As well as being one of the Sporting Lodge’s ambassadors Brett Davies is also a full time professional shooting instructor and competitive clay shooter. He has proudly represented Team England three times and is the current Cheshire Champion and West Midland Area Champion. Brett works from North Wales Shooting School, providing shooting lessons on a daily basis to game and clay shooters from up and down the country.
But he is also a keen Game shooter and has been for all his life, literally. Brett has grown up shooting, on peg, in the field, in a pigeon hide, rabbiting, pest controlling or anywhere that means a gun is in his hand makes him feel at home. There has been no stopping him. He has spent many game seasons shooting, beating, picking up and has been involved in syndicates where all hands are on deck. Rearing pheasants, partridge and ducks from poults even hatching them out. Nowadays Brett spends his time providing on the peg in field tuition in the game season. With a lifetime of knowledge, here are his top twelve tips for the season ahead.
Safety is Paramount.
As with all shooting, the number one rule is to be safe. Keep your gun unloaded and the action visibly open whilst moving between pegs, until you’re ready to shoot. Always keep the gun’s muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Make a note of where the other shooters, beaters and pickers up are around you. But also acknowledge them, it will go a long way to help make them feel safe. Remember to check your barrels are clear of obstructions before loading. Even though eyes and ears are everything to help you spot birds, always wear hearing protection. Electronics ear defenders are highly recommended as they will help you hear birds breaking out of cover, before you can see them. Safety glasses with changeable lenses are good to brighten up a dull day or darken down a bright one.
Always remember that an unsafe shooter will be asked to leave the shoot.
Remember when going on a driven shoot that you’re sharing the day with other shooters, who are also paying for their share of birds over that day. Make sure you respect your neighbouring guns. Don’t over shoot or poach other gun’s birds, again you might be asked not to come back to that shoot. Tipping your game keeper is an age-old tradition. Tip accordingly, I would give a general guide of £20 per 100 birds. Listen to the gamekeeper or shoot captain’s safety talk. Especially make a note of what you can and can’t shoot on the day. Sometimes it may vary from shoots so don’t be afraid to ask. No ground game. Woodcocks, Snipe or general pests may not always be on the agenda.
Make sure you have suitable clothing for the game shoot you are attending, some may be a bit more laid back than others. But the most important thing is, comfort. Try your jackets and coats on to make sure that they are loose enough to give you full swing of the gun. Unfortunately, the game season doesn’t fall in the summer months which means, cold and wet British weather. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of a field, freezing cold. Thermals and waterproofs will be your new best friend.
Pick your birds carefully. If you shoot a bird that is too low, not only is that a safety risk, you will ‘pillowcase it’ which means the whole line of fellow guns will be spitting feathers from your bird. Not only is that embarrassing, but it means that the bird will not be fit for the table.
Avoid shooting at birds out of range for your ability to kill cleanly, you must be fair to your quarry.
Stare it to Death.
Keep your eye on the bird. It is a common fault for shooters to look at the barrels or bead on a gun, more so than the bird or target. If you are guilty, stop aiming and just look. Stare at your bird hard before accelerating confidently through and taking your shot. As I always say, stare it to death. This will help you to become a smoother shot and also means you will be less likely to stop your gun.
Get Your Feet in Gear.
That doesn’t mean go and get the latest wellingtons on the market, it means make sure your leading foot is pointing to the area you planto shoot the bird and your rear foot positioned comfortably so that you are balanced and stable. You may not always get a peg on even ground, so shuffle about until you are comfortable.
The bird won’t always fly in the same direction, so you will have to move your feet and get those wellingtons muddy.
Get connected to the bird with your barrels, start the gun on its tail feathers so you can get the line and speed of the bird, whilst being ideally placed to overtake and make your shot. Starting further behind the bird will not only make it much harder, but you may find yourself struggling to catch the bird up and take a successful shot.
Remember to take your first shot out in front, leaving you time to take your second shot if needed. This helps give you time to finish the bird off cleanly and giving you a more comfortable shooting position.
Mounting and Moving.
Mounting and moving is a procedure all shooters should practice at home with the curtains drawn of course, as to not worry the neighbours. With an empty gun, practice mounting the gun into your shoulder pocket whilst keeping the barrels moving in a forward direction, avoid dipping the guns muzzles down and scooping up your bird, as you will lose valuable connection with the bird. Use Snap Caps in your gun so you don’t damage the springs and pins when dry firing.
Shotgun Cartridges, Is Bigger Really better?
In my opinion, no. I have used some hefty cartridges in my time and using heavy gram cartridges will not give you much of an advantage. In fact, if anything shooting heavy loads can have the reverse effect. Not only does it make shooting less enjoyable, but the larger pellets travel much slower.
What you think you gain in grams you lose in speed. I would recommend a guide of:
– General birds – 30 gram 5s.
– High pheasants – 32 gram 4s.
– Fibre Only
Don’t fall for the bigger better, apart from a bruise you won’t gain much. Don’t forget, make sure that you have some steel shot if you plan on shooting any ducks and other wildfowl.
The Shooters Are Not The Most Important People There.
Always be respectful to the team running the day you are attending, if it wasn’t for them you wouldn’t be shooting. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to run a shoot, so manners go a long way. Make a mental note of how many birds you have shot and where they have landed on a drive, as you might get asked by a keen picker up, once the drive has finished.
Everyone Misses, So Don’t Worry.
Do not let a miss knock your confidence, it is very hard to shoot a live target so keep yourself calm. Have a little think about what you could be doing wrong, then adjust accordingly.
If you feel as though you need some help then seek the aid of an experienced game shooting coach, out in the field or at a shooting school. Keep in mind that if you give an experienced coach enough time to work with you, you will learn to shoot well. And like riding a bike you won’t forget it and it will help you enjoy your shooting even more. Practice between seasons, don’t just assume that you can go from season to season without practicing. Look out for the ever more popular simulated game days, if you are new to game shooting use them as experience before graduating to the real thing. Find a local shooting ground with a tower so you can practice driven targets.
Keep yourself safe and sharp.
The most important tip, is to enjoy your day. It isn’t cheap to go game shooting, so don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to hit all the birds. Take some birds home with you so you can taste them, there are plenty of recipes online. Follow my tips to be comfortable and confident so that you can enjoy your day to the fullest.
Last but not least, SHOOT STRAIGHT.
Keep up with what Brett is up to on the Sporting Lodge blog and on his own site brettdaviesshooting.com
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