What is involved in driven game shooting?

Overview of a typical driven game shooting day in Scotland

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Exclusively Scottish will plan or customise your driven game shooting day for you. If, however, you are new to the sport and want to know what a typical driven game shooting day involves, the following run down (and tips) may be of help.

Arrive at your venue as instructed, usually around 9.00am. This will often be your host's or the gamekeeper's house, sometimes a purpose built shooting lodge, sometimes the middle of nowhere! Arrive dressed in the appropriate clothing for the type of day and the weather (see below for more on clothing). You will meet your host who may be the owner, or his representative and possibly even the gamekeeper, together with your fellow guns. After introductions and refreshments there is a safety talk and drawing of pegs. You will be given a short talk on the importance of safety and any rules particular to that shoot. Most driven shoots do not allow the shooting of 'ground game' - rabbits and hares etc and details will be given as to the placement of pickers up and any dangerous terrain. You will also be told the what signals will start and end the drives - usually by whistle or horn. After this you will draw the peg number at random for your first drive and be asked to get yourself, your gun and cartridges ready for the first drive. Handy tips at this point:

  • » Make sure you know how to get to your venue - shoots are often hard to find
  • » Do not be late
  • » Do not forget your gun or cartridges - it happens
  • » Do not forget your peg number
  • » Ask if you are unsure of anything

The first drive is reached either on foot or by vehicle and you will be shown where your peg number is or where to stand (some shoots will not use defined peg positions). If you are lucky you will also be told how the particular drive is structured and where and when the birds are likely to appear. Guns are often 'live' on the peg allowing you to shoot straight away, but it is unlikely that you will see any birds for a good few minutes. Take this time to make yourself aware of your surroundings and for safety make sure you know where the other guns are standing as well as the position of the pickers up - you may be in dense woodland or behind a hedgerow. During the drive, try to count the number of birds that you shoot and try to 'mark' them i.e. be aware of the position where they fell. This will help the pickers-up at the end of the drive. Stop shooting at the appropriate signal for the end of the drive - whistle or horn. At this point consider the following tips:

  • » Be ready when the first bird comes
  • » Acknowledge the presence of the picker up behind you
  • » Ask if you are unsure of anything
  • » If in any doubt about safety or etiquette - DO NOT SHOOT
  • » Count and mark the birds you shoot
  • » At the end of the drive make sure your gun is safe and pick up your empty cartridges.

Note for driven partridge - on flat terrain the picker up may be a long way behind you to allow you to shoot low and behind. Check the do's and dont's with your host or other guns. As the beaters get close to the guns, a signal may be given telling you to only shoot behind. Make sure you know the format and listen for the signal. If in doubt - do not shoot.

Note for driven grouse - you will be taken to a numbered 'butt' rather than a peg. Traditionally these are made of stone and slightly sunk into the ground to enable the guns to be as unobtrusive as possible, although modern replacements are little more than a fence panel. As driven grouse fly very low towards and past the line of guns, safety is of the utmost importance as guns must not swing their shotguns through this line, endangering their neighbours. Guns must be lifted as the grouse fly by, and only shot when safely behind. This is often aided by the placement of bamboo canes either side of the butt that force the gun to be raised as the birds fly through. As with the partidges, once the beaters are close, a signal will be given to indicate that birds must only be shot behind. It is very important to mark shot birds to aid the picking up team.

The second drive will follow much the same format as the first, after which there will often be a short mid morning refreshment break taken out in the field or in a lunch hut. One or two more drives usually follow this taking the day up to lunch. Lunch can vary from a very formal 3 course meal to a light snack. Over lunch guns are usually told the number of birds that have been shot. Depending on the required bag, this will determine the number of drives that will follow lunch, commonly 1 - 3.

After the last drive of the day, guns will usually return to the host's house or shooting lodge for refreshments, where they will be told the final numbers shot, and be given the opportunity to take some birds home. Birds are usually given out by the gamekeeper and it is at this point that it is customary to discreetly tip him - provided you have had a good day! Finally, make a note of the following tips:

  • » Make sure your gun is safe, clean and dry before you put it away
  • » Make sure you have not left anything behind
  • » Thank the beaters and pickers up if you have the chance
  • » Always take birds home even just to give to a friend
  • » Thank your host
  • » Tip the gamekeeper if you have had a good day!
  • » Speak to your host discreetly if you have not had a good day

On driven days where large bags are expected, often 350+ birds, guns may well use 2 shotguns with the assistance of a loader. This is called 'double gunning' and your loader will alternately pass you a loaded gun, taking the shot one to reload. This is only really necessary when drives have large numbers of birds in them.

Instruction in the field is also common for those new to the sport, and your instructor can give advice on etiquette as well as shooting techniques and safety.

Exclusively Scottish can help provide everything necessary for a great day of driven game shooting - accommodation, transport, gun hire, cartridges, loaders, instructors and of course great birds!

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