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Just got your shotgun licence - now what? Guide for the new shooter

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If you've gone to the trouble of getting your shotgun licence, you should have an idea by now of what type of shooting you want to do, whether that's game shooting, pigeon shooting or becoming the next champion clay shooter.

Maybe you've been out with a friend or family member on the marsh and realised you enjoy the idea of being out in nature whilst hunting your own food for dinner. Or maybe you've been shooting an air rifle - like my son pictured here shooting his first pigeon with his air rifle aged 14 - and now you're ready to crank it up a notch.

Whatever the reason, if you're thinking about getting your first shotgun and you want to start planning ahead to be prepared, here's 5 things to do when you get your shot gun licence.

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1 - Get your safety sorted

If you're going to get a shotgun, you'll need a gun cabinet, which you can find online. They usually cost anywhere between £100 - £500 for a 2 gun cabinet, or even less if you buy second hand.

You'll need to think about where you're going to store the cabinet, how many guns you are going to hold in it; plus you may want to think about buying a safe to keep the gun cabinet keys in, if you don't have another suitable place to keep your keys safely hidden away.

You can download a guide from the Home Office for more information about firearms security here.

You'll also need shooting insurance - BASC is a well trusted organisation for this, however I personally use Country Cover Club as they include legal cover. Both organisations offer additional perks with their insurance packages, such as BASC offering free tickets to The Game Fair. Once you have these things in place, it's time to go shopping for your gun (and gun slip)!

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2 - Practice

It's a good idea to get on the clays when you can afford to and when you have the time. Consistency in shooting is key; even if you can only go once a month it's better than going 3 times one week then stopping for 3 months. Inconsistency can lead to bad habits (don't I know it) which in turn can lead to frustration and lack of confidence.

If you shoot clays frequently, or even get out on live quarry with friends (see point 5) it can help you to rectify any bad form quicker, and you will get to grips with your gun more. It will also help you with getting your head around the many different shotgun cartridges available that are out there, and seeing which ones you prefer. Personally I tend to stick with Eley Hawke, but there are people who will say it doesn't matter which cartridge brand you use, you should still just be able to shoot with it!

Photo - Clay pigeon shooting at EJ Churchill in High Wycombe

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3 - Do some bedtime reading

There are several advantages to this - including getting some quiet time to yourself!

You need to get to grips with your new gun and everything that goes with it - how to take it apart to clean it, which cartridges to use with it, how to change the chokes, which chokes might suit you as a beginner, which chokes to use on the different types of quarry you will be shooting, etc.

It's also important to understand the legislation around owning a shotgun. Sure, you would've done a little research before having that all important interview with the nice police officer, (not all of whom shoot by the way), but now it's time to take it seriously. Not only for yourself and understanding what you need to know to be safe and legal, but also by becoming a competent member of the wider fieldsports community. You can read more about shooting legislation and when you can shoot certain quarry (shooting seasons) here.

By learning about the wider issues around shooting, conservation and land management you can have conversations with non shooters about our sport which come from a place of true understanding, not myth nor bias. Plus, the bonus is that by learning about conservation, farming and pest control and more, you will understand your quarry better, meaning you will hopefully have more successful days out in the field.

4 - Get the right gear

If you want to wildfowl, you'd better believe that you'll be wet, cold and muddy most of the time - so there really is no point in taking that fancy gun, expensive wax jacket or fashionable shooting leggings out onto the marshes! If you're thinking that pigeon shooting is more your bag, there are other things to consider. Pigeons have the keenest eye sight, so wearing camouflage is key, but so is having the full decoy set up if you want to get them to come close enough to shoot!

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Photo - Teaching a fellow syndicate member about pigeon decoying - he didn't get the memo about wearing camo!

5 - Get outside!!

If you have friends that already do the type of shooting you want to do, then it's time to get out with them! This is the best way to learn, next to going out by yourself and making mistakes... I've done both, and one of the main things I realised is that no amount of staring at black silhouettes of birds in flight was a good enough substitute for recognising a bird in the wild, flying towards you/over you before you shoot it. Can you spot the difference between a rock dove (illegal) and a wood pigeon (legal under general licence) as it's zooming through the sky? Or can you recognise the whistle of a teal duck as it hurtles past you toward the river, when you've been squinting into the evening sky ready to shoot it for over an hour?

If you don't know anyone in the shooting world who can take you out, then start networking. Reach out to people on social media, join a local clay shooting club, chat to people at Country Fairs like The Game Fair (I'll be there all 3 days this year, please say hello if you see me wandering about!) or The British Shooting Show. We're mostly a friendly bunch, and there is always the odd person willing to share a story or two, or who will be happy to introduce you to someone that could help you more.

If you'd like to chat to me more about any of the above points, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram or just leave a comment below...

Happy Shooting!


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I hope you're enjoying reading my blog! I'm not an expert, I only wish to share my personal experiences, of someone who did not grow up in the countryside nor enter the hunting world in the traditional way.

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