NGO COLUMN: Encouraging the new kids on the block
Whether game shooting or stalking, beating or picking-up, newcomers should be nurtured and encouraged, says Tim Weston, urging us all to do what we can to help these folk succeed
Introducing new people to shooting is vital for our sport. Whether it’s getting your youngsters or your friends involved, new blood, so to speak, is needed to keep our sport in its current buoyant and thriving state.
I spend quite a lot of my weekends during the summer at country shows across the south of England and I am always really pleased to see the
Whether young or old, it’s important to encourage new blood into our sport number of new shooters at the BASC Have a Go stand. BASC and their coaches do this really well and they are great at getting people pulling the trigger at a clay for the first time.
During the winter months, I am lucky enough to spend quite a few days out loading. This is really useful with my day job because I get to meet a huge number of NGO members and keepers on the shoots, and it gives me a chance to have a proper chat to them and see what is going on around the country. Over the last couple of seasons I have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of new Guns coming into shooting.
Many of these are corporate teams. They will have one or two ‘old hands’ who have sorted out the day, and the rest are there to either see what it’s all about or because they have been once or twice before and enjoyed it.
These new Guns have a very different outlook on shooting; for them, it is something that just happens. They turn up for coffee in the morning, meet the host and the loader and then off they go for a really exciting day in the beautiful British countryside. Some might be naturals and others will need some help, but hopefully all will enjoy what shooting has to offer. Not just the trigger pulling and the exciting parts of shooting but the scenery, the other wildlife and the effort that goes into putting on a shoot.
When loading for these Guns, I feel that it’s important to try to explain what is going on (assuming they want to know and talk) and what goes into producing a shoot. Most new Guns have no idea what the gamekeeper’s role is, why the beaters are doing what they are doing and what the pickers-up are for. It is not second nature for them to understand the shooting field and, just like the BASC coaches at a game fair, as a loader or a shoot host you are in a unique position to educate those new Guns who want to
‘When loading for new Guns I feel it is important to explain what is going on and what goes into producing a shoot, as most have no idea’
learn and help them understand what we all know so well. Most of us grew up with a .410 and went out shooting with our parents, but that can’t be how everyone learns, so it’s down to us to give a helping hand to those new to the game.
It is not just driven game shooting that is attracting newcomers. I do a lot of deer stalking and am fortunate to be able to take the odd person out to try and get their first deer. I also teach on the NGO’s Deer Stalking Certificate Level 1 course, which is a great way to impart some knowledge.
A recent attendee on one of the NGO deer stalking courses is a case in point. Ruben was super keen to learn and was already competent with a rifle. He had shot at Bisley for a long time and had taken part in target shooting matches. He did really well on his DSC1 and put the work in to get through the course. He is very enthusiastic about his rifle shooting and keen to get more practical experience on a limited budget.
We have all been there and I wanted to help, so I agreed to take Ruben out for his first stalk. We had a really good sneak through the woods looking for a muntjac when all of a sudden the sky went black and the heavens opened on a biblical scale. We had to abandon our mission and I invited Ruben back for a second try. On this occasion, he shot two muntjac really well and was brilliantly composed. We gralloched the deer together and I hope he had a worthwhile time.
Whatever it is you have to offer those who want to get into our sport, please encourage them and do what you can to help.
The BASC coaches do a sterling job introducing new people to shooting