Open season for game birds starts on the Glorious Twelfth (of August), with Grouse and Common Snipe to be the first on target across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Closely followed by Partridge on 1st September and Pheasant on 1st October.
Throughout the spring and summer these birds are allowed to breed and grow in their natural environment, giving them essential time to flourish, ready for the beginning of the game shooting season. With exception of pheasant, which is notoriously bad at breeding naturally and so are bred in captivity and released in time for the open season.
Since the Game Act of 1831, grouse shooting has been an exceptionally popular pastime, with August 12th being one the busiest days of the season, seeing very large numbers of grouse shot.
However, there are risks associated with game bird shooting, as highlighted below;
It is common practice and indeed not against the law for landowners of neighbouring farms and estates to allow access to their land for the purpose of the shoot. The risk here is that on occasion not all the necessary paperwork is in place to cover insurances. To ensure the safety of those on the land, taking part in the shoot or otherwise is upheld, you must have a written and signed agreement between all concerned parties. This also forms part of the legal requirement to ensure permission is granted before shooting takes place.
Of course you are aware of the need for a license to use a shotgun, rifle or other firearm, but this is not necessary for an air rifle less than 12ft lb in power or air pistols less than 6ft lb in power. You are not permitted to use bows or crossbows or explosives of any type for game shooting.
If using a shotgun, which is most commonplace for grouse shooting, the internal diameter of the shotgun must not be more than 1.75 inches and you cannot use a firearm that holds more than two rounds of ammunition, artificial lighting (so no night shooting) or additional sighting devices or a device which lights the target (laser sights).
These rules, set by the UK Government uphold the humanity of the shoot and reduces the risk of suffering for the game birds.
Public access land with multiple uses can pose a risk to many. If the estate is private and accessed by multiple trades or industries a full risk assessment encompassing all possibilities must be in place to ensure the safety of all those who enter during game shooting season. For land which includes public access areas such as footpaths and trails the risks are less easy to control. Proper signage warning of shooting times and the necessity to keep dogs on leads, or to keep clear entirely, ought to be in place in clear view of those using the paths. These public access areas should also be included in your estate risk assessment.
Reducing the risks
Safety Revolution’s Health and Safety ideology is the basis of reducing risks to personal safety within the agriculture, estates and equine industries. With this purpose we have developed a depth of knowledge in key areas and an effective system to help you manage the health and safety of your estate.
We work with key individuals such as gamekeepers and woodsmen to increase awareness of best practice and develop a team consensus around how best to improve safe systems of work.
If you’re an estate manager and would like to know more about how we could help with your Health and Safety and Human Resource management systems, please get in touch with us on 0800 0281965 or complete our contact form.