Bagging a shooting permission is one of the biggest challenges faced by airgun shooters – Mat Manning offers 10 top tips to get you on the right track
1. Use your connections
Think of people you already know – friends, family and acquaintances – who might appreciate some help with pest control. Even if they don’t have land of their own they may be able to introduce you to farming friends and give you a recommendation.
2. Get on the countryside network
It takes trust for landowners to grant shooting permission, and the best way to win that trust is to get to know them. Get in touch with local game shoots and offer to help with beating on shoot days – and ask farmers if you can lend a hand during busy times. Once you’re inside the circle you will probably find yourself being offered plenty of shooting.
3. Make sure you’re insured
Having insurance doesn’t just cover you against mishaps, it also proves that you take your sport seriously. A reputable, trusted brand like BASC will be recognised by landowners when you approach them for shooting permission.
4. Look for pest problems
Keep your eyes peeled for pests such as rabbits, pigeons, grey squirrels, rats and corvids whenever you are out and about in the countryside. When you spot a problem, find out who owns the ground so you can offer your services.
5. Send a letter
Sending out letters explaining that you are a responsible airgun shooter offering a free pest control service is one way to approach landowners. Remember to include your contact details and tell them you’re insured.
6. The door knock
If you decide to call at the farmhouse, dress tidily and be polite. Never wear your shooting clothes and don’t take your gun – you don’t want to appear assuming.
7. Get your timing right
Avoid contacting farmers and landowners during very busy periods – they are unlikely to appreciate the disturbance during harvest or lambing season. Try to choose a time of day when they are likely to be around and not too distracted with other things.
8. Manners are everything
Whether writing, phoning or calling in person, always be polite and courteous. Bad manners and an assuming attitude are almost certain to get you a rejection, and if you upset one landowner the rest of the local farming community will soon hear about it.
9. Expect rejection
It is inevitable that you will get knockbacks – maybe somebody already has the shooting rights or perhaps the landowners simply don’t like the thought of a stranger walking around with a gun. Take it on the chin, remain courteous and focus on the next one.
10. Look after it
A shooting permission is more valuable than any piece of equipment so treat it with respect. Try to build a rapport with the landowner, respect their wishes and always report anything unusual that you notice during your rounds. A bottle of something nice at Christmas usually goes down very well. Make a good impression on your first permission and the owner may well recommend you to friends who also require assistance with pest control.