Feeling overwhelmed by shooting etiquette? Here we give you simple suggestions to ensure you do not make faux pas. When it comes to shooting etiquette, some things apply no matter what type of shoot you attend. For a novice or as a reminder for experienced guns, this etiquette guide will act as a cheat sheet for how to act on a shoot. Above all, remember to be safe and sporting. Each section provides information about a specific type of shooting:
General etiquette tips for any shoot
- Always reply promptly to an invite.
- Arrive on time to a shoot.
- Thank your host or organisers and staff that help on the day.
- Gun safety is paramount.
- Show sportsmanship and humility, without boasting.
- Wear appropriate clothing – see our What to Wear Shooting guide.
- Wear safety glasses and ear protection.
- If you are unsure about the format of the day, always check with the organiser before attending.
- Only shoot the intended quarry or targets.
Certain etiquette is expected at traditional game shoots. Follow our simple guide for before, during and after the shoot and you will not go wrong.
Before the shoot
When you receive an invite to a shoot, reply promptly and in writing with a letter or email. You should never respond by sending a text as this is less polite.
Large driven shoots are planned months in advance and take considerable effort from the gamekeeper and all involved. Never leave an invitation unanswered. If for some reason you cannot give a definite reply in your letter, give a date of when you will be able to do so. Your host will want the guest list confirmed quickly so they can make arrangements for hospitality or find a replacement if you cannot attend.
If you accept an invite, you should not cancel for any reason other than an emergency. Successful shoot days only happen when people turn up. If you receive a second invite for the same date, you must decline, even if it sounds better.
Game shooting is a sociable team sport, perfect for groups of friends or business associates. Some shoots allow you to bring partners and/or dogs, others do not. Always respect what the invite says. The invite may offer to provide a person who loads your gun for the day, known as a loader. If this is the case, you should accept. A loader can be very useful for changing and reloading your guns as well as a second pair of eyes.
Acquire all the clothing and kit you need well in advance. Read our guide on What to Wear Shooting.
The gun and associated equipment:
Will you need to bring your own gun? Ideally, it is better to take your own gun that has been fitted for your use. However, if you are completely new to the sport, let your host know as they may be able to supply a gun for you to borrow and/or arrange for a loader or someone to assist you on the day.
The law means you can only borrow a gun if it is being used on private land for live quarry or clay shooting. The person who lends you the gun must have a valid shotgun certificate, be aged 18 or over, and be present when you are using it. Also, the borrowed gun must be used in the presence of the occupier of the private land, or another person who is authorised in writing to use the land.
Looking to buy your own gun? Before you can possess, buy or acquire a shotgun in the UK, you need a firearms certificate. You can get the application form for a shotgun certificate from your local police force. The certificate can take three to four months to be issued, so do this in good time, and it usually lasts 5 years from the date of issue or renewal. Take your shotgun certificate or a copy of it to the shoot.
If you are buying a shotgun for the first time, visit a reputable gun shop to get advice on what gun will suit you. By law, you can only purchase a gun and cartridges face-to-face in a store, not online.
Whether you own a gun or not, we advise that you book some lessons with an instructor before the shoot day. It is best to learn at a shooting school with clay targets first, as there are many safety questions when handling a gun. This can help both novice and seasoned shooters. Book lessons with an instructor and ask to practise with a simulation of the same quarry you will be shooting on the day.
Alongside a gun, you will need cartridges, a cartridge bag and a gun slip or case. The gun slip allows you to easily carry and protect your gun when not in use, while travelling to and from the shoot. To buy cartridges you need to show your shotgun certificate in person. If you do not have a shotgun certificate yet, you are allowed to buy cartridges on a registered shooting ground, but you will only be able to use them on the day. Your instructor will take charge of the cartridges you purchase and you cannot take them away.
Check what quarry you will be shooting ahead of the day, so you can buy the right cartridges. It is illegal in the UK to use lead cartridges to shoot duck, geese, coot and moorhens, and when shooting on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Grouse moors are frequently SSSIs, where you will need to take non-lead cartridges. If you are unsure whether the shoot will occur in a SSSI, check with your host. Some guns are not suitable for non-toxic cartridges, so ensure that your gun is proofed for this type of cartridge also.
