Formerly considered as an activity for the Royal Family only, game shooting is now enjoyed by people from all walks of life. With a very long and varied history, it has evolved to become a multimillion pound industry that actually began during the reign of King Henry VIII (1509-1547).
In those days, many game shooters tended to favour the crossbow: the 16th century's weapon of choice. With the arrival of shotguns, game birds were targeted when they were either perched or on the ground and trained hawks also used to capture and kill the prey.
Back in the day, birds such as swans, cormorants and even chickens could be shot for sport, but the pastime was limited only to men who earned £2 per year. In 1671, a new government act made the sport available to men with a landed income of £100 per year (inflation had made this easier) but equipment costs still kept many people away.
While Henry VIII was reported to own a collection of breech-loading shotguns, it wasn't until the 18th century that weaponry improved enough to make game shooting more accessible to both royalty and landed gentry alike. Until then, it was "walked-up" or "rough" shooting that was practiced: a small number of people walking with guns and dogs to shoot game in small quantities.
In the middle of the 19th century, double-barrelled breech loaders were invented, leading to greater power and accuracy. As a result, driven shooting grew in popularity: dogs and people known as beaters would encourage birds from the hedgerows, which would then be targeted both on the ground and in the air by shooters standing in a fixed position.
The 19th century continued to see the further developments in shotguns, but it wasn't until the 1960s onwards that game shooting really became a mass market pastime. In this era, the class system became less divisive, but the sport was still seen as a status symbol. In the 1980s, the increase in disposable income experienced by many saw more and more people enjoying the sport, with shooting estates enjoying the increased revenue and various other opportunities that this new market afforded.
Gone are the days when game shooting was restricted to royalty - Henry VIII, George V, George VI, Prince Charles and Princes William and Harry are among the royals that have historically favoured the sport. Now, game shooting can be enjoyed by anyone, with costs less oppressive and gun technology more advanced.
Essential to the sport, gundogs are bred to assist in providing game for the table. Some specialise in locating the game that has been shot, while others will fulfil a combination of roles. All gundogs are charged with ensuring that wild animals that have been shot are treated with compassion and a good retriever will deliver each shot bird to the handler quickly.
The importance of time honoured traditions and rural cultures in the UK continue to go unrecognised and game shooting could well become a thing of the past. Hunting in all forms is opposed by many and thus, it is under threat.
Those who rear pheasants or other game birds will know the importance of keeping them protected from predators such as foxes or birds of prey. Assuring peace of mind, our quality pheasant netting is designed to last for up to 20 years. Contact Henry Cowls to find out more.