Glorious Twelfth is upon us once again, a monumental date in every shooting calendar which marks the start of the 121-day long Grouse shooting season. Whilst there will only be a privileged few out shooting on the Grouse Moors today, it’s an exciting time for everyone who has any involvement in game shooting in general, as it starts the countdown to those Autumn days when pheasant, partridge and other restricted wild-fowl shooting seasons begin. I’ve previously spoken about the controversy around game shooting and laid my opinion – which is likely to divide people – on the table (see here ), so this year to mark such a special date I’m sharing Twelve top picks and tips for anyone out game shooting this season. Don’t worry – my experience doesn’t stretch to enough top tips (yet), so I’ve roped in some lovely people who have been incredibly influential to my own game shooting experiences. Before I get into all of that though, I would urge you all to have a read about shooting and how it helps with conservation, preserving our wildlife and heritage and the economy – it may surprise you and perhaps even change your views altogether.
So, my top style picks..
I’ve chosen my top picks with style in mind, (obviously – this is supposed to be a country style blog!). But the most important thing when out in the field is that you need to be safe. I’ve seen a lot of outfit inspirations over the last few weeks that would never work in the field because they would either be a hindrance or dangerous. Items that affect eyesight or gun mounting are not even worth considering. I’m all for looking stylish wherever possible, but it’s not worth compromising your safety or the safety of others which is absolutely paramount when out shooting. My style picks and advice below will work for any game shoot, but it is important to pay attention to what type of shoot you are going to (is it a ‘rough’ shoot or a fully driven day?) and adhere to any specifics that the dress code may detail.
I know it’s not an item as such, but my top style pick would be to wear layers. I’ve made the mistake of not taking this advice on board before and trust me, it’s not worth it. Very often during shooting season, the mornings are pretty chilly so you need a big thick coat to keep you warm, but after hauling yourself and all of your bags, guns and whatever else your carrying through muddy fields or rough terrain – you get a little warm! So it’s good to plan ahead and layer up, then you can be sure to look stylish no matter what the elements throw at you! My top layering picks would be a thin woolen or cashmere jumper (I love the Really Wild cashmere roll neck in sienna – definitely on my Christmas list!) and a gilet/tweed shooting vest under a waterproof coat (it’s very important that it’s waterproof!).
It sounds obvious, but it’s something that is often not considered by style guides because similar colours don’t give enough vibrancy to an article, but it’s really important to try and blend in with your surroundings. So that usually means various shades of greens, burnt oranges, browns, reds and tan – perfect for me because I’m an autumnal dresser anyway. To be honest, you can get away with most things but whites and creams are a no-go, unless of course you’re attending for pheasant conservation! Pheasants (or other game birds) will generally fly away from white because it stands out against the countryside backdrop, meaning you won’t get much action. Plus white is never a good idea in the countryside!
A Good Pair of Boots
Again, it’s a fairly obvious one but make sure you invest in a decent pair of waterproof boots. By decent I don’t necessarily mean expensive but I do mean comfortable. You’re likely to be walking a fair distance in them and you’ll certainly be standing around in them all day, so make sure you are comfortable in them. My top, tried and tested boots are my Le Chameau Viezonord Wellies, Fairfax & Favor Imperial Explorers and Ariat Coniston Pro GTX Insulated boots – all very comfortable, warm and suitable for all terrains!
Style can be achieved through Accessories!
I experimented with different shooting outfits throughout last year’s season and I think the best way to inject some style into your shooting gear is to accessorise. As I’ve already mentioned, the most important things are to be warm, dry and comfortable – not exactly style inducing qualities but trust me, when you’re out in the fields in all weathers and invariably with a lot of men who aren’t at all bothered about style – you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons! By adding a few stylish twists you can soon transform your outfit so that even the pheasants will stop and admire! Here are my favourite:
- Hiho Silver Pheasant Brooch. A beautiful sterling silver brooch stunningly modelled on a flying pheasant which looks gorgeous pinned to the lapel of a jacket or, as I use mine, to fix your scarf in place – you don’t want that to come loose in the wind and distract you!
- Mackenzie & George Feather Pinned Fedora. A classic, quintessentially British style icon – the fedora has had an elegant country makeover by Mackenzie & George who provide handmade feather pins from Scotland to adorn their wool felt fedoras. Perfect for all weathers (definitely waterproof), this hat is a very fitting addition to any shooting wardrobe.
- Clare Shaw Silk Scarf. Clare is an incredibly talented artist who so vibrantly captures shooting scenes, some of which have now been printed on to beautiful silk scarves. These are sure to turn heads and add a touch of class to your shooting outfit – I can’t wait to use mine this year and will certainly be building up a collection!
