A complete guide to shooting for beginners

If you’re stepping into the world of shooting, you might feel a little daunted by it all. This is understandable as there are many different types of shooting, all with their own set of dress codes, rules and traditions.

Luckily, we have you covered. Below is a rundown of the different types of shooting and what they involve.


Driven shooting

Seen by many as the pinnacle of shooting, driven shooting is the most formal and it’s changed little since Victorian times, meaning sportsmanship and etiquette are paramount. A shooting party usually consists of 8-10 Guns (hunters) who stand in a line 20-30 metres apart in a spot that’s usually marked with a numbered peg, post or - if you’re shooting grouse - a butt.

The term ‘driven’ refers to the way the bird is driven towards the Guns by a team of beaters and dogs. The birds are then shot as they fly over the Guns and this whole manoeuvre is called a drive. A shooting day typically consists of 4-6 drives.

Driven shooting is usually confined to pheasant, partridge, grouse and occasionally duck. Even though different birds can be shot, the shoots will all follow roughly the same format.

The dress code can be another area of anxiety for newcomers. Our main piece of advice is to first check with the host what the dress code is—some are more formal than others and require a tie and waistcoat under your jacket. The checklist of what to wear is as follows:

  • Hearing protection and safety glasses
  • Tweed flat cap
  • A waterproof and warm shooting jacket
  • Breeks or trousers
  • Green or brown check shirt
  • Tie
  • Shooting vest/waistcoat
  • Cartridge bag
  • Shooting socks
  • Walking boots

Granted, this a hefty list, but it all contributes to keeping you safe, warm, dry, and smart. You’ll also need to take a copy of your shotgun certificate.


Rough/walked-up shooting

Unlike its formal counterpart, walked-up shooting is a lot more casual and is having a surge in popularity due to its affordability and accessibility. It consists of a few Guns who walk with their own dogs and a gamekeeper.

The group walks across fields, hedgerows, small woods and rough patches of land, flushing out rabbits and game as they go. The appeal of this mostly lies in the fact that it provides the Guns with a challenging shot and the dogs can retrieve what’s fallen from being hit—a win-win for everyone!  As you can imagine, this type of shooting requires sharp reflexes as you don’t know when the opportunity to hit a target will arise.

The dress code for rough shooting can be a little more relaxed than driven shooting - although most of the clothes will be the same, you might not need a tie or waistcoat. If in doubt, check with the other members of your group about how smart they’re dressing—no one likes to be the only one who’s underdressed! All of the same safety equipment applies.



Wildfowling is mostly done on estuaries and marshes where ducks and geese are the primary targets. If you like your own company, then this is the shooting discipline for you, as wildfowling is mainly a solitary sport.

If you’re a beginner it’s definitely not a good idea to go for the first time on your own—it requires considerable stamina and takes place in wet, muddy and cold conditions in the winter months. On top of that, you need an intimate knowledge of the wild (and sometimes dangerous) area that you’re shooting; it’s easy to get cut off from the mainland by the tide. So go with an experienced fowler if you’re new to the location.

Dress code for wildfowling is less strict than other shooting disciplines. The main things you need to ensure is that your clothes are warm, dry and camouflaged into your surroundings. The solitary nature of wildfowling isn’t for everybody, but the plus side is that etiquette is less strict (as you’re the only one around) and the patience required means it’s incredibly rewarding. Plus, duck is delicious!


Deer stalking

Unlike some of the other shooting disciplines on our beginners shooting guide, it’s easy to guess the type of animal that deer stalking involves! It refers to the pursuit of deer on foot with a rifle. Although it can be done for food or sport, deer stalking is essential to control the numbers of deer as they have no predator and breed prolifically—otherwise forestry, crops and the deer themselves suffer.

The most important thing to know about deer stalking is that you need to know enough about deer management, such as how different species of deer work, to be able to deer stalk in the right way. It takes a long time to learn the art of stalking deer, which is why starting with an experienced guide is important.

We’d also recommend completing the Deer Stalking Certificate 1 and 2 to make sure you have the adequate knowledge to stalk deer legally, safely and correctly. Also, if you haven’t already got a firearms certificate you’ll need one of these by law—a Deer Stalking Certificate will help with your application being accepted.

Read more: How to be a deer stalker

You’ll find the clothing you need for deer stalking is much of the same as game shooting, but without the formal pieces like a tie and waistcoat - blending into your environment and warmth are the two most important things.


Clay pigeon shooting

As the only type of shooting on our list that doesn’t involve a live target, clay pigeon shooting is a great gateway into the shooting world if you’re a complete novice to it. The clay targets are thrown into the air at different angles, speeds, distances, and paths which means it’s a great way to form good shooting habits and improve your shooting reflexes.

As camouflage isn’t needed for clay shooting, the dress code is one of the most relaxed of all the disciplines mentioned in this guide. Ear and eye protection are the two most essential things—you might want a padded shooting vest too to protect your shoulder, but most clay shooting venues can lend you one.

Regardless of which type of shooting takes your fancy, before you head out on a shoot, you may want to consider specialist shooting insurance

At Ripe Shooting, we arrange Equipment Cover up to £50k and Public Liability up to £10m, so you have complete peace of mind whilst out on each shoot. Get an instant online quote today.

Please note the information provided on this page should not be taken as advice and has been written as a matter of opinion. For more on insurance cover and policy wording, see our homepage.

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