Gathering a team of Guns and finding the perfect shoot are the most important tasks for the captain
By Richard Gray
Thursday, 23 August 2012
Top tips for organising a shooting syndicate
For the past few years, I have taken on the task of organising a few assorted days of shooting for myself and a few friends. With half the Guns we do some boundary days, but we also take a few driven days with nine Guns. I have always viewed the organising of these days as a pleasurable task and something I was happy to do, as it impinged little on my time.
I would look for a day that fitted our criteria in terms of bag size and budget, phone round the Guns, and if it suited everyone, I would book it and pay the deposit. Until recently, my method has worked well, but this year was different, forcing me to put things on a more formal and organised footing.
Over the past five or six seasons that I have undertaken this task, I have had a small nucleus of 10 or so Guns who liked to be included on these days. Recently, however, more people have asked to join, and demand is starting to exceed supply. At present I have more than 20 Guns on my list who want me to find reasonably priced days for them.
The number crunch
The situation became tricky earlier this year, when I chanced upon four driven days being offered on a private estate shoot. It was only half an hour away, and it had a long and enviable reputation for sporting birds. I went to look at it with a fellow Gun, and we were both impressed. The owner contacted me the following day to say that we had been successful in our bid, and he offered us a day each month from October to January. All I had to do was put together a team of nine Guns — easy, I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Initially I contacted two or three Guns, one of whom shoots with another team. His other team had also been trying to book the same four days, so he suggested
that we join forces and fill the nine Guns between our two teams. It seemed to provide the ideal solution.
One of the Guns suggested that I take on the position of shoot captain, which I agreed to. My first task was to obtain the deposit from the other Guns, which was easily achieved. However, when it came to deciding on which four days to book, the problems started. Some wanted Saturdays, some wanted midweek, some realised they could only do three days and one changed his mind and decided not to join us. I began to wonder what I had let myself in for, as emails flew back and forth and I tried to please everyone.
Eventually we managed to decide on dates that suited everyone, and I moved on to the next task: devising a payment system that would suit everyone and get all the money in before the start of the season. I’m glad to say that was sorted out fairly painlessly and we are all looking forward to our first day. Some of the team had yet to see the shoot, so I organised a barbecue and clay day, giving us the opportunity to get a bit of practice in, too.
Being a shoot captain is not without its trials and tribulations — when it goes well everyone is happy and will extend their thanks to you for a job well done. However, if it goes badly you stand to lose your reputation with the shoots that you have booked, as well as with your fellow Guns.
You will need plenty of enthusiasm and a thick skin (because some may assume you have ulterior motives for your actions). You must be a problem-solver and have endless patience. A shoot captain’s job can be hugely satisfying, and I consider myself fortunate that I am able to shoot with friends that share the same aims and ideals, making my job easy.
What to expect
As captain you also need to ensure that all your Guns know what is expected of them. Some of them may not have shot together before, or it may be someone’s first driven day, in which case it is your job to talk him through it and put him at ease. Remember that Guns may have different ideas as to what is acceptable by way of behaviour, dress code or safety, so it is your job to brief them all and remind them that it is important that everyone plays their part in making the day a success.
If everything goes well you will all have a great day, but you must be prepared for the unexpected, and it may happen that you have to step in to have a quiet but firm word with someone who may have got a little over-excited and perhaps is being unsafe or firing away at everything that comes near him when others are being selective; this should be done in a way that does not spoil his day or that of the other Guns.
Last, but very importantly, make sure that the Guns all thank the keeper and host — if it has been a good day, you may want to go back!
If you follow these basics your day will be a great experience and your Guns will thank you for it. If you try to pre-empt problems before they arise, things will run much more smoothly. Let’s not forget, you want to enjoy your day too.
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