Gamebird shooting is nothing without people. The passion that drives us to get up early and travel long distances is as varied as the individuals themselves. It isn’t all about the guns, you know. They are the end-user perhaps, and to prosper we need their participation. But lots of other cogs need to click into place to produce that classic driven bird over the peg. Beaters need to beat, and pickers need to pick. Some are keen dog triallers, others just enjoy working their hound on real game and of course, a few are best kept on the lead. Not all helpers are shooters themselves, some just attend for the exercise and a day out in our beautiful countryside with like-minded friends.
Some of our helpers here have been regulars for over ten years and beating or picking has almost become a sport in its own right. A whole culture has built up around the shoot, and even a social circle that extends beyond property. Each season is anticipated with excitement, as is the ‘keeper’s day’ at the end when they get to show off their shooting prowess.
Over the years, people come and go and to fulfil a busy shooting calendar, I find it necessary to have roughly two teams of helpers available. In other words, I have over forty people on my phone list. Each year, we bring in several new faces to the team. Some go on to become devotees and never miss a day, others reside on the reserve bench for the occasional guest appearance.
Each new person is another supporter. Another person who will express an opinion at a Fish & Game meeting or an online forum. The passion spreads; to their friends and family, fellow shooters and dog handlers. More people to shed light on some of the myths about our sport, often perpetrated by those who have never even been on a shoot.
So, introduce a new face for 2019. If you are a regular gun, why not check with your host and ask if you can bring a friend on a day. Be generous and let him or her take a few shots. If you are a helper, let the gamekeeper know that you might be able to enlist somebody new and get them booked in.
And remember, all gamekeepers absolutely love children. Where better for them to learn fieldcraft, gun safety, conservation and much needed social skills than on a shoot day?
By Tim Julou, Gamekeeper, Equine Estate