What is the history of game shooting?

A brief history of game shooting in Scotland

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Scotland, and the UK, has a long, rich history of hunting in general, and modern game shooting has evolved from an exclusively royal pastime into a multi million pound industry that is widely available to all walks of life and brings great benefits to many habitats and other wildlife.

Up until the late 17th Century, birds were traditionally shot whilst on the ground or perched, as well as being netted and hunted with hawks. With the improvement in shotgun technology in the early 18th Century, birds began to be shot in flight with the sport becoming known as 'shooting flying' from the French 'tir au vol' This method of hunting soon became more popular than hawking or netting, and by the mid 18th Century, due to better guns and ammunition, shooting became easier and thus more widespread amongst the aristocracy and landed gentry. Up until this point, all shooting was effectively walked up with the guns walking in a line and shooting birds flying away from them as they were flushed by trained dogs.

With the introduction of the double barrelled breech loading gun in the mid 19th Century, the art of driven shooting emerged taking its name from the French battue - the beating of woods and bushes to flush game. Instead of walking towards the birds in a fairly random way, these shoots were more formally organised with the guns standing at a fixed position or peg, whilst the birds were driven towards and over them by beaters and dogs. This allowed for more variety and of course more challenging sport with high flying birds testing individual ability and technique.

Driven shooting became so popular in the late 19th Century that shooting schools began to appear, different advice being given on the best methods and techniques, with manufacturers endorsing different styles and subtly different equipment. This was the golden era of shotgun refinement and build quality, with the sport still only accessible to those with money and status. This situation continued until well after the Second World War with the 1960's and 1970's starting to see a change in direction as the class system in Scotland moved with the times.

The modern game shooting era really began with the socio-economic changes in the early 1980's that saw an increase in disposable income for many, coupled with a desire by high earning individuals to indulge in a sport that had previously been unavailable to them. There was also of course, a desire by some to use shooting to 'up' their perceived social status. On the other hand, many shooting estates were desperate for fresh investment with a decline in their traditional clientele and ownership. Slow to react at first, estates began to see the value that this new money could bring in terms of customers, capital investment and ultimately sustainability. Game shooting is expensive to provide and over the last 30 years commercial shooting has become the norm and underpins the industry enabling sport of all kinds for all budgets.

Today, game shooting can be broadly split into three categories, all with their own unique attributes and participants; driven shooting, wildfowling and walked-up/rough shooting.

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