Shooting in the United Kingdom and particularly Scotland is an incredibly popular pastime that has been around for generations. It is estimated that over 1 million people a year take part in a Shooting activity, whether it is Game Shooting, Target Shooting or even Clay Shooting. Shooting is not to be confused with the similar activity "Hunting" which involves hunting with hounds and has seen it's fair share of controversy throughout the years compared to Shooting. Shooting is the shooting of Game Birds throughout Scotland, England, Wales and also Northern Ireland.
Shooting saw a huge surge in popularity with the improvement of shotguns in the 18th century. The first bird to be targeted in Game Shooting was the Pheasant due to their very large population and bright colours which made them very easy to shoot. Many species of animal however including Foxes and Birds of prey would feed on and hunt the Pheasant themselves and were seen as a risk to the overall Pheasant population. To target this, Gamekeepers would minimise the population of these animals in these areas so that Pheasant Hunting would continue to thrive. Pheasants are still a popular target with Game Shooters as they can make a delicious meal and are sold at many butchers and supermarkets throughout the UK.
- The Pheasant was one of the first "Game Birds" to be targeted in Game Shooting.
There are many different types of Game Shooting that all have their little differences and quirks. Driven Game Shooting events for example are very formal affairs with Captains and Gamekeepers usually in charge of guiding their team throughout the day. Rough Shooting however is a very different and more aggressive affair and is usually funded by a group of independent people working together. In Rough Shooting birds are usually shot at once they have been incapacitated by the hunters dogs. We also have "Wildfowling" which is a more solitary activity compared to the other types of shooting. A single shooter sits in pure darkness by a lake or pond waiting for the perfect opportunity to shoot any Wildfowl that may fly to the body of water. Wildfowling to some may seem like a boring and lonely experience compared to other forms of shooting but to others it can be relaxing yet also suspenseful!
Nowadays different species of Game Birds are only allowed to be hunted during different seasons. This allows for the population of the different species of bird to grow so that they can be plentiful during Game Season. For example hunting season for Pheasants is from October to February, September to February for Red and Grey Partridges and August to December for Black/Red Grouse and the Ptarmigan. The only game animal that is allowed to be hunted all year round is the Brown Hare, however it's population in the UK is decreasing rapidly because of this. There are also a number of animals that are shot as a form of vermin control rather than as Game Birds. These include Street Pigeons, Magpies, Rooks and Collared Doves.
Some of the clothes most prominently worn during shooting sessions are very similar to Highland Dress. There is a clear focus on Tweed, usually a green tweed jacket and flat cap. The green colour makes the shooters harder to notice in the grassy/woodland environment, allowing them to sneak up on their prey. In the UK shooters have to be ready for wet and cold conditions due to Game Season taking place in the Autumn and Winter so will wear large waterproof hunting boots.
- This Dark Green Tweed Jacket is perfect for shooting season
Although it has had it's fair few controversies throughout the years and is a contributing factor to the extinction of some species worldwide, there is also evidence that Game Shooting can contribute to the enhancement of woodland and grassy areas. It is reported that landowners of shooting areas are much more likely than others to improve habitats for animals by planting new woodlands and taking more care of the environment that they own than the average person. Although there are clear Pros and Cons to Game Shooting it is still hugely popular and is unlikely to be going anywhere in the near future.