Game birds



For traditional country pursuits

British Country Sports           
Game birds

In Britain, game birds, in particular grouse, pheasant, partridge and woodcock, are usually shot in one of three ways: by driven shooting, by rough shooting or by walked-up shooting conducted on privately owned or commercial shoots established on large farms or estates. 

Game bird shooting in the UK is carried out using break barrel shotguns; most often with 12 and 20 bore side-by-side or the increasingly more popular, over-and-under shotguns. Pump action and semi-automatic shotguns are not considered appropriate for game bird shooting but are used by some pigeon shooters and wildfowlers.

Driven shooting 

In driven shooting, Beaters are employed to walk through woods and over moors or fields (dependent on the quarry and time of year) to drive the game birds towards a line of 8-10 Guns standing on pegs staked between 25 to 50 metres apart. The Guns will be members of a syndicate sharing the day's costs. The total bag (number of birds shot) can be anywhere between 50 and 1,000, again dependent on the syndicate's budget and their selected quarry. Driven shoot days are generally quite formal affairs and run according to traditions that are centuries old.   

The Shoot Captain and Head Gamekeeper will oversee proceedings and ensure that firearm safety and shooting protocols are adhered to. Great emphasis is placed on all aspects of safety and breaches are dealt with quickly and severely. 

Pickers Up with well-trained gundogs are employed to make sure all shot and wounded game are collected and dealt with in a timely fashion. 

On driven shooting estates, large numbers of pheasants, partridge and sometimes duck, are reared and released to provide sufficient numbers of game for the 4-5- month shooting season. 

Birds are released to the woods in June, 3 months before the partridge shooting season and four months before the pheasant season. This enables the birds to acclimatize and adapt to their new surroundings.

The Gamekeeper’s job includes ensuring the health and welfare of the birds and encouraging them to remain within the shoot boundaries. This is not accomplished by pens or fences but by good animal husbandry, habitat, environmental enhancement and predator control on the shoot.

Rough shooting 

Rough shooting is where usually up to four Guns walk line abreast through a woodland, moor or field and shoot the birds their dogs find and put up. 

Rough shooting is becoming increasingly more popular in the UK as more Guns take on ownership and training of a gundog for use in the hunting field and also because of the lower cost of rough shooting when compared to driven shooting.

Rough shooting is less formal and may be funded by several people grouping together to form a syndicate with shooting rights over a specific block of land, each member paying a certain amount each year towards game birds, feed, habitat maintenance etc.

Many exponents of rough shooting see it as possibly the purest form of game bird shooting. The combination of using a dog to locate and "spring" the bird, to snap shoot the quarry as it breaks cover at rapid speed and to then have the dog retrieve the dead bird to hand is very fulfilling indeed.

Walked - up shooting

Walked-up shooting is similar to rough shooting in the way it is executed but generally it is conducted with more Guns in the shooting line and over more open terrain. 

Grouse shooting (season 12 Aug – Dec 10)

Driven grouse shooting on the Scottish and northern English moors is regarded by many as the world’s premier form of game bird shooting. 

The 12th of August, better known as the “Glorious Twelfth,” the opening day of the Grouse season, is a permanent entry in many a Gun’s diary. 

Grouse cannot be farm-reared, but the heather moorlands where they live are intensively managed to maximise numbers and the health of the birds.

The combination of speed and low jigging flight of the Grouse, the spectacular scenery and the customs and traditions of the sport sets it apart from all other forms of game bird shooting. Grouse shooting is not only revered by Guns because of its high degree of difficulty, but also the fastidious shooting traditions and etiquettes that are still maintained on most, if not all, Grouse estates. 

Grouse shooting is conducted in much the same way as partridge and pheasant shooting i.e. by driven and rough shooting (walked-up) over dogs.

In the driven form, instead of standing beside a peg in the open, Guns along with their Loaders are situated in “dug in” earthen or stone shooting butts. Butts are dug down into the earth so as to lower the profile of the Gun and Loader. This is done to prevent the Grouse from "flaring away" from the Guns as they are driven forwards by the Beaters. 

Shooting is allowed both forward of and behind the butts. Shooting sticks are placed on the corners of the butts to prevent Guns from shooting down the line towards adjacent butts. 

Walked-up or rough shooting Grouse over pointers and spaniels is also extremely popular especially for our clients with a close affinity for working gundogs. 

In both forms, Grouse shooting is an expensive and most challenging sport. 

Partridge (Great Britain Season 1 Sep – 1 Feb) 

English and French Partridge provide great sport throughout most regions of the UK, but they are especially renowned for the testing sport they provide in East Anglia and Southern England. 

Their quick, hedgerow hopping flying make them a difficult quarry to master.

Pheasant (Great Britain Season 1 Oct – 1 Feb)

From Scotland down through all regions of England and Wales, driven Pheasant shooting is regarded as the cornerstone of the British shooting industry. 

While quality Pheasant shooting is available throughout all of the UK, the towering birds driven off the Devon and Welsh hills are regarded as the ultimate driven Pheasant shooting challenge.
UK game calendar

Gundogs History of shooting Shooting glossary

Sign up to our quarterly Newsletter

Share by: