of your fellow guns say and do; this can be an incredibly valuable learning experience and may help you to be invited to another shoot.

After the Shoot

Once the shoot is over, the group will usually form together to celebrate the success of the day and share any tips and tricks before splitting the bag and offering out the birds for you to take home. Again, take this time to socialise, learn from your fellow guns and be inquisitive about anything you’re unsure of.

You may wish to write and send a letter of thanks to your host from the day to show your gratitude. Again, this politeness can often help to build your reputation amongst the community and to make you an upstanding member of the shooting community.