Always overestimate the amount of shooting you will do to avoid running out of cartridges. It is safer to do this as others may not have the same cartridges as you. This also says to your host that you are expecting a productive shooting day.
You should also have shotgun insurance which you can purchase online, for example at GunsOnPegs. This will cover you against injury before you head on to the field.
If you already have a shotgun, get it serviced in good time and order cartridges. Having your gun serviced regularly or every 12 months ensures it will work and gives you the confidence that it is safe to use. When you get a gun out of storage, the first thing you should do is check the safety catch is on. Then open the gun and check that the chambers are empty. Look down the interior barrels, known as the bores, against a solid background to make sure there are no obstructions. Never take your gun straight out of its cabinet, put it into its slip and drive to the shoot. You may think that you put it away empty, but it is best to be safe.
Finally, the night before the shoot, pack all the equipment you need – this will prevent you from forgetting anything or having to borrow something. Remember to take cash for tipping the gamekeeper and your loader, if you expect to have one.
Planning your journey
Your invitation should clearly state the date, location and arrival time. To prevent a late arrival, ensure you look up the location on a map and plan your route before travel. Country estates are often in remote places that may not be found by Google Maps or Sat Navs. Sometimes there is no mobile phone reception either. If you arrive late, this is seen as bad manners and the shooting party may have left without you.
The shoot day
When you arrive on time, greet your host and introduce yourself to the other guns, gamekeepers, beaters and anyone else making the day happen.
Format of a driven shoot
At the start of the day, there will be a briefing before the shoot begins. Listen carefully to the brief – this is where you will be told what you can and cannot shoot, known as the quarry, what signals to look and listen out for, and safety information. It is vital that you follow all instructions from your host and gamekeeper to the letter. They are there to keep you safe.
Draw for stands
On a driven shoot, after the brief and safety instructions, there will be a draw for stand numbers at the start of the day. Your stand number determines where you will be positioned for each drive. The stands may be in a straight line or curve with the ground. There will typically be eight guns in a game shoot team.
For a pheasant or partridge driven shoot you will be placed at a stand known as a peg, usually marked by a number. The peg is a ground marker that you will stand at during the drive. Many shoots have different ways of moving guns from drive to drive, so make a note of what peg you will start from and which you will move to for each drive.
On a driven grouse shoot, the stand is a small bunker known as a butt. Grouse butts have a pair of safety sticks at the front which acts as a physical barrier stopping your gun barrels from swinging through the line. They mark the limits of your swing and prevent you from accidentally shooting over other members of the group.
When the shooting begins
Walk directly to your first peg or butt to start the shoot and do not stop to talk on the way. This keeps the pace up of the day. If you are standing at a butt, double check the safety sticks are positioned correctly. At some shoots you will be given a signal before you are allowed to shoot, for others you will be ‘live on peg’. ‘Live on peg’ means you can start shooting as soon as you get to your stand and you do not need to wait for a signal.
Regardless of whether you need a signal or not, take a few minutes when you arrive at your stand to familiarise yourself with where the beaters, guns, and other shooting members are before you start to shoot.
If you are requested to wait for a signal, the sound of a horn or whistle may be heard. The sound also lets you know that the beaters are in range of the guns and you must only shoot from behind your stand. During the day, the beaters may also shout a warning of “over” meaning the birds are heading your way, or sometimes it is requested that everyone be silent during drives to aid concentration. The morning brief should provide these details for the day.
Beaters put out a flushing line while in woodland for pheasant shooting, or while in thick heather for grouse shooting. A flushing line is the area where the birds will stop running along the ground and should take off to fly overhead of the guns.
Acting as a walking gun
On a driven shoot, you may be asked to act as a walking gun. This is where you are directed to walk with the beaters rather than stay on a stand. As a walking gun, your task is to shoot any birds that are flying away from the direction of the drive. These birds are not heading forwards or in the direction of the line of guns, so are yours to take. If you are new to the shoot, you will normally be given an escort to help with this role.
