Code Of Good Shooting Practice
The following Five Golden Rules apply: -
- The safe conduct of shooting must show respect for the countryside and consideration for others.
- Shoot managers must endeavour to deliver enhancement of wildlife conservation, habitat and the countryside.
- Reared gamebirds should be released before the start of their shooting seasons.
- Respect for quarry is paramount. It is fundamental to mark and retrieve all birds. Shot game is food and must be treated as such.
- Game management and shooting must at all times be conducted within the law and the principles of this Code of Practice.
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1. Shooting Behaviour
Shooting and shoot management practices will be judged by the way participants and providers behave. All those who are involved in shooting must act as good ambassadors for the sport. You can help to protect the future of shooting by complying with this Code and encourage those who shoot to do the same. Always seek to help and support the relevant associations that promote your sport.
The way in which those involved in shooting conduct themselves is enshrined in the following:
- Safety, observance of the law and good manners
- Respect for quarry
- Seeking to help and support the relevant associations that represent and promote your sport
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2. Responsible shooting
Shooting must take account of the wider concerns of the public, and maintain the highest standards.
Retrieval and Handling of Game
- Shoot managers and Guns should take account of wider concerns about the size of bags and frequency of shooting. Proper attention to the advice in this Code will ensure that the required delivery of environmental benefits and consideration for others will limit excessive shooting.
- The shoot manager should, before a shoot, inform Guns of the intended quarry species and relevant lead shot regulations and make a note of the same.
- Shoot managers must encourage Guns to shoot within their ability to kill cleanly and consistently and must aim to ensure that birds are presented within the capability of those Guns.
- Guns must ensure they are capable of and practice shooting in ways and at ranges that take account of the need to minimise unretrieved birds.
- Inexperienced Guns must be accompanied and supervised by a suitably experienced person.
- Guns must be competent at estimating ranges and be aware of the limitations of their equipment and themselves. Guidance on appropriate gun/cartridge/choke combinations is available from the organisations supporting the Code.
- Guns must be able to recognise legitimate quarry and be fully conversant with protective legislation.
- In order to avoid lead shot contamination of wetlands important for feeding waterfowl, non-toxic shot should be used for game and pest shooting over such wetlands.
- Improving personal shooting skills should be achieved through practice on clay targets.
Cessation of Shooting
- Shoot managers should ensure that adequate provision is made to retrieve all game shot as quickly as possible. Dogs are essential and all shoots must have adequate coverage.
- Guns must mark the fall of shot game and assist in retrieval.
- Guns and pickers-up should ensure that they know how and are suitably equipped to despatch wounded quarry.
- A day's game shooting should finish early enough to allow time for pickers-up to complete their task before birds start to go to roost.
- Shooting should be cancelled if adverse weather conditions mean that birds cannot be presented in a safe and appropriate sporting manner, or shot and retrieved safely.
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3. Consideration for others
Shooting takes place in a countryside shared by many others. Shoot managers and Guns must ensure that their activities take account of others' interests, and due care and courtesy is a guiding principle. In particular:
The public highway
- All involved in shooting must have regard for others and their safety at all times.
- The frequency of shooting must not give rise to unreasonable nuisance to others.
- Shoot managers must have obtained permission before entering neighbouring property especially during a shoot.
- Bird numbers should be controlled to avoid damage to neighbouring crops and gardens.
- Avoid birds falling on to public places or neighbouring property.
- Spent shot must not be allowed to fall on to public places or property[j1].
- Cartridges with degradable wads should be used wherever possible and all cartridge cases and other litter must be removed after each shoot.
- Cover crops should enhance the habitat and be sympathetically sited.
Horses and Walkers
- Shoot managers and Guns must ensure that shooting does not obstruct, cause danger or alarm to users of the public highway, including roads, bridleways, footpaths and other rights of way.
- In particular, care should be taken when siting Guns near public highways. Section 161 of the Highways Act 1980 (England & Wales) makes it an offence to discharge a firearm within 50 ft of the centre of a highway having vehicular rights without lawful authority or excuse, if as a result a user of the highway is injured, interrupted or endangered.
- The Highways Act does not apply in Scotland but Procurators Fiscal may use common law offences of 'culpable and reckless conduct' and 'reckless endangerment' in situations in which the 1980 Act would be contravened in England and Wales.
- To shoot across a footpath or bridleway may constitute a public nuisance or wilful obstruction. There may also be a liability in negligence if it is known that people are on, or likely to be on, the path.
- Information signs, if appropriate, should be erected on shoot days on footpaths or bridleways.
- The siting of release pens near highways should be avoided. Game managers should collect and dispose of road casualties where possible.
