What is driven shooting?

The pinnacle of Scottish fieldsports

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Seen by many as the pinnacle of the sport (although some may argue!), driven shooting is the most formal and most expensive type of game shooting, having changed little since Victorian times. Etiquette, sportsmanship and safety are paramount as is a friendly respect for your fellow guns and ultimate respect for your quarry.

Driven shooting is what it says. Guns are positioned in a line about 20-30 metres apart from each other, standing at a fixed point, often marked with a numbered peg or post. The line can be straight, curved or horseshoe-shaped to allow for the terrain. The birds are driven towards the guns by a very organised team of beaters and dogs. Birds are shot as they fly over the guns and the whole manoeuvre is called a 'drive'. A typical day will involve 4 - 6 drives. At the start of the day each gun will draw at random the peg number he is to stand on for the first drive, typically 1 -8. At the second drive each gun will usually move up 2 numbers for their next peg position; for example 2 will move to 4, and 7 will move to 1. Guns will then move up 2 places at every subsequent drive. The theory behind this is that although the gamekeeper will endeavour to get birds to fly over the whole line of guns on each drive, in reality most birds may funnel over the middle of the line with fewer birds at the periphery. Moving up two positions each drive means that each individual should at some point be in the middle of the best shooting. However the birds and the weather do not always guarantee this! Other combinations of peg moves are also used. Shot birds are retrieved by a team of 'pickers - up' who stand well behind the guns and eight guns will often have at least 3 pickers-up behind them with 2 -4 dogs each. After the drive is finished, the pickers-up will ensure that all the shot birds are accounted for and retrieved. A detailed description of a shoot day is given below.

Driven shooting mainly involves pheasant, partridge, grouse and occasionally duck, with most following broadly the same format although there are some subtle differences. The number of birds shot on a day - 'the bag'- varies from 100 - 400 with both smaller and larger days being common and with grouse being counted in pairs - 'brace' (two alike things). For example a 100 bird pheasant day would equate to a 50 brace grouse day. Shoots are usually syndicated, commercial or a mixture of the two, although many are of course still purely private and operate on an invitation only basis.

Estates and large farms often have a syndicate arrangement where a group of friends finance the whole shoot between themselves, leasing the land, employing a gamekeeper and covering all costs. No days are sold commercially and syndicate members will often invite guests who may reciprocate with an invitation to their own shoot. These shoots are rarely run at a profit.

At the other end of the scale is the fully commercial estate which operates like any other business, employing a full team of staff and selling driven shooting days to the general public either directly or through an agent. Days are generally sold months in advance to a full team of 8 guns, with the cost of the day based on the total amount of birds that the team wish to shoot - pheasant and partridge typically between 100 and 400 birds. Grouse bags tend to be smaller.

It is very important to note that in the UK the total cost of the day is predetermined by the requested bag size to be achieved and is split between the number of guns present, irrespective of the number of birds shot by an individual gun. For example, on a 160 bird day for 8 guns, each gun will pay an 1/8th of the cost even if some of them only manage to shoot 10 birds and some shoot 25! It is the gamekeeper's responsibility to provide enough shootable birds over the guns for them to achieve the bag and the guns will be expected to be able to achieve a minimum shot to kill ratio for the type of shooting offered. On a standard pheasant day the shots to kills ratio would be around 3:1. On very high, difficult birds it may be around 8:1. Most driven game shooting would fall within this range.

Although most driven game shooting is booked by full teams, more estates are now selling days where the team is made up of seperate individuals and small teams and charged on a per person rate. However this is still relatively rare.

In between the private syndicate and the fully commercial shoot are estates that have a mixture of the two, where the let days help to underwrite the syndicate costs.

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