Elevenses, lunch and alcohol
Whenever the shoot party stops for refreshments, ensure you break your shotgun, unload it and put it in its gun slip. Some shoots involve shooting straight through to around 2–3 pm and then stop for the day. If this is the case, you are likely to be served a sizeable elevenses mid-morning and maybe just drinks or a lighter bite after the shoot. Others, stop for lunch and then continue to shoot later in the afternoon. Both give you the opportunity to refuel and socialise with the rest of the group and time to replenish your cartridges.
A shoot lunch or elevenses may either be served outside or inside. Outside it is generally a more casual affair and may be flasks of hot soup. It is a tradition to enjoy a bullshot which is a hot soup with sherry to warm you up on cold days. If you are invited inside for a sit-down meal, it can be more elaborate with several courses. Take your boots off and leave them outside or in the car with the guns. Ideally bring a pair of clean, smart shoes to change into. If you are wearing waterproof over-trousers, take them off. Muddy or wet outer garments will not be appreciated inside.
If you bring your dog, leave it in the car at lunch with water and the windows or boot open, though make sure it cannot escape.
The time to pack up and head off after lunch may be announced at short notice and you should not lag behind. Be ready to eat up and head off quickly. It is important to abide by the timings of the day as this contributes to a successful shoot.
Alcohol may be offered at several intervals and over lunch. It is best to drink a minimum amount until the shooting has finished as you are in control of a firearm. Do not get drunk or drink beyond your limits as you may lose control of your shotgun, leading to dangerous accidents.
If you have any specific dietary requirements, due to allergies or religious requirements for example, let your host know in advance of the day so they can prepare suitable food. A good host will accommodate your dietary needs without fuss or making you feel singled out.
End of the day
A whistle or horn will be blown to mark the end of the shoot or at the end of each drive. Take your time to put away your gun safely. Put on the safety catch, unload your gun and check for any obstructions in the barrels and chambers before placing it in its gun slip. Carry your gun in its slip while you help the pickers-up who are collecting the birds.
Do not leave the shoot immediately when the shooting stops. Always help with picking up the birds and spent cartridges once the shoot is over, and if possible indicate to the pickers-up where your birds have fallen. Even experienced pickers-up can miss the odd bird and you should look for anything you have shot in the interest of welfare. Treat the quarry with respect and do not throw your birds in a pile as this will bruise the meat easily. Depending on the status quo for the day, your host may want to sell some to a game dealer. Take your birds to the game cart and collect spent cartridges into a cartridge receptacle.
If you have been allowed to bring your dog, only allow it to run around and pick up birds once the shooting has stopped. Do not let your dog run around while the drive is active. Keep your dog under control or if this may be difficult, leave your dog at home.
Shooting is a sociable sport and there will often be drinks after the shoot, where you can enjoy further hospitality provided by your host and relax with the rest of the shoot party.
The bag and thanking all involved
When the day comes to a close, the gamekeeper will count the bag (the number of birds shot) and let your host know, perhaps disclosing the number of shots fired to achieve the bag. You will be given a card with the details on.
Next, the gamekeeper offers a brace of birds to each gun and it is always polite to accept. This is your opportunity to say thank you and tip the gamekeeper as well as your loader if you have one. The amount to tip should be at the discretion of each gun, but you can ask your host to give you a guide on how much to tip. The traditional way to tip is £30 for the first 100 birds in the bag, then £10 for every 100 thereafter. The tip is generally related to the quality and quantity of the sport and you can adjust your tip accordingly. So, if you were on a hot peg, show your appreciation and tip more, or less if you were out of the shooting much of the day. Consider the day as a whole and how you have been looked after as a team, not just as an individual. It is best to be generous rather than under-tipping. Do have a chat with the gamekeeper as well, rather than just tipping him in an awkward manner. You should ask him how he thought the day went or which drives worked well.
Do not rush off without saying thank you to everyone involved. You should also thank your host, the beaters and anyone else who contributed to the day. Although not an obligation, consider bringing a gift for your host, particularly if you are staying overnight, such as a bottle of sloe gin or port.
After the shoot day
Always write a handwritten thank you letter shortly after the event. It is also polite to reciprocate the hospitality with an invitation for your host – you may not be able to hold your own shoot, but an invite to dinner is fine.
Make sure to store your unloaded shotgun in a lockable cabinet at home for safety.
