The 2020/21 game shooting season has seen the strangest start for quite some time, if not ever! With a month of enjoyment being followed by the crushing news of a another month long lockdown, various rules for various regions, social distancing, face masks, hand sanitiser and other unfamiliar aspects (thankfully not the rule of six!), shoot organisers have not had it easy.
Thankfully, it looks like the government have been true to their word and the lifting of the national lockdown remains as 2nd December, we can then get back to what we love doing in December!
Additionally, the very nature of game shooting – being outdoors with an abundance of space – makes a successful and memorable season still something very achievable. However, it is vital to remember that this is a serious, global pandemic and it is essential that guidance is followed, and new measures are implemented. If they are not, and there was an outbreak on a shoot, the consequences could be disastrous.
It is likely that the government would come under substantial pressure from certain groups to cancel the game shooting season, leading to catastrophic consequences for the countryside. Pubs, restaurants and B&Bs would be hit hard, other rural businesses and people would struggle, and it could result in some shoots going out of business.
Off the back of this, we thought it a good idea to speak to three of our feed customers during this recent lockdown and see what changes they made over the first few weeks of the game shooting season, and what guns can expect post-lockdown!
First, we spoke to Alex, Head Keeper in The Chilterns, who has implemented the following changes to ensure COVID-secure days can take place –
- Everybody has their temperature taken on arrival
- People are told to bring their own masks, but spares are available
- Only 6-8 beaters allowed per waggon. The waggons used are open sided, people using the waggons are asked to sanitise before and after the ride and wear a mask during transit. Those unable to fit on a waggon are asked to walk.
- Limited to 16 beaters in total and two non-shooting guests
- Signs and sanitiser have been placed throughout the shoot
- Everyone brings their own lunch
- If stopping for elevenses there is an open sided barn with one way in and a different way out to prevent contact
- Guns and beaters have been asked not to hang around areas such as the game cart
- Separate tables that are well spread out in the shoot lodge
Next, we spoke to Mark at Cromer Hall who runs a family shoot. Some of the precautions that he is taking on his shoot are –
- Operating with a reduced number of beaters, with anybody who is not a regular being asked to keep away for this season
- Beaters split onto two waggons which have bus seats, making social distancing easily achievable
- Guns being asked to use their own vehicles as much as possible
- Hand sanitiser at all points. Masks must be worn on waggons. Walking between drives is being encouraged as much as possible
- Beaters are keeping their flags for the season
- Gun and beaters kept away from each other in the field
- Lunch and elevenses are taken outside in personal vehicles or under an open sided cover outside
Finally, we spoke to Russell Hatt, Head Keeper at The Bowcombe Estate who told us that the feedback he has received following his COVID-secure changes have been positive, with everybody feeling safe and the shoot running smoothly. He has been impressed with the level of responsibility people have shown –
- Everyone on arrival gives name, number and has their temperature taken
- Sanitiser is available at every point
- Each gun is given individual hand sanitiser
- Each gun chooses to have a loader, or not
- 10 x radios have been given out to key shoot individuals. For example, the person running the beating line, person running game cart etc, and these are kept for the entirety of the season
- Beaters are keeping their flags for the season, at the end of the day the flags are dipped in disinfectant
- Two beater trailers in use as opposed to the usual one. Beaters use same trailer throughout the day
- Beaters eat lunch in their own vehicles
- No more than two individuals at the refreshment stations. Using only disposable cups and cutlery
- More walking between drives wherever possible
- All vehicles power washed with hygiene clean at the end of the day
- All beaters waggons, shed and shoot lodge are fogged at the end of day
As the strict changes above suggest, individuals and shoots in the game shooting world are not taking this lightly, and if other shoots are as vigorous and responsible as the three that we spoke to then the industry should not have any real issues. The shoots we spoke to all demonstrate a real understanding of the issues and the need for sanitising, social distancing and mask wearing when needed – and that is what we must ask of every shoot and shoot organiser.
For anybody running a shoot that is unsure or in need of help, BASC are on hand to help. To help shoots prepare they are offering COVID-19 guidance visits for affiliated shoots that are free of charge.
Their website also include some worthwhile reading on travel and tie restrictions post-lockdown, including –
“When travelling into or staying in a higher Tier area you should follow the rules for that area. When travelling into or staying in a lower Tier area, people should follow the rules for the Tier of your home area.
Government advice is that you should avoid travel into or out of Tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. Based on current guidance, this is advisory only and not a legal requirement.
However, it is clear the intention of the government’s guidance is to discourage long journeys wherever possible; and we encourage members to consider their individual circumstance before travelling”.
For more information, head over to the dedicated COVID-19 section of their website here.
Stay safe everybody and enjoy your shooting!