- Shoot managers must not position Guns in such a way that spent shot or birds might fall onto the road.
- Shoot managers and Guns must have special regard to the safety of riders and their horses. Noise from gunfire, beaters working in cover adjacent to bridleways or the sound of falling shot can all cause a horse to bolt.
- Where possible shoot organisers should liase with local riders or yards, informing them when shoots are taking place.
- It may be appropriate for shooting or beating to pause to allow horses or other rights of way users to pass.
- All Guns should be made aware of bridleways and other rights of way as well as any fields in which horses are kept. Drives should be organised with this in mind.
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4. Game is Food
Game shooting produces a free range, low fat and tasty meat, which all those involved should take steps to promote. Advice on game marketing is available from the Code supporting organisations. Shoot managers must ensure they have in place appropriate marketing arrangements for the anticipated bag in advance of shoot days.
- Shoot managers should aim to produce fully mature healthy and marketable game. Red leg partridges should be at least 15-16 weeks old before shooting to ensure this.
- Game must be regarded as food and should be treated as such from the moment it is shot until it reaches the table.
- Suitable arrangements should be made for the collection, transport and storage of game.
- All freshly killed game must be handled in a way that avoids bruising and allows body heat to disperse as quickly as possible.
- All game must be transported to a suitable game larder at the earliest convenience and within the limits set by the Regulation in force. The larder should be capable of storing game at no more than +7C for deer carcasses and no more than + 4C for small wild game.
- Shoot managers should always offer Guns a brace of birds which Guns should accept. The practice of making oven ready birds available is to be encouraged where practicable.
- All remaining game should be distributed as soon as possible, unless arrangements have been made for storage in accordance with the regulations.
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5. Shoot Management
The shoot manager bears the full and immediate responsibility for ensuring the Code is complied with on his or her shoot.
- Shoot managers must endeavour to deliver an overall measurable improvement to habitat and wildlife on their shoots. In particular, no more birds must be released than can be sustained without damaging the environment and surrounding habitat, or being detrimental to the health and welfare of the stock.
- Shoot managers bear immediate responsibility for ensuring their shoot, their employees, and the Guns who shoot there, meet accepted standards, set out in this Code.
- The rearing and release of birds is a valid method of increasing or sustaining a stock of game, especially where wild populations cannot produce a harvestable surplus.
- Wild grey partridges should only be shot where they are actively conserved. If autumn stocks fall below 20 birds per 100 hectares shooting should not take place.
- Shoot managers and Guns must ensure that they comply with all relevant legal requirements, and must pay particular attention to health and safety. A risk assessment of the shoot should be undertaken. Suitable insurance must be maintained.
- Property owners when letting land for shooting must ensure that the Code forms part of the letting document and is complied with.
- Shoot managers when selling days must ensure that the Code forms part of the contract and is complied with.
- Shoot managers and Guns must be prepared to demonstrate they have complied fully with the Code.
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6. Rearing Game
Whatever the species being reared or the methods being used, the overriding principle, which must guide everyone involved, is:
Game husbandry must be conducted with all due consideration for the health and welfare of the birds concerned.
The aim of game rearing is to provide fit, healthy birds, well adapted for release into the wild.
All those involved with the rearing and releasing of gamebirds should act in accordance with the Code of Practice produced by the Game Farmers' Association.
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7. Releasing Game
Provided it is carried out within the terms of this code, releasing reared birds is an entirely valid method of game conservation; indeed it is fundamental to British game shooting and its attendant conservation benefits.
Releasing Pheasants and Partridges
- Shoot managers should prepare an appropriate whole shoot management plan to ensure a positive environmental benefit results from their activities.
- Shoot managers must ensure no more birds are released than can be sustained without damaging the environment and surrounding habitat, or being detrimental to the health and welfare of the stock.
- Under normal circumstances, all birds should be released before the start of their shooting season. Shooting must not commence until the birds are mature and fully adapted to the wild. Birds must never be released to replenish or replace any birds already released and shot in that season.
- Release pens, feeders and other equipment should be sited away from public rights of way and public view.
- Partridge release pens should be removed completely before shooting begins.
- When releasing gamebirds into sensitive areas such as moorland and moorland edge special care must be taken to ensure that birds for release are free from disease and parasites. Veterinary checks should be undertaken to ensure that there is no risk of cross-contaminating wild birds.
- Professional advice is available from the main shooting and conservation organisations on release pen design and all aspects of rearing and releasing.
Feeding of released Game
- Duck must always be released into suitable wetland habitat, and in numbers which are appropriate to its carrying capacity.
- Wetland areas are particularly sensitive, and overstocking with reared birds must not be allowed to deter wild stocks or damage the habitat.
