Driven game shooting is one of the great British traditions. The quarry is mainly pheasants although a number of other game birds and ground game can be driven (see below). In Wales, driven snipe and woodcock is also very popular as is driven grouse in the north of England and Scotland. The birds are driven by a line of beaters from either cover crops or from woodland towards a line of waiting guns. The casual reader may think that this will produce birds that are exactly the same in terms of speed, height, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth! Driven birds are unpredictable. They can be fast or slow, high or low and usually do not do what is expected of them.
There will generally be between five to seven drives in a shooting day. Some drives may be similar but no two will be identical. For each drive a line of between six to ten guns will be positioned to receive the birds as they are driven towards them. Each drive is from a different location on the shoot and each is designed to present different birds. Driving pheasants is an art and the best gamekeepers pride themselves in the quality and the flying ability of their birds. In many instances, the landscape has been planted with trees and cover crops to accommodate the birds and to ensure the quality of drives available on the shoot.
The term “guns” refers to the individuals who will be shooting on a particular shoot day. During the late 19th century and right up to the mid 20th century in many parts of the British Isles, game shooting was outside the financial means of many sportsmen. During the last quarter of the 20th century, however, access to shooting and particularly game shooting has burgeoned throughout the country as a whole. Traditionally the “guns” were kept apart from the other folk on the shoot as they were fee paying and were not required to perform menial tasks such as carrying their guns between drives, retrieve the birds they shot and in some cases, even load their shotguns! Some vestiges of the British class system do prevail in parts of the British mainland and in Ireland but, in the main, this has died out.
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Game Shooting Seasons