There is no compromise with gun safety on any shoot.
When walking to your assigned peg, carry your shotgun unloaded in its gun slip with the stock facing upwards and the barrel down. When you arrive at your peg, recognise where the other guns, beaters, dog handlers and shoot party members are going to be and establish your safe angles of fire. Before you fire any shot, make sure you have a stable footing. Never take a shot off balance.
Before loading your gun, check both barrels are completely clear when you take it out of its slip. Break the gun, allowing you to see both chambers and barrels are clear. Zip up your gun slip so that debris cannot enter.
Only load the right bore cartridges for your gun. Never assume that a cartridge handed to you from a fellow shooter is safe for your shotgun. Every shotgun has different requirements and cartridges should not be shared. Look at the flat of the gun barrels to find a stamp or ask a reputable gunsmith to confirm this for you.
The wrong cartridge can lead to explosions and severe injury. Never exceed the maximum cartridge load a gun is proofed for. For example, a 20-bore cartridge can slip down and become lodged in a 12-bore gun. The resulting explosion could split the barrels of your gun, taking a finger off and risking your life.
If you keep cartridges of different gauges separate, this can prevent mistakes from being made. It is a good habit to keep just one size and type of cartridge in your cartridge bag for the day’s shoot. In case your cartridge bag is left in a vehicle, also have enough cartridges for a drive on you in a cartridge belt.
While on a drive, it is best to carry your gun broken and resting over the crook of your arm at times when you are not shooting. It is bad practice and dangerous to carry a gun over your shoulder. Whenever your gun is broken, remove the cartridges because an accidental discharge could occur if you drop the gun on the ground, fall, or if someone bumps you from behind. To be completely safe, take gun cartridges out when you are near people. Being seen to be safe is important and will make others around you feel assured.
Do not stand near others with a closed gun – a closed gun is an unsafe gun. You should always treat a closed gun as a loaded gun. If your gun is closed and loaded you must point the barrel at the ground or up in the air. Even if you think your gun is unloaded, never point a closed shotgun towards anyone. You do not want to risk pointing an accidentally loaded gun in the direction of others.
Also, be aware that a safety catch on a gun does not make a gun safe. This can be a common misconception when you are new to shooting. The safety catch acts as a trigger lock, so even if the safety catch is set to ‘safe’, an impact on the gun could fire it! A shotgun is only safe when open and unloaded.
Never rest the barrels of your gun on your foot, whether it is broken or not, because you may plug the barrels with mud or snow which may have kicked up onto your boot. If anything other than a cartridge gets lodged in your gun, this can lead to misfires and dangerous accidents.
If you see anyone being dangerous or unsporting, have a discreet word with your host who will sort it out.
During the shoot, obey your host and gamekeeper’s instructions completely, whether from the morning brief or any subsequent guidance. Once you know the quarry for the day from the morning’s brief, it is important to only shoot the target bird and not anything you do not recognise. If in doubt, leave a bird out of the shooting.
When the birds start to appear in the distance, take the broken gun from the crook of your arm and close it by lifting the stock, keeping the barrels pointing down to the ground. Bring the stock up to meet the barrels – never raise the barrels to the stock.
Next, wait with the barrels pointed to the sky and the stock resting against your hip, with your fingers well away from the trigger. When you want to shoot and your gun is pointing in a safe direction, release the safety catch first. Then close your grip and place your fingers on the trigger before taking a shot. Do not pull the trigger before the safety catch is released. Many shotguns are fitted with auto safety catches but manual safety catches still exist. So, before ejecting cartridges and reloading, you must manually slide the safety catch back.
Please note that we advise taking a few shooting lessons at a clay shooting ground before attending a game shoot for the first time. This is also a good idea as a refresher for more experienced shots.
If you hear abnormal sounds from a shot or a dull report, you should unload your gun immediately and look for blockages. Remove an obstruction with a cleaning rod, pushing it out in the direction it came from. It is dangerous to fire a cartridge on top of an obstruction to clear it.
The same applies if you hear an abnormal sound from another shooter’s gun – shout over and let them know. If you are a novice shot, getting used to the normal sounds on a shoot can take time, so having a loader on your first shoot can be helpful.
