Equipment and Kit Recommended for Game Shooting
Game shooting is an exciting day out and a privilege that I try not to take for granted. I keeper on our small family shoot so I have an inkling of the time, effort, energy and money involved in running a day. It reminds me that the best way to make the most of your day’s shooting, whether you’re a guest or taking a paid day, on a rough shoot or driven day, if it’s a large or small bag, is to be prepared and have all the right kit with you.
The weather plays a big part in the day and can vary from very warm in September (or August if you’re lucky enough to be grouse shooting) to freezing cold, snow or pouring rain. Usually, the show goes on regardless so best to be ready for the elements so it doesn’t spoil your day!
My first tip for preparedness is to check the weather forecast the day before the shoot; secondly, get your kit together, also the day before, so you are not rushing around the morning of the shoot trying to find things.
You will need:
Your gun is essential but easy to forget in the excitement of the day!
2 Shotgun Licence
You must always carry your Shotgun Licence with you when you have your gun and of course, game shooting is no exception.
3 Gun Slip
You’ll need your gun slip for the safe transport of your gun and to carry it out in the field. If it’s raining, I zip up mine to keep it dry inside. Putting a gun in a wet slip is the quickest way to make rust!
Your cartridges should be appropriate for your gun; consider: –
- The length of cartridge compared to that of the chamber
- Compatibility with the gauge of your gun
- The shot size and weight for the game you are shooting
- Fibre wad only for game shooting
- Take more cartridges than you think you’ll need; if you’re running low then slow down your shooting and be more selective!
- Steel shot is a new complication and a subject for a separate blog, but for now, be aware that not all guns are suitable for steel shot.
5 Cartridge Bag
This is preferable for carrying cartridges to overladen pockets or juggling boxes that you might drop or that get soggy and break spilling cartridges in a muddy field! However, on our shoot, a modest handful of cartridges will suffice, unless you get very lucky!
With a multi choke gun, fit quarter and half chokes before leaving home so you don’t stress about changing chokes if you miss! This should work for pheasants or partridges up to 40 yards.
6 Ear Protection
Whatever ear protection you use, don’t forget it! Muffs help keep your hat on when it’s windy and your ears warm when it’s cold but they can interfere with your gun mount, so I use moulded earplugs. I find with electronic ones as the batteries constantly go and they’re a bit of a fiddle as well as expensive. But I keep some disposable foam plugs in the car, just in case. Lack of ear protection, apart from damaging your hearing, could also ruin your day’s shooting
7 Eye Protection
Eye protection is not so essential for game shooting as it is with clays. You would hope not to need it for stray shots, at which point you have another problem on your hands, but sunglasses are handy for those days when you’re facing into the sun.
Hats are not essential but can help to keep the rain off or the sun out of your eyes and provide a bit of camouflage from the birds. I wear a hat, but it tends to blow off in the strong wind, but at that point, I leave it on the ground and carry on shooting!
9 Shooting Coat
Well designed shooting coats are made for the job, allowing easy movement of arms for a quick gun mount. In the absence of a loader, the pockets are designed to hold lots of cartridges and so you can easily get your hand in to reload quickly mid flush! They are warm and waterproof; elasticated cuffs stop the rain running down your arms and a high collar keeps the elements out; hand warmer, inside and poacher’s pockets are all welcome. If the forecast is bad, take a spare; it’s not much fun putting on wet clothes after lunch!
10 Breeks Etc
The main options for ladies are breeks, plus twos, plus fours or a skirt or culottes even; you could wear suitable trousers (green or brown/dark) but not jeans. The variety of women’s shooting clothing is so much better now, although I confess I treated myself to a pair of bespoke plus twos made with a matching waistcoat, so they fit and I can have pockets where I want them!
11 Socks & Garters
I have a drawer full of different coloured shooting socks, heavily weighted to pink and purple! I now have some fabulous CGUK garters to throw into the mix, essential for holding your socks up!
