With the joy of a new shooting season in full swing, Annika Purdey provides a point-by-point guide to making sure you are fully prepped for the field.
Clothing and Accessories
Though the season has begun, it’s never too late to take a deep-dive into your shooting wardrobe and check that everything is ready to go. Make sure any dirty items have been dry cleaned, and are indeed back from the dry cleaners. Check if any repairs are needed; if so, any good tailor or seamstress should be able to do this for you. Look closely at pockets, linings, zips, etc, as these are the areas that tend to get the most wear – and there is nothing worse than realising your coat won’t fasten up on a wet and windy day. Also check that your outerwear is still water resistant; either take it to a dry cleaner, or simply give everything a quick spritz with a trusty can of Scotchgard.
Now is also a fine time to put some looks together and see if you need, or simply want, to buy anything to freshen up your shooting wardrobe. A new shirt, tie, sweater or cap – or a pair of colourful shooting socks or scarf – can elevate a pair of breeks or field coat you might have owned for years. If your tweeds are looking a little tired, invest. August and early autumn shooting can be warmer than expected, so some lighter grouse breeks, lightweight technical tweed coats and gilets are worth considering. It’s essential to own clothing suitable for all weathers, as there is nothing worse than being too cold, wet or, worst of all, impossibly hot when treading the field.
Finally, check your boots and shoes are primed, and that boot bags, cartridge bags and gun sleeves/boxes have been cleaned. It’s also a fine idea to name your kit – it’s amazing how similar piles of tweed and endless pairs of Le Chameaus can look after a good lunch! I like to have my initials discreetly embroidered on the inside of my jackets so there can be no confusion.
Safety and legality are paramount in shooting. The correct paperwork is key, so check your gun licence and insurance are up to date. It’s also important that your gun has been properly serviced, not only for material longevity and preservation, but for safety.
Order in plenty of cartridges to avoid last minute panics the day before a shoot. If you feel your skills need a polish, get down to your nearest school and book in a few lessons. It’s always a good idea for even an experienced shot to get their eye in a little before they embrace the season, as this will make those first few days shooting after a long summer break all the more enjoyable. Crucially, if you are the person in charge of elevenses, check that your picnic baskets, glasses, plates and corkscrews are all present and correct. It’s also a good idea to have reusable water bottles to fill, as grouse shooting, especially in August, can be very balmy. Finally: never forget your ear defenders.
Reply to invitations promptly. Shooting days/parties take a huge amount of organisation; it’s good manners to reply promptly so another gun can be invited if you can’t make it. Once it’s in the diary, it is set in stone – no cancelling save for a life-or-death emergency. It’s extremely bad manners to cancel a day’s shooting at the last minute.
Think ahead regarding presents for your host/hosts. Champagne or well-chosen wines are good if you are just there for the day. If staying overnight and part of the house party, then glassware, something chic for the drinks cupboard, a beautiful book, or shooting-related ephemera such as a cap, tie, cashmere scarf, or socks all work nicely. Just make sure you know your host’s sizes.
Remember to always have enough cash on you for your loader and the keeper. There’s nothing more arduous than trying to locate an ATM in the middle of nowhere. If you are unsure about what to give, then ask your host’s advice on how much they feel is appropriate. Always say goodbye and try to thank as many people who were involved in making the day a success as possible before you leave.
Make sure to always write a handwritten ‘thank you’ letter to your hosts – preferably within a few days of your return. Order in correspondence cards, writing paper and envelopes, and make sure you have stamps at the ready so you are never late with your gratitude. Letters are always so appreciated and a nice reminder of the day. They will also help to put you at the top of the list to be invited again next season!
With all of that taken in mind, you’ll enjoy a seamless transition into the most anticipated months of the year. Wishing you all a safe and happy season ahead.