How many times do you, or a friend, forget to bring something to a shoot? I certainly do and I’m afraid to say it seems to be happening more and more! In fact, I’m pretty renowned for it to be honest. On every occasion I resolve to write a check list which I can check off as I load the car for the next outing. By the time I get home however, the thought has faded as I seem to be more interested in unpacking the car, cleaning and securing guns, feeding dogs and getting showered and changed for dinner. Whether the cause of my memory lapse is due to my ageing years, poor admin or maybe the excitement for the day doesn’t really matter. It happens so often now that it’s time to do something about it. This article is my list. I suspect there are one or two of you out there who wouldn’t mind keeping it as your own check list for the future. Please do.
I would suggest there are essential items you must bring and then there are items you might want to have along. Therefore, I’ve split everything into these two main groups. Following on from these we mustn’t forget our faithful companion, the dog (if you have one). I’ll deal with that bundle of fun later!
So, let’s get started. Essential items, and I’ve forgotten most over the years, must include the following:
- Gun! It goes without saying, but I have observed friends leave their guns on the peg following a drive as well as at the shoot after departure. I’m yet to see anyone turn up without one but I’m sure it has happened. Personally, I tend to bring a spare whenever possible so if you can, do. It’s likely to be more useful in the car at the shoot than in the safe at home!
- Cartridges. I have forgotten these in the past. I’m sure they enjoyed keeping warm on the Aga but that did little for my ability to shoot birds! Make sure you also check the calibre before picking putting the slab in the boot of the car. Its more common than you might think for someone to bring the wrong gauge of shot.
- Ear defenders. It amazes me that some people still don’t wear these. It’s not a fashion parade! Even if your hearing is already ‘shot’ it’s not worth making it worse. In my opinion the wearing of hearing protection should be compulsory at all shoots.
- Boots. Yep, I’ve forgotten these in the past even though I have multiple pairs. Having to ask the loan of a pair of wellies, of any type and in any colour, isn’t my proudest moment.
- Hat. O.K. you could argue it’s not essential but I kind of think it is. Not only does it keep you warm (30% of your heat is lost from your head), but it does offer a modicum of protection when navigating woodland.
- Sunglasses. There shouldn’t be any disagreement with this one but so many guns don’t wear them. This can seriously limit how many birds you will shoot as you can’t aim at what you can’t see, a peaked cap will also help.
- Firearms / Shotgun Certificate. Goes without saying!
- Insurance. Most shoots now insist on it, but you are being irresponsible if you don’t have any.
- Cash. Don’t be the person needing to borrow money from your friends so you can pay the keeper. That’s just embarrassing!
- Prescribed medicines. It’s a fact of life that for those of us who aren’t getting any younger that there may be some essential medications we need to get through each day. Migraine pills are my life saver. Not having them with me on a shoot day would result in a short, but expensive, day out if a migraine decided to make an appearance.
So, that’s my list of essentials, the things I believe I need to ensure a shoot day can actually take place for me. There are however other important items I think I should always take along. Not having any one of them won’t ruin your day but might make it a little less comfortable.
What are they?
- Wet weather clothing and dry clothes. I have a full-length cape jacket. I get a fair amount of ribbing when I put it on, but I like it! As the saying goes “anyone can be wet”. Sometimes the weather is that atrocious that even with my trusted coat on I still get wet. For those occasions I like to have some dry clothes in the bag to make the end of the day a little more pleasant!
- Cartridge bag. Whilst the cartridges are essential, having a bag to hold them isn’t. You can always use your pockets. Just make sure you don’t run out.
- Shotgun cleaning kit. Whilst some are lucky enough to have loaders on hand to clean their shotgun most of us have to do it ourselves. You could always wait until you get home, but I find getting it done straight away means it doesn’t get forgotten. I also like the fact that the gun has been dried if the weather was particularly bad and some oil applied where appropriate. We spend a lot of money on our guns, so they deserve a little love and attention at the end of a hard day’s work. If you don’t, you might find they decide to let you down in the future when the perfect bird flies overhead!
- Seat stick. The older I get the more I like to rest my weary limbs. Some drives can take a while to start so having a seat stick can be a godsend. Gone are the days when I wouldn’t have been seen dead with such a labour (leg)-saving device.
- Magnetic cartridge stick. Another negative of getting older is that one’s flexibility isn’t what it used to be! Having the stick to collect the cartridges is very handy.
- Empty cartridge bag. A drawcord nylon or fabric bag is ideal. The size is dependent on how quickly you turn full cartridges into empty ones! Don’t be shy though, pick up any other discarded cartridges lying around your peg after the drive. Let’s keep the countryside tidy and the wildlife protected.
- Gloves. You can shoot with cold hands but why bother if you don’t have to?
- Non prescribed medicines. I’m assuming that if it isn’t prescribed it isn’t essential, but I do know many guns like a tipple the night before so it’s probably worth having something to hand if the ‘hair of the dog’ doesn’t work for you.
O.K. that’s the kit side of things dealt with but what about the dog? For some, a shoot day without Fido isn’t a shoot day but it’s not all about you. A shoot day takes a lot of preparation and support. There are normally eight guns shooting but many more people are needed to make the day happen. Not least the picker’s ups. Many only come to work their dog and get a virtuous lunch in the company of likeminded people. Whilst there may well be an associated wage for their efforts let’s be honest, it’s more ‘petrol’ money than wages. They are there to work their dogs. You are there to shoot birds and have good craic with your friends. So, before you think it’s your right to bring your dog please check with the keeper and make sure that they are happy for you to bring him or her along. If you can, then don’t expect to have your dog pick up all of your birds. Let the pickers up do what they have come there for as well. Don’t get me wrong, for me a shoot day without dog’s wouldn’t be a shoot day. If it was possible to have a shoot day without guns but with dogs I’d prefer that to the other way around. However, we need both and as a result there should be a priority over which dogs come along. Whether your dog is the most obedient or the unruliest isn’t something I’m going to get into here but for the record mine is closer to the latter but that’s down to me, not him!
If you do bring your dog, then don’t forget the following:
- Lead. Enough said!
- Whistle. Some people don’t like whistles and prefer voice commands. Someone screaming at the top of their voice however is pretty disruptive, even if a little amusing, so I prefer a whistle. I did get some great advice recently though. If your dog has decided to bound off over the horizon don’t shout for him or her to come back. Simply say “go back” and let people think that’s where you wanted Fido to go!
- Poo bags. Whilst out in the field, Fido doing a number two might not be the end of the world but doing it on the pristine lawn at the front of the house is a different matter. Clean it up.
- Food and water with bowls. Funnily enough, all that running about will doubtless make Fido a little hungry and thirsty.
- Towel and / or dog coat. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Look after your special friend. He or she shows you unconditional love so repay the sentiment even just a little.
Hopefully this short list will help you avoid the odd embarrassing incident in the future. Nevertheless, don’t forget you are there to enjoy yourself. It’s a privilege to shoot anywhere but especially at a driven day. Don’t forget the considerable efforts undertaken by a great many people over a prolonged period to ensure you have a great day. So, don’t forget the most important things of the day – manners, good humour and respect for your quarry, shoot provider and staff, and your fellow guns. Have a great day!