- Flat Cap. I love a flat cap, it’s perfect for stopping the rain getting in your eyes and your hair wet! But also very practical when shooting – it’s not likely to blow off in the wind or hinder your line of sight. My favourites are my Beretta tweed cap or my Holland Cooper Carrie Cap.
A waterproof coat with deep pockets!
A decent coat is essential for any aspect of country life, but particularly when out shooting. It’s entirely possible that you will encounter rain showers, wind and bitter cold on shoot days so it’s important to have a coat that stands up to the challenge. I also think it’s important to have a coat (or a shooting vest) with deep pockets so that you can have a few cartridges to hand without having to bend down to your cartridge bag every time, which could result in a missed opportunity. I have two go-to coats that I use out shooting, depending on the weather and the time of year. The first is my ultimate layer coat – the Barbour Beadnell Wax Jacket (in olive) which is perfect for the start of the season when the weather may be warmer. The other is my Club Interchasse tweed coat – you’ll never be cold in this exceptionally well-made shooting coat and it has so many pockets that it’s easy to forget where you put something!
Essential to line your boots and keep your toes warm. Shooting socks are also a brilliant way to add some style or personality into your outfit. My favourites have to be the House of Cheviot Lady Forres or Lady Strathie which come in a variety of colours sure to suit any outfit.
Twelve Glorious Top Shooting Tips
So I’ve given you my top style tips..now over to some of the people who I look up to and have been influential in my game shooting career for their top shooting tips!
Hannah Gibson, Team GB
- Feel comfortable and confident – if you can get your eye in before you shoot game on the clays, this will probably relax you. Also be comfortable in your clothing choice. You don’t want to be too bulked up and not be able to mount the gun correctly or move it.
- Enjoy your day! You’re out in the fresh air doing something that most shooters would envy and let’s face it, even if you are shooting badly in the field, nobody is watching as they’re too busy picking out their own birds!
- FEET FEET FEET! Remember, you are allowed to move them! You want to be able to finish your shot off so make sure you can reach without rolling off the line of the bird
Lydia Abdelaoui, Gamebore Cartridge Company & (of course!) Femmes Fatales
4. Choose the right ammunition for your quarry. Remember early season birds are smaller and require smaller shot sizes and lighter loads than those towards the end of the season that are larger and can reach greater heights. If the shoot you’re going on will include ducks, you must take some non-toxic cartridges as the use of lead shot is prohibited when shooting ducks. As your local gun shop for load to suit your gun or indeed get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
Charles Edwards, the person responsible for kicking off my game shooting career and general shooting advisor (also happens to be my brother)
5. Keep swinging. It’s a simple one but make sure you keep moving as you fire your shot – the bird is speeding up as it flys away from the line of guns and your lead will be slowing down. If you remain static after firing the shot and do not swing your gun through in a fluid motion you haven’t got much chance of hitting the bird! Make sure your swing is safe and your not going across the line of guns to someone else’s bird. Also make sure you are shooting above the tree line – that way you will always be safe.
6. Take a good stick with you – this sounds like a silly one but it’s something that will really help you. You will be walking across all different kinds of terrain in all weathers and you will be expected to carry your gun and bags so a stick really helps to stabilise you and get you through the rough ground, particularly when you’re tired. It’s also useful when walking through the woods if you need to help flush any birds out and perfect to hang your coat on when at your peg.
Clare Sadler, Shotgun & Chelseas Bun Club’s Game Shooter of the Year 2016
7. Know what your day entails and prepare accordingly. For example, your clothing will differ depending on whether you are on a walked up day compared to a days driven shooting in your finest. Always check the weather the night before and tweak your outfit accordingly. My advice would be to always wear layers, even in winter.
8. Make sure you have the right cartridges – and the right number of them too.
9. Avoid buying and wearing new clothes unless you have had the chance to wear them shooting beforehand – you don’t know how it will impact your shooting or gun mount.
10. Before your game shoot, get out on the clays. I personally hit the high tower a couple of times leading up to the shoot but will mix in some sporting targets to cover all shooting.
11. Always pay attention at the shoot briefing. Abide by your shoot’s rules and remember safety is key. Keep your barrels up when loaded and always know where the beaters and pickers-up will be. If you do these three things you have a very good chance of being invited back!
Stella Harvey, BASC Shooting Instructor
12. Be organised and make sure you are prepared for the day beforehand. There have been so many occasions that I have seen people panic because they’ve rushed out in the morning and forgotten their cartridges, or brought the wrong ones that aren’t suitable for the day. Also remember to take your gun! It sounds silly but it happens a lot – make sure you’re organised and packed the evening before and check you have everything before you leave home.