It’s just too miserable having cold feet all day so investing in lined wellies it’s worth it, otherwise splash out on an extra pair of socks. Ensure your boots are clean on arrival. A welly bag is handy to prevent the transfer of mud from wellies to car on a wet soggy day!
Waterproofs are not only good protection from the rain but the cold too, especially when it is windy. If it’s really wet, I take two sets.
I prefer not to wear gloves so I can feel my gun, but sometimes it’s so cold I can’t feel it anyway! So I use thin leather gloves with an index finger that folds back to expose your trigger finger for direct contact. Or sometimes I just wear a glove on the left hand. You need gloves that you can grip with; thick woolly gloves maybe warm but are too slippy for holding a gun.
15 Neck Tube
I love my neck tube. It fills that gap between your neck and the collar of you coat where the wind or rain will otherwise get in!
16 Side by Side Hand Guard
On a busy day with a side by side, a hand guard protects your hands from hot barrels! But no such problem with Over and Unders!
17 Hair Tie
If you have long hair, you’ll need it out of the way. Hair flapping in front of your eyes will increase your cartridge to bird ratio! You may be the only lady in the line so don’t rely on your fellow guns having a spare! Again, I keep one in the car for emergencies.
As well as wellies you’ll need shoes for travelling and use in the shooting lodge/house so you’re not dragging mud around the place. I find deck shoes look OK with breeks and pink or purple socks!
This is a handy tool for quickly and easily despatching wounded birds. I feel it’s more respectful to knock a bird on the head than say twizzeling a pheasant round by it’s neck whilst it is still flapping.
20 Mobile Phone
Not many of us go far without our phones these days, but if you are running late for a shoot day, it’s polite to let your host or Shoot Captain know. Or you may wish to take some photos of your day.
21 Hip Flask
If you’ve a favourite homemade brew – my hubby makes a mean damson whisky – pop some in a hip flask to share…pre Covid of course! I have a mini hip flask so I can have secret warming sip on a chilly day when I’m on the peg waiting for the action to start!
If you wish to have a loader or minder, ask your host if it’s OK to bring them along. They may be asked to eat with beaters, depending on the shoot arrangements.
Maybe I’m getting old but I like to use a thumbstick. It’s handy in a muddy field to hang your gun slip on to stop it from getting wet and muddy but I am prone to leaving it behind in the middle of a field! One time I attached my dog to it but it snapped in half when she dashed off mid-drive to retrieve a pheasant!
There’s often a lot of liquid intake on a shoot day so we ladies have to pace ourselves a bit! I have a pocketful of tissues, just in case I’m taken short and need to dive behind a tree for a jungle wee!
25 Gun Cleaning Kit
It’s best to clean your gun after you’ve finished shooting but at worst, if it’s wet, dry it off with a towel and clean it at home. Don’t put it into a wet slip, the rusting process is quicker than you think!
26 Tip for the Keeper
Tip the keeper according to the bag and the day. Confer with the other guns about the rate and take notes to cover likely amounts as you can’t ask for change! If you don’t have the exact sum, err on the generous side. Keepers will remember!
Don’t forget your dog, if you have one and they’re suitably well behaved in the field! Ask your host beforehand, if you’re a guest if it’s OK. Also bring food, water and a towel too for your helper!
28 BASC Card
I recommend BASC membership for insurance and suggest you keep your card with your gun licence to show you have valid insurance.
29 Added Extras
In addition to the above kit, you will need to bring your wits, your best manners and a good sense of humour, especially if you are having an off day! But above all, you’ll need total safety awareness.
If anyone has anything to add to this list I would love to hear from you!
IN THE MEANTIME HAPPY SHOOTING EVERYONE!
GAME SHOOTING KIT CHECK LIST
☐ Shotgun licence
☐ Gun slip
☐ Cartridge bag
☐ Ear protection
☐ Eye protection
☐ Shooting Coat
☐ Socks & Garters
☐ Neck Tube
☐ Hand guard
☐ Hair tie
☐ Mobile phone
☐ Hip flask
☐ Gun cleaning kit/towel
☐ BASC membership card
☐ Good sense of humour!
Written by Nicki Wakeford