- Duck must be encouraged to become wild and shooting must not be undertaken until they have done so.
- Shoot managers should ensure that ducks have alternative water to which to fly.
- In prolonged severe weather, the shooting of duck, woodcock and snipe may be suspended by law. Shoot managers and Guns should check the position when such conditions appear likely to arise.
- Sufficient feed for released birds remaining after the end of the shooting season must be provided until adequate natural food is available. Supplementary feeding should normally continue to the end of May.
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8. Predator and Pest Control
Predator and pest control is an essential part of game management and conservation. Properly conducted, it delivers benefits to a wide range of wildlife. It must be carried out humanely, within the law and in accordance with the recognised codes of practice detailed below.
- Those involved in predator and pest control should carry out their lawful activities with due consideration to local residents and other countryside users.
- Traps and snares are widely used in pest and predator control and the law requires them to be inspected at least once a day. They must not be used unless this requirement can be met. Trapped animals must be removed on inspection and disposed of lawfully.
- Shoot managers should not display carcasses. It serves no useful purpose and will offend other countryside users.
- Approved chemicals must only be used for their legal purpose. They must be stored in accordance with the COSHH Regulations and only used by qualified persons in accordance with applicable regulations.
- Accurate records should be kept of pest and predator control carried out.
- It is an offence to intentionally kill, damage or destroy birds of prey, their nests or eggs.
- Foxes should be shot with suitable rifles, shotguns and ammunition and only at ranges that ensure rapid despatch.
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9. Legal Requirements
It is a shoot manager's legal responsibility to ensure that the shoot and its employees comply with the law. Guns must also comply with the law insofar as it affects them. Advice is available to members of the Code supporting organisations. Particular regard should be had to the following:-
- Health and safety: shoot managers must ensure shooting is carried out in all respects in a safe manner, including briefing participants on safety matters, and ensuring the safety of equipment used.
- Firearms Act: Guns must comply with the relevant firearms law, and, where necessary, be in possession of the relevant certificates.
- Game Shooting: With some exceptions, all those who take, kill or pursue game, or assist others in doing so, require a game licence: Game Act 1831 (England and Wales) and Game Licences Act 1860 (England, Wales and Scotland).
- Processing game meat: This is regulated by various regulations issued under the Food Safety Act 1990. The sale of game meat to other EEA countries is controlled by The Wild Game Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995.
- Dealing in game meat: It is an offence to deal in game without a licence: Game Act 1831 (England and Wales), Game Licences Act 1860 (England, Wales and Scotland), Custom & Excise Act 1979 and Deer Act 1991.
- Lead Shot/Non-Toxic Shot: The use of lead shot over salt marsh or foreshore, SSSIs important for waterfowl, or for the shooting of any ducks, geese, swans, coot, or moorhen in England and Wales is prohibited.
- Hazardous substances: The following regulations are of particular significance: The Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 (as amended) (COPR), The Pesticides (Maximum Levels in Crops, Food and Feedingstuffs) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 (as amended), and in Scotland by The Pesticides (Maximum Levels in Crops, Food and Feedingstuffs) (Scotland) Regulations 2000, and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999.
- Predator and pest control: The welfare of domestic, captive and farmed animals is protected by the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912. In Northern Ireland the welfare of all animals, including fish and birds, is promoted by Welfare of Animals (Northern Ireland) Act 1972. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 makes it an offence to subject wild mammals in England, Wales and Scotland to certain specified forms of abuse.
- Conservation: The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 sets out most of the requirements for habitat and species conservation. More specific provision is made in the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, the Deer Act 1991 and Deer (Scotland) Act 1996. Close seasons are established under both the 1981 Act and the Game Acts.
- Keeping dogs under control: The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and the Animals Act 1971 are important in assessing liability for harm done by dogs.
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10. The Code of Good Shooting Practice
The Code of Good Shooting Practice is overseen by a Steering Committee comprising representatives of the following organisations: -
British Association for Shooting and Conservation
Countryside Alliance, Campaign for Shooting
Country Land and Business Association
Devon and Cornwall Association of Sporting Shoots
Game Farmers' Association
National Game Dealers' Association
National Gamekeepers' Organisation
Scottish Gamekeepers' Association
The Game Conservancy Trust
Scottish Rural Property and Business Association
It is endorsed by leading sporting agents and game farmers.
If you have any valid concerns about how a shoot is organised or require further information then contact:
The Secretary, Code of Good Shooting Practice, Marford Mill, Rossett, Wrexham LL12 0HL
Tel: 01244 573 019 Fax: 01244 573 013
[j1] The distinction between "must" referring to falling shot and "should" when referring to shot birds is important