By Nick Hammond
Game shooting is under fire! With the media and general public increasingly isolated from everyday rural life, it can sometimes appear the world is against the recreational game shot.
But hold your head up high and puff out your chest; here are Ten Reasons You Should Be Proud To Be A Game Shot.
Shooting Game has a £2.5 billion benefit to the UK economy and brings an incredible 350,000 direct-paid jobs to often remote rural locations. If you’ve been lucky enough to shoot grouse, partridge and/or pheasant across the UK, you’ll well remember the stunning locations and huge tracts of managed countryside. There aren’t shopping malls and restaurants, cinemas and cafes; there are pubs and guesthouses, working farms and rural businesses. These are the fabric of our country, whether people know about them or not; communities who rely on each other against the vagaries of the weather, subsidies, the local job market and access to education. Game shooting brings much-needed income during the winter months, when pubs and inns don’t have regular tourist traffic. Shooters plug this gap and spend their money locally. Shoots support communities.
Shooting influences 14 million hectares of rural land management and nearly 2 million hectares of this is actively managed for conservation. That’s 35 million and five million acres, respectively. To put that into perspective, an area larger than Wales is being pro-actively looked after for future generations by real, on the ground conservation. That’s something to be proud of.
Shooters spend 3.9 million workdays purely on conservation. That’s the equivalent of 16,000 jobs. Just think about it for moment. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) employs around 1,500 people and is one of the world’s best-known conservation bodies. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has long realised the benefits – to shooters and non-shooters alike – to be had by linking shooting with practical conservation in real-life situations. And it’s not just talk; the Gloucestershire Wildfowler’s Association was recently able to buy eight acres of prime marshland – lending them the £45,0000 necessary to complete the purchase. This is by no means unusual; small, but vital active conservation, carried out by shooters, is happening every day in every county in the UK.
Shooting helps retain and maintain some of our most irreplaceable landscapes. As an example, a study written on behalf of the Exmoor National Park authority demonstrated a remarkable riposte to those who question use of the park for game shooting purposes. Game shooting on Exmoor contributes £18 million to the British economy; shooting provides an economic return from upland farms and woods where farming margins are traditionally thin and alternative sources of income hard to find; some 680 full-time jobs are directly created by Exmoor Shooting; and shooting on Exmoor raised in excess of £100,000 for local charities, which is used for things from providing computers for a local primary school to supporting the Devon Air Ambulance. Other nationally important areas are also being supported and protected by game shooters. You can search for outstanding shoots in outstanding places on http://www.eagle-review.com/hunting/countries
Game shooting is good for your physical health. It strengthens key areas of your body – arms, shoulders, your core, improves your coordination and strengthens your legs (game shooters tend to do plenty of walking!) Even standing still on the peg, waiting for pheasant, grouse or partridge to head your way, will burn calories; game shooting in the UK takes places in the winter months, and cold weather plus brisk exertion is great exercise for the body.
Eating game is good for your physical health. Quite apart from the immense satisfaction gained from eating something you’ve shot, prepared and cooked for yourself, game tastes great – and is good for you. Partridge and pheasant are high in levels of the trace element selenium, which has been linked to an improvement of mood and a help to lifting depression. The element also boosts the immune system and may provide important antioxidant benefits.
Game shooting is great education for youngsters. It teaches young people about discipline, safety, respect – both for fellow man, for quarry birds and animals and for our wild places. It shows young people how to behave in social situations; teaches them about their natural heritage; and promotes active participation in conservation. Many shoots are happy to advise, teach and host novice and young guns. Search for your ideal destination at www.eagle-review.com then use the contact details to reach out to the shoot manager to ask more.
Game shooting is inclusive. While it is still predominantly enjoyed by men, there are plenty of women guns who enjoy the sport. There are no physical reasons why they can’t shoot every bit as well as the men – and many of them shoot better. Quick reactions, lightweight guns and a sharp eye mean ladies are often among the top shots. Figures from the BASC show that the numbers of women joining the association is growing year on year. The Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club pride themselves on ‘seriously social shooting events.’ These include a series of clay shooting events where shooting is just part of the camaraderie and networking. And a few sessions on the clays with some like-minded friends is a sure-fire lead in to the first forays into game shooting proper.
You are part of the living, breathing countryside. The countryside doesn’t sit, patiently waiting for the weekend when ramblers, cyclists, dog walkers and country drivers arrive to look at it, comment on its beauty and then head back to town. It is a managed, working environment. As it has to be unless it is to be either left to wanton neglect, to run amok or alternatively turned into more profitable acres of concrete jungle. Profit in the countryside, just like anywhere else, means things you can sell; wood, animals, crops. Whether you like it or not, everything we eat has had to die. And despite high levels of farming care these days, surely it’s far more preferable to be a proud pheasant roaming among the woods and coppices with your harem and meet your demise flying free than a farm-fed chicken who’s never known a life in the wild? Shooters see themselves as part of the countryside ecosystem; sharing time and managing the space which the birds, animals, reptiles, fish and insects inhabit. This is the only viable way for the countryside as we know it to continue to thrive and exist for future generations.
Game shooting is good for your wellbeing. Like fly fishing, yoga, meditation or any other means of mindfulness, game shooting boosts your brain. It takes your mind from everyday worries and concerns, focuses on new skills and forces you to be intensely in the moment. There are numerous game shots who have reported the lifting of their depression after taking up the sport. It brings knowledge and understanding of the natural world around you; it grounds you and your senses.
All the above are compelling reasons why you should be proud to be a game shot; embrace it, encourage it, shoot with safety and respect - and your life will be immeasurably better for being part of the natural world.