On this page you will find advice and regulations for shoots on a range of issues, designed to help promote sustainable, best practice shooting in the UK. Should you require hard copies of any of these publications please email [email protected]. 

Open General licences in the UK

What is a general licence?

General licences are issued annually to allow certain actions to be carried out that would otherwise be illegal under legislation contained within Acts, such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means that you do not need to apply for a licence. General licences are suitable for activities that pose a low risk for species conservation and where there is sufficient justification to issue a licence without seeking evidence on a case by case basis. Applying for a personal licence in these circumstances would be an overly burdensome and bureaucratic task.

General licences are issued for a range of activities, including the sale, exhibition and possession of protected species, the investigation of crimes, the rehabilitation of injured animals and the control of certain species that are, at times, in conflict with people’s interests e.g. air safety, damage to crops, public health risk and the conservation of other species. It is under a general licence that most ‘pest bird’ species are controlled such as pigeons, crows etc.

While you do not need to apply for a general licence you must be satisfied that you are acting within the provisions of that general licence and therefore the law. This means that it is your responsibility to read the conditions attached to the licence to ensure that your situation is covered, and to comply with those conditions. In Scotland it is a legal requirement that you have read and understood the licence relevant to your activity.

Who can use a general licence?
This can vary between general licences, so each general licence will clearly state who is eligible to use the licence and what terms and conditions apply.

Do general licences apply throughout the UK?
The general licences issued by Natural England apply only in England. The devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are responsible for issuing their own licences. Although provisions are often similar, it is very important to check the licences in the area in which you wish to carry out a particular activity.


General licences in England are valid in each year from 1st January – 31st December.

Who issues general licences?

Natural England is a licensing authority under the Act, and is also authorised by the Secretary of State to issue licences on his behalf. Natural England has always issued general licences, but from 1 January 2008 it took over responsibility for issuing the licences previously issued by DEFRA as well.

Click here for the current general licences


General licences in Scotland are valid each year from 1st January – 31st December.

Who issues general licences?
General Licences applicable to Scotland are issued by the Scottish Government.

The full series of general licences can be found here http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/species-licensing/bird-licensing/general/

Cage traps and Larsen traps used under General Licences 1,2,3 and 4 must carry a tag or sign displaying a code which can be obtained by contacting your local Police Wildlife Crime Officer.

General licences in Wales are valid each year from 1st January – 31st December. Click here for the licences.

Who issues general licences?
Natural Resources Wales is responsible for issuing general licences applicable in Wales.

The current general licences are available by emailing [email protected] stating which number licence you require.

Renewals for all general licences are due on 11th September 2013. Current general licences are valid up to 10th September 2014

Who issues general licences?

The Northern Ireland general licences are issued by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

The full series of general licences for 2013 can be found here http://www.doeni.gov.uk/niea/biodiversity/sap_uk/wildlife.htm

To buy an Alliance shooting badge – click here

Gun in heatherPreparing a risk assessment for your shoot. A case reported in Shooting Times magazine in early 2008 highlighted the importance of health and safety on shoots. Seven saboteurs were acquitted of aggravated trespass because the shoot in question did not have a written health and safety policy. Any shoot with five or more employees is required by law to have a written health and safety policy and risk assessment. A risk assessment of the shoot is in line with the Code of Good Shooting Practice and the Game Shoot Standard Assurance Scheme. Download a simple dummy risk assessment giving a few examples of what shoots might face. It is not a definitive guide, but the format is HSE approved. Click for the Countryside Alliance’s advice.


Smoking barrelsGun Safety – The most important aspect of shooting sports, this leaflet provides an overview on gun safety – including handling, behaviour in the field, maintenance, security, ammunition and noise. Click to download a copy.

Code of Good Shooting Practice
. In 2012  the major organisations representing shooting, of which the Countryside Alliance is one, launched an improved version of the Code of Good Shooting Practice. Click to download a copy. This extract from the foreword sums up the need for the code: ‘We must never be complacent about the future of shooting. Shooting and shoot management practices will be judged by the way participants and providers behave. Our sport is under constant and detailed scrutiny and we must demonstrate that we conduct it to high standards. The Code of Good Shooting Practice brings together these standards and makes them easily available to all who participate.’



Play your part in promoting gamePlay your part in promoting game, 2010 edition. The Countryside Alliance Foundation’s Game-to-Eat Campaign has produced this free leaflet in order to help shoots promote game. This functional leaflet is informative and has information under such headings as: “At the shoot”; “Storing game”; “Selling game”; “Hygiene training”; “Processing game” and some facts about the Game-to-Eat campaign’s achievements over its eight years of game promotion. Download the leaflet or email [email protected] for hard copies.


red grouseThe Wild Game Guide is a guide to food hygiene legislation for people who shoot wild game and supply it either in-fur or in-feather or as small quantities of wild game meat. It gives information on hygiene regulations and ways to make sure meat is safe to eat. The Food Standards Agency produced the guide in partnership with the Meat Hygiene Policy Forum Working Group and the Wild Game Group, which is made up of stakeholders from the wild game meat industry, including the Countryside Alliance. You can read the guide here.