Driven Game shooting is good for the nation, though the nation doesn’t know it.  

The Season is a huge part of the UK Countryside calendar.  It provides an income to the local rural community when it needs it most. Pubs, B&B’s, cafés and restaurants all benefit in the deep cold of winter, when tourism is at its lowest. As hungry & thirsty shooting parties come to these rural corners of the UK, staying overnight and eating locally, it could not come at a better time. All that beautiful game meat from the pheasants and partridges goes to the chefs and restaurant owners in the towns and villages. Wild food, from the local estate, in season, zero food miles as fresh as you could want. 

All the Guns take at least one brace home with them at the end of the day too. Many shoots now prepare the birds for the Guns to take home for their neighbours & families, in a “shop ready” package that helps the non-game shooter use the produce for the first time with no feather, claw or beak to deal with. I admire that principle. While I like prepping my own birds, there’s no doubt that my non-shooting friends prefer meat ready to cook.

Happy local business, happy visitors, happy Estate managers and (relatively) happy Gamekeepers.

But the true beneficiary? The people to get the most out, mentally and physically?

It’s the Beaters and Pickers up – that’s who. Flag-waving, tree tapping, dog-whistling, ditch jumping lunatics.

There’s young Ben and his buddy, who just fell in a ditch and are in fits of laughter trying to escape the cloying mud, while the Gamekeeper semi-politely pokes fun at their inability to stand up across the radio. (Many shoots use radios to control their teams). Everyone in that line including the kids are going to get paid, they have spent the day outdoors, away from their games consoles and PC’s and they’ve walked some serious miles. The gamekeeper put the young kids on the steep hills and the muddiest parts but they don’t mind. They know it’s right. They’re young and strong. There is pride in that. 

But Ben and his buddy aren’t the biggest winners, hysterical as they are in that ditch.

Katie and her spaniel Blue are doing well today. The food smells good for the impending lunch in the big barn & the bird retrieves have been excellent. Two guns commented on how well Blue was working and the money they earned from today is going toward a new shotgun. Happy days.

And even Katie isn’t the biggest winner, though Blue might be if he gets a bowl of pheasant stew!

It’s the senior team. That’s who comes out on top. That’s where the real gains are. For them and for society.

Let’s look at a theoretical large city with the older generation sitting at home, trying to budget for the heating and the food bill, quite lonely and in all honesty, in need of a trip to the social club that closed down. It’s a nice town, but you’d not want to walk rounds it for 5 hours. The park is OK, but it’s hardly rolling hills and countryside valleys. The local authority needs to set up exercise classes and social groups because humans need to stay active and be with other humans. We all know this after the last 2 years.

In comparison, let’s look at Mavis and Jordy, two retirees out in the rural sticks, part of every local shoot’s beating team. Twice a week they walk three or four miles, the Gamekeeper knowing full well who should be in the tough muddy fields and hedges and those who should be on steadier hillsides (the old boys). A true show of talent when a keeper knows their team as well as they know the hills and use their wisdom and steadiness to make everyone’s day an absolute pleasure. 

Mavis knows she’s getting lunch and a couple of brews. She talks to a dozen friends all day long and she’s getting a few quid for that too. Being outside is superb for her mental health. After a good day in the field, she will inevitably feel tired, and it keeps her heart strong. Mavis’s knee is giving her grief but it does even if she sits in the house all day, so horses for courses.

Jordy knows he takes twice as long to climb any gate as young Ben does, so he lets Ben go first every time. But Jordy also knows he gets home not just healthier, but warmer. His body temperature from today’s outdoor rambling and scrambling will mean he gets home to a house that others would find cool but he will find positively toasty. He’s had a superb bowl of pheasant stew and a bottle of beer for lunch, someone made a cake today too, and while it’s nearly 4pm and getting dark, the last drive is a favourite view at sunset.

Jordy was talking to old Digger earlier. Digger is the oldest bloke on the shoot. He’s got more medical problems than everyone else added up, but that Gamekeeper wants Digger when he’s able. Digger knows things. Everyone likes Digger. Everyone respects everyone. It’s a team game.

Is it really so idyllic? Well sometimes yes it really is! OK, sometimes you end up on the wrong side of the hedge and the Gamekeeper shouts at you, and sometimes you slide right back down the slope you just climbed up. But in comparison to sitting at home, it’s phenomenal. You need a few layers on as sometimes that wind is cutting, and Beaters standstill a lot! Waiting for the instruction to move on. But both Mavis and Jordy enjoy team work. It’s a team game, beating. And when you go home, you know you were a part of the day. OK… there’s always a grumpy old so-and-so and that’s life. But Mr. Grumpy needs this too. He likes getting out, he needs to get out. It’s a team game.

So in summary – the birds and the guns, the sustainable food for the restaurant table, and the VAT on shotgun cartridges for the government. The hotel and the pubs, the beer and the local apple juice. The sandwich maker who supplies the food after the second drive, and the local mechanic who services all the trucks, quads. They all benefit. It’s a team game.

But not as much as the old boys and gals who wave those flags, and tap those tree trunks. Who walk three or four miles, and who aren’t lonely in Winter. It’s a team game, it always will be.

And if Digger stands where he stands, it’s likely for a good reason. Try it next week when you get that position. He knows his stuff, does Digger.

Matt Bateman

Country Gun UK