Getting into Field Sports
Country pursuits have played an important role in my upbringing as I’ve grown up with my father and uncle participating in field sports. Having family members involved in field sports has enabled me to access these pursuits, but I know that this is not the case for everyone!
This post is for anyone who is interested in field sports, unsure on how to get any experience and who doesn’t have any ties with the industry. While I understand that that when you are on the outside looking in it may appear to be a close-knit community and only accessible to the ‘rich’. Like any hobby or interest, field sports are as expensive as you make them. People who participate in field sports come from all walks of life. In our syndicate, we have builders, council workers and transport planners, just to name a few. Similarly, when I was a member of Aberystwyth University clay pigeon shooting club, the members came from all different backgrounds and shooting abilities.
Now, the first question you should ask yourself is probably the most important one and that is, are you prepared to take the life of a sentient being? A number of people do not wish to do this for their own personal reasons and therefore still participate in the sport but without actually shooting any game. It is important to note that it is your decision whether you choose to shoot game or not and no one can force you to do anything you don't feel comfortable doing. It is possible to participate without owning or touching any firearms – we’ll cover this later.
There are many different avenues you can follow to get into country pursuits once you have decided what areas you wish to explore. If you take one thing away from this post let it be this; try different sports/activities before you commit to purchasing firearms or other gear required to see if the sport is right for you.
Join a club to gain experience
Contact groups such as the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC), clay pigeon shooting association (CPSA) or your local gun dog club. I strongly advise becoming a member of BASC or an equivalent organisation as not only will you receive the members magazine and discounts on courses and events (we all love a discount!), but more importantly they provide insurance cover for third party liability (this is a requirement of most gun clubs/organisations to be held by members) and advice on a range of countryside matters.
Before even considering applying for a shotgun or firearms license, you should gain experience handling and shooting a gun. The only way to do this is through clubs, shooting grounds/ranges and being shown by a friend/family member who holds their own license. You can find your local rifle clubs online who openly welcome newcomers and have licensed members who have in depth knowledge and experience of handling and working with guns.
Visit a clay pigeon shooting ground and book a one-to-one lesson with an instructor who will take you through the safety and best practice for shooting. You’ll be taken around different stands with various traps and hopefully hit a few clays on your first day!
If you are a university of college student, find out if your institution has a clay pigeon shooting club or a rifle club. I joined Aberystwyth University clay pigeon shooting club and I met so many amazing people, toured the country for competitions and really improved my shooting skills. Most importantly we had so much fun! We trained twice weekly and could spend as much or little as we wanted on clays & cartridges. Most members at the time had never shot any game.
There are also clubs who do ferreting, archery, falconry, wild fowling, fishing and all other types of country pursuits. I would advise searching online, particularly on Facebook to find any groups and clubs you are interested in.
Women in field sports
Field sports can feel like a male-dominated industry, but there are plenty of women across the country who enjoy shooting and country pursuits. It can be difficult to find the opportunity to socialise with like-minded women, so if you enjoy meeting new people then consider becoming a member of the Chelsea Bun Club or the Country Girls UK. I'm the only female in my syndicate, and I hadn't met any other women who shot until I went to Aberystwyth!
Contact a local syndicate
Pheasant shoots are a great entry point into game shooting and you can participate in a number of aspects aside from shooting: beating, picking up, and reloading. Beating on a shoot is a great way to keep fit – you will tackle all terrain types in different weather conditions! For those of you who don't know, beating is basically walking in a line with other beaters making noise to push the birds out of cover towards the guns.
If you have a well-behaved gundog you can bring them along to beat and/or pick up for the shoot. That’s what I’m hoping to do with my new pup this upcoming season!
You can also act as a loader and reload for someone shooting at their peg (a peg is the allocated position where each person shooting that drive will stand in the field). If you’re going to reload for someone, you have to be on the ball and ready to put new cartridges in their barrels the minute they break their gun.
Deer stalking If you specifically want to go deer stalking, then I suggest firstly get to know someone who would be willing to take you out deer stalking and teach you. Estates and individuals will take non-shooters out to give them an insight into stalking before they commit to the sport and spend any of your hard earned cash. Consider obtaining the Deer stalking Certificates (DSC1 & DSC2) - I've written an upcoming post about these certificates.
A great way to keep up to date on the current affairs in the field sports world is to watch the Fieldsports Channel and Shooting Show, both streaming on YouTube. Sitting down to watch both channels is a weekly occurrence in our household!
If you are on Instagram, there are tonnes of people sharing their own experiences in field sports. Some people whom I personally think are worth following are:
Career in field sports
I just wanted to briefly mention this here as I intend on writing a post specifically on careers in field sports, but if you are considering a career in this industry, the best thing to do is get as much experience as you can, consider attending college to study, for example, game keeping or countryside management, and look for internships/apprenticeships.
Hopefully this is enough info for you to find your feet in this industry. Most people are very welcoming and enjoy helping newcomers. There is no such thing as a stupid question, so ask lots of questions and remember to practice safe shooting!
In upcoming posts in the field sports section, I'm going to be talking about what to expect on a shoot day, competitive clay pigeon shooting, gaining your DSC1, obtaining your licenses, and how deer stalking contributes to disease management.
As always, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to message me on my Instagram (@welliesoverheels) or submit a message on this page!