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Fieldsports in the UK

Posted by Bethan Bithell on 9th Jun 2015

Some might say that that fieldsport is all about shooting but whilst this may be the case, the term ‘fieldsports’ does include so many other sports too! Basically, ‘Fieldsports’ can be defined as “An outdoor sport carried out in the field”.

Taking up a new fieldsport can be daunting but exciting at the same time and these sports can be classified as:

  • shooting
  • hunting
  • fishing

This guide outlines the different types of shooting and hunting sports that you can try if you wish.

Fieldsports: Shooting and Hunting

According to research, within the UK at least 600,00 people shoot live quarry, clay pigeons or targets every year. As a result, nearly 2 million hectars are managed and maintained for conservation. UK shooting is worth £2.5 billion in goods and services every year. Purchases include guns, shooting clothing and accessories, travel, accommodation and licensing fees. Shoot providers also spend on fencing, game cover crops and wages on gamekeepers.

Shooting sports create employment, with one of the largest job categories being beaters and pickers-up. The shooting industry also supports the equivalent of 5,200 full time jobs within the food and accommodation sector.

Years ago hounds were used for hunting foxes, minks and stag. However, in 2005 in England and Wales, hunting with hounds became illegal whilst game shooting and deer stalking is still legally practised in the UK.

Listed below are the most common of the sports:

Fieldsport: Game Birds

Shooting of Pheasants, Grey Partridge, Red-legged partridge, Red grouse, Black grouse and Ptarmigan

What and when you can game shoot depends on your location. For example, Northern Ireland has different shooting seasons to England and Wales.

There are many locations in the UK that offer traditional driven shoots, usually on large estates but also smaller-scale rough shoots are often held. Click here for information and links to Gamebird and Waterfowl Shooting in North Wales .

There are two methods of Game shooting – driven game shooting and rough shooting. Driven shooting involvesbeaters walking through rough ground, with flags, to flush out game birds into the direction of the guns (i.e. shooters). This type of shoot is usually formal, with the gamekeeper being in control of the day. Pickers-up with dogs will also be present in these types of formal events, whichrequires a formal dress.

Rough shooting is a less formal occasion, where shooters walk in a line through woodlands, moor and fields shooting the birds that have been driven by their gundogs. This method of shooting is becoming more popular.

Fieldsport: Wildfowl, Geese and Waders

Shooting of duck and goose, common snipe, woodcock, golden plover, coot & moorhen

Wildfowl, Geese and Waders shooting UK

Widlfowling can be a lonely sport! Many wildfowling experts have also described this sport as a shooting sport with the most to learn about in terms of safety requirements, identifying suitable quarry and understanding the ethics behind the shooting.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 ensures shooters respect the species and the act controls and dictates when the shooting of these species can take place.

There are many different species of duck, geese, waders and other wildfowl that can be shot. Below is a brief summary of these species:

  • duck : mallard, pintail, tufted duck
  • geese : canada goose, greyleg goose
  • waders : jack snipe, woodcock
  • others : coot, moorhen

There are also protected species, including eider ducks, & bean goose. For a full list of protected species and wildfowl shooting season please visit the Wildfowling section on the BASC website.

Fieldsport: Ground Game Shooting

Brown hare, mountain hare, rabbits

The control and management of rabbits and hares are set out under the Ground Game Act 1880. This Act gives every occupier of land the right to take or kill ground game, if these pests are causing damage to crops or are classed as a predator.

Under Northern Ireland’s law, rabbits are classed as a pest and are, therefore, not subjected to a closed season (i.e.here, you can shoot rabbits all year round). However, in England, Wales and Scotland, the shooting of rabbits are subjected to a closed season. For more information about open and closed seasons of ground game shooting, please visit the BASC website.

Game Licenses

In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, game licenses are not required. Although there are some restrictions in Scotland on the movement of Venison meat. To clarify these issues and the up to date changes in law, please visit the BASC website.

Fieldsport: Deer Stalking

Deer Stalking Uk

Red deer, Roe deer, Fallow deer, Sika deer, muntjac deer, chinese water deer, hybrids of these deers

Deer Stalking (or deer hunting, as it is known in the USA) is the stealth pursuit of deer on foot. There are many reasons for deer stalking including the control of numbers to prevent the spread of disease or for food.

Deer stalking has been present in the UK for many years. The main objective is to maintain a stable and healthy deer population. As a result, a cull of 30% is necessary each year.

The Deer Act and subsequent Orders have been designed to protect the suffering of deer. These laws are different depending on where the shooting is taking place. The regulations in Scotland and Northern Ireland are different to the laws in England and Wales and there are also statutory open seasons for deer, depending on their sex. For example, the open season for red stag in England and Wales is August 1st – April 30th, whereas for red hind the open season is November 1st – March 31st.

For more information about Deer stalking please visit The British Deer Society

Fieldsport: Pigeon Shooting

Specifically the wood pigeon. A wood pigeon is a large species that causes devastation to agricultural crops

There are three types of pigeons that can be shot legally – the wood pigeon, the feral pigeon and the collared dove. However there are other pigeon species which are protected, these are stock dove, rock dove and turtle dove.

Pigeons, or wood pigeons are thought of as pests, because they cause devastation to agricultural crops. As pigeons have a rapid metabolism they eat considerable amounts of food. As a result, pigeons are often seen in newly harvested farmland causing considerable problems for farmers and their land.

The main art of pigeon shooting is being able to identify their flight line. Pigeons live in trees and feed on farm land, so spotting where abouts they fly within the field will help you with the positioning of your decoys, which are used to draw the pigeon into your sight. Wood pigeon decoys will encourage them to eat where you want them to eat.

Pigeons are also easily ‘spooked’ and therefore a ‘hide’ is necessary. Following on from careful planning of the pigeons’ flight line, it is necessary to build your hide.

The shooting of pigeons is protected under the General Licence issued by Natural England, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland’s Environmental Agency.

For all details of wood pigeon shooting you can read the BASC Wood pigeon Shooting Code of Practice

Wild Boar Hunting

wild boar hunting fieldsport

It’s thought that wild boars have been extinct for over 300 years in the UK. However, due to deliberate release by animal collectors, boars are back and roaming wild in Kent/East Sussex, Dorest/Devon and in the Forest of Dean.

According to BASC, Wild Boar have no specific legal protection. However care should be taken not to shoot breeding sows and sufficient planning is required to ensure that only appropriate firearms, equipment and dogs are used.

The shooting and trapping of wild boar is a very specialist area due to their size and should be considered very carefully. In addition, it is not illegal to shoot wild boar at night, but care needs to be taken that the correct sex and age of the boar is identified.

There are restrictions on when you can shoot within the UK, with special restrictions given to England, Wales and Scotland. For information about these restrictions view the Country Alliance website.

Clay Shooting

Clay shooting is known as the sport of shooting ‘special’ flying targets, known as clay pigeons or clay targets.

Clay pigeon shooting or target shooting is the art of shooting at special flying targets and this sport is enjoyed by all ages and gender. Clay pigeon shooting is regarded as a highly skilled sport. There is no need to have a shotgun license if you intend to visit a clay shooting ground as all equipment is usually supplied and will be licensed.

There are many competition levels of clay pigeon shooting, ranging from County and Regional levels up to the Commonwealth and Olympic Game levels.

If you fancy trying out Clay Pigeon Shooting or would like more information, you can visit the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association website.

To view our full collection of shooting clothing, footwear and accessories, please click on our Shooting section.

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