Grouse shooting has evolved over the years and is no longer reserved solely for the pleasure of wealthy farmers, landowners and aristocrats. It has become a much more of an inclusive and accessible sport and while this is excellent news it does present its challenges.
It is no longer always the case that guns have shot from a young age, with many taking up shooting later in life. Of course, experience is no substitute for constant attention to best practice, and old habits and slack judgement can be as dangerous as inexperience. On a frenetic and exciting days grouse shooting it is incumbent on everyone to keep safety at the forefront of the mind.
Of course, there will always be elements that are out of your control, such as poor weather and travel disruption, which can leave organisers exposed financially.
So, making sure you are properly insured and taking precautions to lessen the chance of an incident occurring is crucial.
Here Lycetts, the specialist in country sports insurance and an expert in providing protection for rural pursuits, offers advice on risk management based on its experience of the world of grouse shooting.
Grouse shooting typically takes place on moors, which are known for being inhospitable. As the weather can change at any given moment, it is important for participants to dress appropriately, wrapping up in layers of clothing and being equipped with waterproofs.
It is advisable to wear sturdy walking boots, preferably with ankle support, as you will be encountering uneven terrain and are therefore at higher risk of falling and injuring yourself.
Due to the remoteness of the area, trips and falls, particularly if you are alone, can be very dangerous. Two-way radios can help groups stay in contact and allow them to quickly raise the alarm if anyone gets into difficulty.
You should wear protective equipment for eyes and ears and consider gloves, as the barrels tend to get hot during the shoot.
Organisers will conduct risk assessments before a drive, to ensure you are fit and able to participate.
Most, if not all, shoot organisers will request proof of third party insurance before they take you out on the moor. Make sure that your insurance is up-to-date and that you have a copy with you on the day, or you could be left behind.
A safety brief will be given by the organiser at the beginning of the day – pay attention and abide by the rules set out.
Be aware of your surroundings
The line of butts will be clearly marked so that you can see where your neighbour is located.
You should always be aware of the whereabouts of all beaters and pickers-up and signal to other guns throughout the shoot to indicate their presence.
When carrying your gun in its slip, make sure the barrels are pointing downwards.
Your gun should be broken until the drive is underway. When you are not shooting, your barrels should be pointing at the ground and away from any neighbours/companions. Be careful not to swing your barrels through the line or in the direction of beaters or pickers-up. Carelessness could lead to serious injury and even death.
Before shooting, make sure that the barrels aren’t clogged with mud or other obstacles and that you are using the correct cartridges.
When beaters come into range, a whistle will be blown to indicate shooting must cease. Open, unload and slip your gun when you hear this signal.
Don’t forget to work together with your fellow guns. Signal if you spot something that may present a danger and be courteous during the drive – disrespectable behaviour can cause tempers to fray and judgement to be clouded.
This is particularly applicable when it comes to the shooting itself. Try and stick to a safe arc of fire and refrain from shooting fellow guns’ grouse or shooting on the fringes of your range. This is not only dangerous for participants but breaks etiquette – which can cause tension within the group.
Unexpected snowfall, thunderstorms, fog or rain can hamper visibility and may lead to a drive being cancelled. All guns should immediately stop shooting if the drive has already commenced and return to their vehicles.
You may have your own vehicle, if suitable for the task, but organisers usually offer transport to the moor, often in gun buses. Make sure you are safely secured in the vehicle throughout the journey – this is particularly important as the terrain can make for a very bumpy ride.
Alcohol on a shoot
Consumption of alcohol and shooting is a dangerous mix and should be avoided.
As with drink-driving, it is not only your safety that you put at risk, but everyone you encounter.