Shoot your birds, not your neighbours. What birds will be yours to shoot? You must only shoot birds that are high and passing over your head. Birds that are flying towards your neighbour or another peg are not yours to shoot. Shooting crossing birds is seen as bad manners.
Also, avoid shooting low birds or anything on the ground (i.e. ground game) as this is dangerous. Only shoot when you can see clear sky around and behind your target bird. Never shoot towards woods or hedges where the beaters could be.
It is poor form to shoot a bird at very close range or too far away. Shoot at close range and the bird will be ‘pillow-cased’, where it is full of lead shot and cannot be sold to a game dealer for human consumption. Too far away or high up, for instance, more than 40 yards away, and the bird is likely to only be wounded. Aim for a clean kill that brings the birds down quickly. If you think a bird has been maimed, make a mental note of it and let the pickers-up know when the day has ended.
Remember that traditional game shooting is a team effort, not a competitive sport. Be sporting and if your neighbour is out of the shooting whereas you are getting many, you may offer to let them shoot a few birds over you or let a few birds fly over your neighbour. If they then miss, do not pick the bird off yourself which is known as ‘wiping someone’s eye’, as this is seen as uncourteous. Equally, if you are having a bad day, keep this to yourself and do not moan about your lot.
This is where two people are posted at each peg – a loader and a gun. The loader can help to load cartridges and carry your guns. Loaders are likely to be very experienced in game shooting and you can ask them for tips or advice on the day. Never ask your loader to hurry up and any safety advice they give should be listened to.
Never assume that your loader will check that the gun barrels are empty. You should ask to check that the barrels of both guns are clear yourself before they put the cartridges in at the start of the drive.
Always slide the safety catch of the gun back to safe before handing the gun back to your loader, regardless of how many shots you have taken.
No experts or mobile phones
Unless someone asks for your help, do not comment on the shooting form of anyone else. It is considered very rude to comment on others’ shooting or voice your opinions on how to do things differently. Also, loud, boastful or raucous behaviour is seen as bad manners.
Avoid using your mobile phone at any time while on a drive or at lunch and put it on silent. You are there to take part in the shoot and not to be seen on your phone. Where possible, leave business calls to the end of the day. If absolutely necessary, only use your phone between drives if there is a pause.
Format and etiquette for a walked-up shoot
On a walked-up shoot, guns walk in a line with dogs in front. The working dogs flush out the birds, rather than the beaters. It is a much smaller scale event than driven shooting, without the need for as many staff – no beaters or flankers are required.
You will not know when the birds will be flushed out or which way they will fly, adding to the element of surprise. You need sharp reactions to shoot the quarry and you will not have the support of a loader. When a target has been hit, the dogs will pick up the bird immediately on request of the guns, rather than waiting until the end of the day as on a driven shoot.
In addition to the gun safety guidance above, if you are at a walked-up shoot you must be extra vigilant when walking with your gun all day. If you need to climb over an obstacle, such as a fence or stile, always unload and break your gun. Hand your unloaded gun to another person while you manoeuvre the obstacle, making it clear that the barrels are empty. Then take the gun back and offer to do the same for them. Never leave your shotgun leaning against a tree, wall or fence when it is loaded and/or closed. The gun could get knocked over by accident and fire.
Carry your gun broken, unloaded and resting over your elbow until you are ready to shoot. When shooting on a walked-up shoot, hold the gun resting on your hip or gripped in both hands, keeping the muzzle end of the barrel pointing to the sky at all times. Always bring the barrels of your gun to at least above eye level before firing and make sure you can see clear sky behind the bird.
If your arms get overtired at any point from holding your gun up high, it is best to break your gun and have a short break. This is much safer than letting your arms drop down to a level where you may be pointing dangerously towards others.
Format of a clay pigeon shoot
The format of a clay pigeon shoot depends on the type of discipline you are following, such as trap, skeet, or sporting clays, also known as simulated game shooting. For trap shooting, you will stand in a crescent-shaped circle and take it in turns to shoot clays which are thrown at varying angles, from any height and direction. In skeet shooting the clays are thrown at set heights and angles depending on the station you are standing at. Often clay shooting sessions can be booked for just an evening or a half-day, particularly in the summer, rather than a full day. Many clay pigeon shooting grounds are very accommodating for novices and will guide you on anything you are unsure of, as well as letting you know how to get started in the sport with lessons. For a full description of the main types of clay pigeon shooting, see our Types of Shoot guide.
