There’s more to beat­ing than aim­lessly wav­ing a flag or tap­ping a stick – some­thing all Guns, es­pe­cially new­com­ers, should be aware of, says Tim

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

‘Beaters turn out in all weather and go on mas­sive ma­noeu­vres through wood­land, thicket, covert or over moors’

All big shoots rely on cer­tain things to make the day work, and to some ex­tent the same fac­tors make or break a smaller shoot. Things like how well the birds have flown, the weather and even the lunch can make a day.

But one thing that makes a shoot re­ally work is the beaters, with­out whom you sim­ply wouldn’t have a driven shoot at all. Beaters turn out in all weather and go on mas­sive ma­noeu­vres through wood­land, thicket, covert or over moors that some­times make the blitzkrieg look am­a­teur­ish. Beat­ing is a skill, it’s not just swing­ing a stick and flap­ping a flag – there is much more to it than that.

When you are flank­ing on a par­tridge day the beater has to know when to flag and when to keep quiet and out of the way. The tim­ing of lift­ing the flag is also vi­tal; beaters learn these skills over time. Wood­land pheas­ant shoot­ing is also an art; when to tap to move birds, when to stand still and when to make a noise and move for­wards are all learnt from win­ter days in the line.

I was load­ing on a shoot in Glouces­ter­shire in early De­cem­ber and I would imag­ine that about half the beaters were be­tween 15 and 17 years old, equally split be­tween boys and girls. That re­ally was great to see and it is one of the very best ways to get young­sters out of the house, into the fresh air and to do some ex­er­cise. I can’t think of any neg­a­tive as­pects of a Satur­day spent out in the coun­try­side in good com­pany.

I will have to be hon­est now, I don’t ac­tu­ally swing a stick or wave a flag as much as I used to. I do still get out beat­ing, but more of­ten than not I am load­ing or pick­ing-up, which I also love. One of the in­ter­est­ing things about load­ing is that you see the shoot from the same point of view as the Guns. It’s par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing if you have been beat­ing and pick­ing-up be­cause then you will have an idea of how the drive and the shoot works.

I meet a lot of Guns dur­ing the sea­son and when you’re load­ing you get to spend a good amount of time with them. Some are talk­a­tive and oth­ers not so much, but you can get an idea of what they gen­uinely know about shoot­ing from the grass roots up. Many of our Guns have been brought up shoot­ing and have done their time in the beat­ing line as a young­ster, but a lot of those

that I meet are new to the sport and have lit­tle idea of how a shoot is ac­tu­ally run. They don’t know the skill and the hard work re­quired by the beaters and pick­ers-up, which I think is a shame.

New peo­ple com­ing into shoot­ing is great and I am all for that, no mat­ter what level they en­ter. Shoot­ing needs Guns of all ages and fi­nan­cial stretch. How­ever, it would be nice if the new­com­ers who are go­ing straight into the gun took a lit­tle bit more time to learn about shoot­ing as a whole, to learn about the ben­e­fits to gen­eral wildlife, the so­cial and eco­nomic ben­e­fits to the lo­cal area as well as the health ben­e­fits to those that take part.

I like to see the lit­tle ges­tures on a shoot day: the Guns ac­knowl­edg­ing the pick­ers-up and beaters with a ‘thank you’ or ‘good morn­ing’ – with­out these hard work­ers there would be no day to have. I also like to see Guns tak­ing game home with them or, bet­ter still, be­ing served it at lunch. Be­fore we can go out and fully ed­u­cate those that have no idea what we are do­ing, we need to look in­wards oc­ca­sion­ally. We should also never for­get the hard work of those that swing a stick and raise a flag, week in and week out, for our sport.

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