Shooting and fishing: 'They assume that they and their friends are better shots than they really are'

I went shooting the other day near home with a rather jolly retired superintendent from the Metropolitan Police who has his own shoot in Hampshire.

But what was interesting was not so much how he came by the readies for a shoot in Hampshire, but his attitude to letting days.

He is now the third person I have come across who deliberately does not advertise the size of bag that a client can expect if he or she rents a day's shooting.

He has a fixed price for a day and that's that.

You may shoot 50 birds you may shoot 250, it matters not. He knows, because he has a good keeper and because he knows how to manage these things, that there will be enough birds and that they will fly well under most circumstances.

But what he and others are effectively announcing is that they are not prepared to play the numbers game.

They are happy to offer good days' shooting and general jollity and lunch and all that goes with a day out. But they are not prepared any longer to let shooting on the narrow basis of the number of birds shot.

It must be said that these three who no longer let by the number of birds expected, have pretty good shoots. So they tend to get the same people booking year after year who know what to expect.

The problem in the past, and still to some extent today, for a number of commercial shoots, is a tendency among the more macho shooting execs and junior captains of industry, in the South at any rate, to assume they and their friends are better shots than they really are.

They rent a day on a shoot that may be a little too "grown up" and instead of getting the 200 birds "ordered" manage to shoot only 100. At, say, 30 a bird plus vat that's 7,000 for half what you thought you were paying for.

At this point if the client gets uppity, the keeper has to produce the "clicker" recording the number of shots fired to prove the guns had plenty of opportunity but simply failed to connect.

Correspondingly, if you are not, as an owner, prepared to play the numbers game you cannot bellyache or charge extra if the client fields a team of crack shots.

And if it turns out to be a rubbish day and everything goes wrong then clearly there needs to be an agreed adjustment in price. Both sides have to take the rough with the smooth. And a great deal has to be taken on trust, a rather old-fashioned concept perhaps.

But if shooting is to survive in the long term, everyone is going to have to focus more on the quality of the day and not the quantity of the birds.

This article was first published in The Scotsman, 11 December, 2010

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