COVID-19 advice for fieldsports and game shoots

After the coronavirus lockdown ended Castle Gunmakers reopened the gun shop on the 15th June. To ensure the safety of our customers and staff we followed all Government and Gun Trade Association guidance.

But as life begins to normalise and people are again free to enjoy shooting pursuits, how can we stay safe when enjoying fieldsports? The nature of coronavirus means that outdoor activities have fewer restrictions than indoor events, however, there are times during a shoot that will require precaution because of close contact and transportation.

Thanks to an exhaustive statement issued by the Countryside Alliance, Government regulations, and also advice from BASC, there are principles that can be followed by shoot managers and participants.

Please note that the Government guidance relating to COVID-19 is fluid and frequently changes. At the time of writing these rules cover Scotland as well as England, however, there may also be differences between guidelines in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so always be sure to check the latest regional guidance.

Reducing the risk of COVID-19 at game shooting events

Each shoot manager will need to assess their own specific plans and transportation requirements, and the following guidelines are recommended:

  • A COVID-19 risk assessment must be carried out, making certain that recent changes in Government guidance are adhered to.
  • Effective procedures must be put in place for thorough cleaning, hand washing and hygiene.
  • During the shoot social distancing of 2m must be maintained.
  • In instances where shoot participants cannot socially distance the transmission risk must be managed. If transportation is required shooters should use their own vehicles where possible. If group transport is required face masks must be worn inside the vehicle and cleaning and hygiene procedures must be available, as per current Government guidelines.

In order to reduce the chance of COVID-19 infection, the following is recommended:

  • Participants showing symptoms of COVID-19 must not attend the shoot and should self-isolate.
  • Anyone who has been exposed to coronavirus within the last 14 days should not attend the shoot and must self-isolate.
  • Shoot managers should obtain the names and contact details of all participants to help with potential “test and trace” efforts.

Recent exemption from the rule of six in England

Recent exemptions from the gathering of more than six people have been announced in England. Risk assessments and other guidance must still be followed, but new exemptions include:

  • Any outdoor physical activity which requires a licence issued by a public body for the activity itself, or for equipment used during the activity, will be exempt from the limits on numbers who may gather together.
  • For shooting, this means that where the organiser or a participant holds a valid shotgun or firearms certificate, there is no limit to the number of people who can gather for the purpose of the relevant activity while outdoors.
  • The exemption does not apply indoors where the gathering limit of six people will still apply.
  • Employees, such as beaters, pickers-up and loaders, are also exempt from gathering limits, both indoors and outdoors, where their gathering is necessary for work purposes.

Understanding the transmission risks of coronavirus when game shooting

When shoot managers performing a COVID-19 risk assessment they should consider the Government guidance that can be applied, as well as specific guidelines on travel and accommodation advice.

The number of people who can attend a fieldsports shoot is dependent on whether the shoot is being run as a business or not. Typically a maximum of 30 people can attend a shoot, and this can only be exceeded when a shoot is run as a business. That said, guidance on social distancing, cleaning and gathering regulations should be followed at all times.

Fixed teams, or bubbles, can reduce the risk of coronavirus transition, and further information on this working practice can be found here.

Sharing equipment, providing refreshments, game handling and guidance for beating and picking up all have protocols that now need to be followed.

When it comes to the loading of guns, Government guidance on close contact services should be adhered to. As loading requires individuals to be closer than 1m apart it is only permissible for people within the same family.

Finally, electronic payment has the lowest risk of coronavirus transmission, and is therefore preferable to cash or cheques (which require following hygiene requirements).

Stay safe when enjoying fieldsports

The above is intended as a helpful summary of current guidance on COVID-19, and as practical advice for fieldsports and game shoots. Please ensure that you check the latest Government, Gun Trade Association and BASC guidance on coronavirus in your area before organising a fieldsports event, or attending a shoot.