The traps that release clay targets today have developed from hand-held manually operated models to sophisticated automatic versions. State of the art electronic traps can throw different sized clays at speeds of up to 120 mph, at different heights and directions. They can hold hundreds of targets at a time and are activated either manually, with a push of a button, or acoustically in response to a shooter’s call.
For non-competitive sessions, some shooting grounds have push buttons that allow team members to operate the traps for each other. Others have foot-operated releases, so if you are shooting on your own, you can operate the electronic traps yourself.
Completely manually operated traps are rare now, however do still exist. If a trap is activated manually, the person loading the trap is known as the ‘trapper’ and he or she will wait for the command “pull” before releasing the target.
It is important to stay calm and steady when firing at clays. An instructor will be able to give you tips on safety and holding a good stance.
As the clay comes out of the trap, do not only follow the clay with your eyes. Your gun barrels must follow your line of sight. Keep your eyes looking down the barrel of your gun and at the point when the clay starts to disappear out of sight, squeeze the trigger. For an accurate shot, try shooting clays when they are rising rather than falling.
Etiquette of clay pigeon shooting
The etiquette for clay pigeon shooting is more relaxed than for traditional game shoots. The clothes you wear can be much more casual and there is not the same need to wear formal shooting attire. See our guide on what to wear to a clay pigeon shoot.
Poaching your neighbour’s targets is not as much of a problem in clay shooting, as often you will be shooting in rotation, targets may be released on your call, or there can be many clays released at once. Accidentally shooting your neighbour’s target once or a couple of times is not frowned upon. Do it too often though and this will be seen as poor form.
Clay pigeon shooting requires safe gun handling and shotgun etiquette. Remember, when clay pigeon shooting you must only shoot clay targets that are thrown for you. If you are having lessons, it is good etiquette to give a small tip your instructor at the end of the day of about £10 to £20. This is seen as good manners, particularly if you are having regular instruction. Also, on the rare occasion that the traps are set up manually, always tip the trappers who have helped on the day. About £20 should be ok as a tip, as long as other members of your group also tip.
Ear and eye protection gear is mandatory for clay shooting as tinnitus is one of the main health issues from participating in shooting sports.
Before taking control of a shotgun it is worth checking your eyesight fitness. Good eyesight is necessary for shooting sports, so if you have not had an eye test in a while you should have one. Opticians may also be able to suggest focusing and rotation exercises for the eyes which can help to strengthen the eye muscles.
General shotgun safety precautions must be taken while clay pigeon shooting. See ‘Gun safety’.
The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (CPSA) is Britain’s national governing body for the sport. It is a good idea to have a few lessons with a CPSA Instructor or Coach when you first try clay pigeon shooting. They will guide you on the correct way to handle a gun for shooting and in between shots. Instructing is a specific skill, so getting lessons with a qualified instructor will stop you picking up bad habits. Do not assume that someone who is a good shooter, will also be a good instructor. You may have a friend who is a hot shot, but he may not be the best person to get you started in the sport.
All CPSA (Clay Pigeon Shooting Association) affiliated clubs also have officially trained Club Safety Officers, who can give safety guidance as well as your instructor. They can show you what to do, but following the lessons, you are responsible for the safe handling of your gun.
Here is a reminder of some top safety tips for clay shooting:
- Keep your gun in its sleeve until you reach the shooting stand.
- Open the gun when you get to the stand and check that it is unloaded and the barrels are clear.
- Only load your gun when you are at the shooting stand. This prevents accidental discharge in the direction of others.
- Close your gun only when it is your turn to shoot and you are ready for the target, not before.
- When you eject empty cartridges and reload for the next shot, always have the barrels pointing down the range – at about a 45 degree angle.
- If your shotgun misfires or there is an unusual or softer sound, point the muzzle end of the barrel down the range and wait 20 seconds before opening it. Then check the barrels are clear.
