We pose our questions to one of our Sporting Agents.
Does everyone who wants to rent shooting by the day need to use a Sporting Agent to find their ideal shoot?
I think it is fair to say that not everyone needs a Sporting Agent to find their ideal Shoot. There will be a reasonable proportion of the sporting public who have enough experience and knowledge of their own to find a Shoot in most parts of the country to fit their criteria, to ensure that they get the day they want. Sporting Agents can add very little to the experienced purchaser of shooting who knows exactly what he needs to get from a day and what or which points he needs to clarify with each Estate owner, but they can always add something, especially if they have a network of Estates on “their books” that they use and or manage on a day to day basis.
So, if I decide I want to take a days shooting, say for instance, in Yorkshire, what could you do to help and advise me?
Firstly, we need to establish exactly what your criteria are. Obviously, knowing that it is in Yorkshire is very helpful, but would you want to shoot on a weekday, or would you want to shoot on a Saturday? Would you want to shoot partridges, would you want to shoot pheasants?
What more would you want to know from me? and how would we work out my criteria to enable you to have all the information you need?
I mean, everyone’s view of what a good pheasant is, is different, so I would enquire from you as to which other Shoots throughout the country you have already shot at, and how you viewed the pheasants, or indeed partridges, on those Shoots. Once you had given me that information, I would have a very much more detailed answer as to what you think a good pheasant, without being too high, would be.
How many Shoots would you usually give as an option for me to consider?
It depends on the amount of information supplied. If you can supply all the details that I might ask for, then there may only be one option, but often we would do three or four to give people a bit of choice.
How do you get all this knowledge? How do you know in detail about all of these Shoots?
Well, we are very lucky; for the last 20 years, we have spent our life’s certainly during the shooting season and for reasonable parts outside of the shooting season, going up and down the country and seeing what must be a fairly high proportion of all, certainly the commercial and some of the private Shoots who let days, so we will know what most Shoots can offer and we are able to advise you based on our knowledge.
Does your remit span the whole country or are you just located in one area?
No, we can offer shooting from north of Inverness through to the Isle of Wight and from Cornwall across into East Anglia, so we are pretty much able to provide options throughout the UK.
How independent is a Sporting Agent?
A sporting agent is really as independent as the length and breadth of his portfolio allows him to be. We are very lucky, in conjunction with JM Osborne & Co we are involved in the management of quite a few Shoots up and down the country. This gives us access to availability and bespoke options that you may not get elsewhere. In addition to those we have great relationships with many independent shoots around the country, all of which we can let days to suit your needs.
Is there an incentive for you to try and let your managed days first or do you look at it in a really open-handed way?
There is certainly incentive to let the managed days first, but the strength that we have, is that we have a lot of managed days. In Yorkshire for instance, there are four or five Shoots that we are involved with, so we are not just saying if you want to go to Yorkshire, you must shoot on A, we are saying, we have a direct involvement with Shoot’s A, B, C, D and E, all of which have strengths and weaknesses and we think that given your criteria, you would be better looking at Shoot C and because we have a very good and detailed relationship with the Shoot, we are able to offer two or three types of days on that Shoot.
Is it suggested that the advantage of letting days on managed Shoots is considerable over and above merely taking a day on a Shoot where your only involvement may be letting the particular day?
We are in a much stronger relationship with those managed Shoots and we are therefore able, in the first place, to actually get a day – a lot of them are very, very popular Shoots and people have to wait in line for an opportunity to take a day – they may not be able to do so in the season they want to. If we are representing you in your wish to take a day on such a Shoot, you are far more likely to be able to get a day in a shorter period of time than you would be if you were merely just another team ringing up the Estate Office and saying, please may we have a day.
Do you or your firm let a lot of days on Shoots that you do not manage? If so, roughly what is the split, half and half?
It would be in the region of half and half. Perhaps slightly less on the managed Estates than to those that we have no management involvement with.
How does a Sporting Agent get paid?
A Sporting Agent receives a commission payment from the client he is acting for in finding the day and he also receives a commission payment from the Estate that he is letting the day for.
What do you do on the day or do you do anything? Will you be there on the day?
Yes, we always ensure that we attend every day we let, with the exception of perhaps one or two of the smaller, local very rough Shoots, whereby the Shoots Head Keeper takes the party out for the day.
Do Sporting Agents actually let small days shooting or is it the only very big days?
We are quite unusual in that we do let the small day – admittedly often on those Shoots which we have a management role with. We very much take the view that, although it may only be a small day this year, we may meet people on that day or people may enjoy that day and then decide to take a larger day in the future, or indeed people who can only afford a small day when they are in their 20s and 30s may well be able to afford a larger day later in life.
What happens if the day is cancelled due to poor weather?
If the day is cancelled due to fog, ice, snow, any of those conditions, the Estate typically retains all the money paid to it in respect of the day, and the person taking the day not only has no shooting but also loses all the money he or she paid over in respect of the day.
Is there any insurance that can be obtained to cover for that?
Absolutely. There is a range of policies available at the moment to provide cover at different levels for those who would like to take out such insurance.
Would you organise it if I wanted the cost of my day to be covered?
Absolutely. That is certainly a service that a Sporting Agent should and indeed would provide to any of their clients.
I do not know where I would stay, close to the Shoot, do you have that sort of information?
Absolutely. We have a range of accommodation options for each of our Shoots which vary in terms of price, but also in terms of distance from the Shoot. We find that some clients like to be very close to the location of the Shoot and therefore have a very small distance to travel that morning and others are prepared to drive 45 minutes.
If someone who does not have a suitable gun to use on that day; I am thinking particularly if we had someone who shot with a 28 bore and open choke and we were shooting high pheasants and wanted a 12 bore that was capable of firing heavy cartridges, how would I find that sort of gun and is that the sort of service that you provide as well?
Yes, it is. We have a range of guns that we are able to loan out to people on a shoot day. I have to say that we are always quite careful to provide the appropriate gun for the appropriate client. We do often get asked for heavier guns and bigger cartridges to shoot high pheasants, although our experience is that very often people are better staying with their existing gun and their existing cartridges. They are less likely to get injured by the recoil of the heavy gun and big cartridges.
If we wanted to have someone to coach a novice or less experienced gun on the day is that another service that you can provide?
Absolutely. We ask all our clients to confirm whether or not their guests or colleagues are experienced and indeed to what level of experience they have. Typically, 10 days driven shooting is a reasonable standard to have achieved. Anyone who has not done that much, we strongly recommend that they have a loader at least, and ideally an instructor loader, standing with them during the course of the shooting. It will help them shoot better, hit more and as much as shooting is about personal achievement, they will definitely enjoy the day more as well.
How do you ensure that a day runs properly, not only from the safety perspective – that is obviously paramount, but from all the other perspectives?
I think it is very important to set the stall out early on as regards safety. The initial contract refers to a number of safety points and indeed we send additional information, if people are shooting grouse, or indeed other specialist types of shooting about the particular points involved in that sport. On the morning of the Shoot itself, the host will give a detailed brief about what is likely to be encountered during the day and what the safety protocol and procedures for the day are. If the Shoot is one where loaders are used, then they again will address the issue with their guns separately at the beginning of the first drive. This is something which we monitor very carefully during the course of the day itself.