Shooting and game management advice during lockdown in England

Following Wednesday's debate in Parliament and further lobbying since, the government has issued further guidance redefining what is allowed by way of 'exercise' under the Covid regulations.

Outdoor shooting activities as a form of exercise are now permissible once a day in England during the national lockdown, but only subject to two conditions:

  1. You should only travel locally to shoot, which is defined in government guidance as staying local to the village, town, or part of the city where you live.
  2. When shooting you can only meet with people you live with, your support bubble; or when on your own, with one person from another household.

If you cannot comply with these conditions, then you must not shoot as a form of exercise. To do so would place you at risk of a fine and may jeopardise your shotgun and firearms certificates. If you have no local shooting available then you will have to take your daily exercise in other ways.

Driven game shooting or other group shooting activities are highly unlikely to comply with the conditions above and unless they do, they must not take place.

Fishing, having been stopped on Tuesday, is also now re-allowed, subject to similar conditions. See the website of the Angling Trust for further details.

Shooting-related essential work is permitted in England and it is reasonable to travel outside your local area to carry out that essential work. This includes essential bird and mammal pest control to protect crops or livestock such as the shooting and trapping of pest bird species under general licence; the management of rodents and rabbits; deer management as part of a plan agreed with and requested by the landowner. It is advised that you keep a copy of your shooting permission and a written request to undertake essential work with you so that you can present them if challenged by the authorities.

Game management work and gamekeeping activities such as management of game birds, conducting pest/predator control and undertaking habitat management are also permitted.

Everyone shooting during the Covid-19 pandemic must consider the impact of their actions on the image and reputation of the sport. We all have a responsibility to comply with government regulations and guidance, and failure to do so may place you at risk of a fine and jeopardise your shotgun and firearms certificates.

Click here for government guidance on the national lockdown

These are unprecedented times, and with national lockdown in England expected to continue beyond the end of the game shooting season, a different approach to the final weeks of this season will be required.

  • Shoots may decide to continue to harvest game to meet the requirements of game dealers and other outlets that need birds to supply to market (although this must not be done through driven or other forms of recreational shooting). Shoots should regularly liaise with their game dealer or other outlet to ensure supply chains are met and that their actions comply with legal requirements including relevant Covid regulations
  • Shoots which normally catch up in the latter part of the season may opt to catch up birds earlier. Catching up in England is as much ‘taking’ in the legal sense as shooting, and this must therefore be done in season, with Monday February 1 being the last day on which shoots can do so for pheasant and partridge. Shoots should discuss this option with their game-farmer before doing so and must comply with the requirements within the Avian Influenza Protection Zone currently in force across England (further information here.)
  • Depending upon size and location, some shoots may decide to keep a higher density of pheasants unharvested into the spring, with a view to helping enhance or establish the population for the following season. This approach would require additional consideration such as increased spring feeding sites (there should always be sufficient feeding of any birds at the end of the shooting season until there is sufficient natural feed), management of birds around spring sown crops and an increased emphasis on predator control and habitat management such as cover crops for brood rearing.
  • Shoots should continue to follow the requirements of the Code of Good Shooting Practice and, if members, comply with the relevant standards of the British Game Alliance.

If you have any questions relating to this guidance or any game management related matter, our advisors will be very happy to speak to you. Please call 01425 651013 or email Lizzie Herring at lherring@gwct.org.uk.

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