- Open and unload your shotgun before moving between stands.
- On stands with no shooting enclosure, be careful not to swing your shotgun around towards people. Closed guns, even if unloaded, should never be pointed towards anyone.
- When the clay shoot is over, open your gun, unload any cartridges and check it is empty before putting it back into its gun slip.
Choosing a gun for clays
Shooting with a properly fitted gun is important. If you take lessons with a qualified instructor, they will provide you with a suitable gun and cartridges to use while you are being taught. They can also suggest different types of shotgun and equipment to improve your skills after you learn the basics.
There are specialist guns that are made specifically for shooting clay targets. A gunsmith will also be able to advise on the best gun for your needs, depending on whether you intend to only do clay shooting or use clays to practise before the game season. A shotgun used for clays needs to be capable of shooting two cartridges of 12 gauge or smaller.
We also recommend having personal accident and equipment insurance.
Format of a simulated game shoot
Typical simulated game days are set up to run almost the same as traditional game days, but you will be shooting clay targets instead of live birds. You will have a briefing in the morning, followed by a drive or two, elevenses, another drive and then lunch and so on. However, simulated game shooting can also be a lot more flexible in terms of timings because clays are more predictable than birds! Mobile multi-trap devices are often used which gives additional versatility, allowing the day to be tailored to suit your needs. You and your team could ask to have a morning or afternoon’s shoot instead of a whole day. There is also less rush to finish up before dark as most simulated game days occur in the spring or summer. On long summer evenings, you may arrange an early evening shoot after work.
Guns are assigned to pegs like on a traditional game shoot, but the gaps between pegs are likely to be smaller. The main difference is that there are no ‘poor pegs’ on a simulated game day as the traps are set up to ensure every gun gets the same amount of targets to hit. Every stand is a hot spot, so you must come prepared with lots of cartridges as you will be firing in quick succession.
It is normal to have more guns in a team for simulated game shooting than for a traditional shoot. Instead of eight guns per team, there are likely to be 16 on a simulated game day. So, two of you will stand on every peg, taking it in turns to load or shoot. There may be a break halfway through each drive to allow you to swap roles. You will definitely get enough shooting in even if you swap roles. Over-shooting is often the problem at simulated game shoots, where you get a sore shoulder from shooting every target that comes your way. It is best to be selective and focus on shooting the most testing targets.
Sometimes providers can arrange a competitive element, where you split into sub-teams of four to shoot a flush for example. This is a great idea for extra enjoyment if you are attending with a group of friends who already know how to shoot clays.
Gun safety and choice
The gun safety advice for a traditional game shoot, also applies to shooting clays. Just because the targets are more controlled, does not mean you can allow gun safety precautions to slip. As simulated game shooting uses clay targets, also read our top tips for shooting clays safely.
An over-under gun is best for simulated game shooting because you will do a high amount of shooting in a day. Side-by-side guns can cause problems as the barrels of the gun will get extremely hot when you are firing repeatedly at speed and may overheat on hot weather days. Even with gloves or barrel protectors, side-by-side guns can get too hot. Although, if you are using the simulated game day as practice ahead of the game season, it is usually best to use the same type of gun that you intend to shoot game with.
Always take a light load cartridge, such as 21gram or maximum 24gram, to a simulated game shoot day due to the high volume of clays you will shoot. Shotgun cartridges of 7s or 8s are also fine.
Etiquette of simulated game shooting
You do not need to wear formal shooting clothes for a simulated game shoot. However, some still do if they are preparing ahead of the game season. Follow our advice on what to wear to a simulated game shoot.
Eye and ear protection are essential for simulated game shooting.
With no shortage of clays in the air, poaching your neighbour’s targets is not as frowned upon as with a normal shoot, but you should still focus your attention on shooting birds in your immediate space. If you start poaching clay targets in others’ space all the time, this will be seen as bad manners.
At the end of the day, it is good etiquette to give your instructor a small tip of about £10 to £20 if you had a lesson. Equally, if there were manual trappers helping, you should put some money in the pot for them. Your tip does not need to be as much as you might tip a gamekeeper; about £20 each should be enough, as long as other team members also give a tip.