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Shooting: Commercial, Syndicate and DIY
Wanting to learn more about game shooting and game keeping Megan Tallis spoke to Manor Farm gamekeeper of nearly 50 years Gerry Barnett and avid Manor Farm shooter, Chris Tallis.

Covering 700 acres of mature woodland and game crop, Manor Farm is a traditional game bird shoot near Evesham where eight days shooting will cost its 16 guns (members) somewhere in the region of £400.

“Manor Farm is a DIY shoot, run to provide weekend shooting at a price that is affordable for everyone,” explains Chris.

Game keeping is a lot of hard work, but for Gerry, he also has 16 guns and beaters to organise and that, according to Chris: “requires the patience of a saint.”

A DIY shoot is organised and run by volunteers. So instead of paying an under keeper, Gerry who works part-time, will call upon members to help with maintenance and game crop: All helping to make shoot days a success and for the day to run smoothly.

This is totally different to a commercial shoot. A commercial shoot will employ a gamekeeper, who will be given a vehicle and quite often a house as part of his job too.

Although a commercial shoot has many similarities to a DIY shoot in respect of the type and amount of work involved, for a commercial shoot to survive, all costs have to be covered by the number of days sold and the numbers of birds shot.

Hence, the biggest difference between a DIY and commercial shoot is how much it costs.  A season on a fairly modest commercial shoot can cost in the region of £3,500 per season per gun. 

I asked Chris how one would get involved with shooting.

“Many start young, they may go with their mother or father on shoot days and start beating. Then they get the bug.

“Eventually they start shooting, by which time the essential rule ‘safety first’ has been instilled into them. A career in shooting may follow; this could start by attending a game keeping course at a local agricultural college. From here a successful and ambitious student will become an under keeper progressing to a beat keeper and eventually to head keeper,” he says.

When asked about the qualities a keeper should have, Gerry was insistent that good organisation and leadership skills are crucial, but more importantly a love of the countryside and the sport itself are a must. However there are pitfalls, and Gerry made it clear that game keeping is indeed a ‘lifestyle’.  “So don’t expect a 9-5 career or huge wages.”

So how does an older person who has no connection with a shoot get involved?

“It’s a bit chicken and egg; do some research, find a local shoot and contact the shoot owner and see if it’s possible to go beating and generally help out. Then learn to shoot, the best way is to have lessons at a clay ground where most importantly you will learn gun etiquette as safety is paramount. However, these steps can be done in reverse; then its egg- chicken.

 “Lets suppose you have been beating at Manor Farm. There are 16 guns. These guns are split into two teams of 8 and because it’s a DIY shoot they will beat one, stand one and there will usually be about 6 drives through the day.

“Not all 16 guns will turn up every Saturday and if your interest is known it will only be a matter of time before you will be invited to stand in. A vacancy will then come up at Manor Farm and in no time you’re in,” Gerry goes on to explain.

“From a shoot like Manor Farm you may want to join a syndicate on a commercial shoot. Networking is a highly beneficial part of shooting, as one of your fellow guns may know a syndicate looking for a new member,” he adds.

However, whatever kind of shooting you choose, Gerry would tell you to: “Have respect for your quarry and the countryside. Be safe and always enjoy yourself.”

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