Throughout my career, the land management industry seems to have been puzzling as to its future and wondering what we are going to do about it. I think possibly the most surprising thing that I have really taken away from nearly ten years in the industry is how undereducated the large proportion of recreational stalkers and shooters are.
Speaking to colleagues in the industry both here in Scotland and abroad, I think this comes across so obviously to me because I spend a lot of time working with European hunters. While the actual test varies from country to country generally a long standing system of training incorporates all aspects of what they think it means to be a hunter.
From gun maintenance to accurate shooting and quarry ID, as well as teaching an ecological understanding of both quarry species and through that, the wider ecosystem they inhabit, these things are taught to everyone that wishes to partake in fieldsports. When these people learn of our own licensing system they are often shocked, and when you think about it, we in the UK are the exception rather than the rule, with most other countries requiring some kind of formal training before someone can take a firearm into the countryside.
I think in our community we’ve always had a stigma around this type of talk, that we shouldn’t try and change the system that makes it so easy for people to come into the sport, especially when apparently we’re in constant need of “new blood”. As an industry and a community, I don’t think we’ve ever been under such great pressure from so many angles, and I think the time has come for a change in policy. If we continue to recruit new people into our sports, but they don’t have the understanding to justify their actions then how can we expect them to be able to defend them and the way of life that we’re so passionate about to other non-shooting people.
As a community of people we need to push for better training, better events to educate people and better articles and films in our press. A concentrated effort by everyone that is passionate about what we do is the answer, and we have never been in a better position to deliver it.
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust has, as ever, got its finger on the pulse and is bringing out a handbook to cover just this sort of requirement. The Trust also intends to follow up with training support. To find out more about what GWCT are doing to promote good shooting standards, have a look at the new book, The Knowledge.