Grouse shooting is full of deeply held traditions and subtle codes of behaviour that can be confusing to a newcomer, but the etiquette is not as complicated as it looks. We spoke to Kiri, owner of Athina Sporting – a shooting and hunting trip business based in Kent – on how one should conduct themselves on a grouse shoot.
For your first shoot, what do you need to know etiquette-wise?
The first and most important consideration is safety. Each gun will have a pair of sticks which will be placed at the front of his butt. These act as a physical barrier to the guns barrels to stop anyone swinging through the line and shooting towards any other members of the shoot. By the same token, a horn will be sounded as soon as the beaters are coming within range of the guns. At this point, the guns are only permitted to shoot behind the line for safety reasons. Failure to adhere to these safety rules can get you, and possibly your whole team, sent home early, and a return invite will be most unlikely.
Don’t be unsportsmanlike
Also frowned upon are unsportsmanlike behaviour and greedy shots because after all, this is a social occasion. If you find yourself with a constant stream of grouse and you are shooting well, it can go a long way to letting the occasional bird pass to your neighbours in order to share the sport.
You may have just experienced the best drive of your life and shoot to a standard worthy of an Olympic medal. However, your fellow guns won’t like to hear you boasting about your eagle-eyed prowess. Being humble is always a better way to play it. If you find yourself in the shooting equivalent of the Siberian wastelands, complaining to the team of your poor luck will not enamour you at all either. Take it on the chin and try and grin through those clenched teeth.
Should you bring your dog?
Keep your dogs under control! Too many well-meaning guests have brought along an untrained family pooch to a shoot only to find that when the first shot is fired, said dog takes off to retrieve a bird, rendering it unsafe for the rest of the line to shoot.
What should you wear for a grouse shoot?
Part of the enjoyment of formally driven shooting is indeed the ceremony, and tweed plays a major part in that. Not only does it act as a colour break to make you less visible to the incoming grouse, but it is jaunty to boot! Breeks with long socks and garter flashes are de-rigour; typically a shirt, tie and waistcoat will make up the ensemble. Tweed caps are generally considered best, although the baseball cap is making a more regular appearance. Safety glasses are a must, as is hearing protection and a jacket can be treated as optional depending on the weather. On exceptionally hot days, your host may well remove the tie, at which point everyone else can follow suit.
What kind of footwear do you need for a shoot?
Most people wear wellingtons as they provide protection from the wet holes on the moor. Also, with lower footwear, seeds and twigs are forever falling into your shoes. A pair of brogues upon arrival and to change into at lunch will also be needed.
What is the etiquette for lunch?
You should always discretely let your host know of any dietary requirements you may have in advance of the day. These may be due to allergies, religious requirements or any other number of reasons. A good host will accommodate without making a fuss or making you feel singled out in any way.
Lunches vary on the whole, from rather sedate affairs through to some rather boisterous “homages to the vino”. If you are dining at the end of the day and staying on location, you can let your hair down a little. It is always easier when you are with a team you know but if not, always best to play it cautiously. The shooting world is a small place and you don’t want to be known as the guy that tried to get the lairds’ mother doing the Argentine Tango before the port was even served.
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