Two blog posts in a week has not helped me maintain my calming holiday ‘Zen’; especially given that I also returned to a very busy office this week in sweltering central London. But I couldn’t let the 1st September – another key date in the game shooter’s diary – pass by without a post. From today partridge, duck and geese (and other game) shoots will begin taking place across England and Wales, with the pheasant season starting on 1st October.
I know quite a few ladies who will be partaking in their first game shoot this season and I have been asked what to wear on that first day in the field. I thought it might be helpful to share my opinion and the advice that I have given them more widely about what to wear. I’m not going to focus on etiquette, what to expect or general advice as this blog is long enough deliberating suitable clothing attire, but if you are concerned about this and want to read up, I would recommend that you visit Ladies Shooting (the sister site for The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club).
Firstly, let me start by saying that it’s not just us ladies who get nervous before their first foray into game shooting. I have also known one or two gents who have been equally as nervous for their first day in the field – not to mention deliberating the same dilemma that us ladies face about what to wear. The short answer on this is that it depends on the type of shoot you are going on. Is it a formal invite-only shoot or a far more relaxed and informal rough, walked up day? What is expected of you and what you require from your clothing will differ accordingly. For example, if you are on a high end invite only day, and need to ‘dress for the occasion’; this means formal and your finest. If you are on a very relaxed rough shooting day, you need not worry about formality and instead focus on your clothing being very practical.
Secondly, while I have invested in a few key items (Harkila coat, Dubarrys, Akubra hat) I also live by the principle of saving my money for the actual shooting! As long as what you wear is practical and suitable for the type of day you are going on; no one cares about the brand you are wearing. My advice to anyone new to game shooting this season is to sift through your wardrobe, use what you already have and don’t blow the bank balance on getting ready for your day in the field if you don’t have to.
The other thing to remember is that if you don’t have all the gear right now – don’t panic! Just borrow from a friend or family member. I’ve actually worn dad’s coats before now. If you only have one day in the field this season then with some help from friends and family you will easily be able to pull the kit together and can then decide what to invest in ready for next season. If there are bits you need, then the high street and even some of the clothing stands in the supermarkets can be great for topping up.
Thirdly, and not clothing related, but if you are venturing out this season, and even if you have been clay shooting for most of the summer, get back to the clay ground for a lesson or two in high driven targets and crossers before your day in the field. Needless to say, game shooting is very different to clay shooting and practice is the only way to make sure you are ready for live quarry.
And it is remembering that you are now live in the field, and not in a clay ground, that is key when it comes to clothing. Sounds obvious, but unlike at a clay ground where the car park may be only a short walk away, unless you are driving yourself around your game shoot, you might be leaving your car in the morning and possibly not going back until the end of the day. This has happened to me on numerous occasions and meant I have been unable to pop back to the car for that extra layer or if I have forgotten something. Also, you are outside all day, so your clothes need to be field-proof.
I will be doing a mix of formal days and out with the family too. If you are on a more relaxed day or maybe some rough shooting, there is far less emphasis on what to wear – just be practical. For those informal family days, we will grab the old Barbour from the porch (usually reserved for beating days), wrap up warm and head on out. I will be leaving the tweed and luxury leather at home for the more formal days.
So a few essentials regardless of the time of year:
- Waterproof coat – because it is miserable if you get wet-through on the first drive! Look for tweed for formal days in the colder months or a lighter waterproof/ wax/ Goretex at the milder start to the season or on walked up/ rough shooting days;
- Good boots – these can be a pair of walking boots, le Chameaus or your old trusty Dubarrys. If you haven’t invested in a good pair of boots then do! If you wear walking boots (better for rough or walked up shooting) then pair these up with gaiters for rougher terrain. Even if you are on a more formal high end shoot a decent pair of boots are still essential for all the walking to your pegs, so think Dubarry Galways or Le Chameaus. (Wellies can sometimes be frowned upon in the more formal days unless they are suitable like Chameaus). If you ask Dad, he will say he prefers to wear wellies on any kind of shoot day as if you find yourself crossing a stream or in a muddy patch of field, wellies are worth their weight in gold.
- Hat or headband – for hats, wear something warm and peaked. If you prefer a headband, keep it to muted colours, if you can, but this really wont matter on less formal shoots.
So what are my go to items?
Trousers or Breeks
If I want to wear trousers I vary between my khaki green jeggings from New Look, beige corduroys from Gap or green moleskins from Gamebird Clothing. The jeggings and cords are perfect for walked up days and rough shooting. They are flexible and light but also quick drying. For more formal days I wear breeks – mostly for the reason that when else will I get to wear them?! I have a couple of pairs but recently added to the collection when I stumbled across a pair from Barbour on a sale rail at the British Shooting Show, which matched a waistcoat I already had – winning! Tweed doesn’t go out of fashion so there are some mega bargains to be had in the close season.
I try and buy wool jumpers where I can because these make SUCH a difference! I really hate being cold (almost as much as I hate being hungry) so a thermal top teamed with a wool or cashmere jumper stops me from feeling the weather. Again, these don’t have to be super expensive. All my thermal layers come from M&S’ Heatgen range. They work, they wash well and last quite some time. For good quality knitwear, TK Maxx always have sales on their wool products and I’ve bought some lovely cashmere jumpers at a fraction of the cost from The Outnet! Look around, you will be suprised as to what is out there.
Footwear & Gloves
I usually go to my Dubarry Galways or my Le Chameau wellies. Teamed with a good pair of socks, these help keep your feet nice and warm whilst also dealing with any terrible weather you may encounter. The same can be said with gloves. I bought my Macwets a few years back and they are now my winter shooting essential. If you have ever shot on a cold wet windy day in Devon with a bit of a hail storm thrown in for good measure – like I did a few seasons back – you realise the value of decent shooting gloves! Thankfully I always keep some hand-warmers in the bottom of my shooting bag which offered some relief on that particular day…
Invest in one good one and it will last you years. In the meantime, if you dont have one, borrow one or wear one you already have! I live out of my pro-hunter jacket by Harkila but have recently bought a new tweed coat from Alan Paine which I am looking forward to christening this season.
Last season I decided to experiment a bit more and wanted a neck scarf. I wanted green silk – again, because natural fibres provide more warmth and resilience than synthetic. I had a look around and actually found one on Etsy for less than a tenner! It is worth doing some savvy online shopping for your game shooting wardrobe because, if like me, you want to spend all your money on actually getting out there shooting, then you aren’t left with a whole lot to splash on your outfit. Invest in your coat and boots and the rest you can fill in from your wardrobe, buy from the high street or borrow!
There are some super stylish ladies out there and their game day attire is equally as glam. Some of my favourite lady game shots have also contributed to this blog with their go-to items. I thought it might help to inspire and get you ready to hear from people other than me, but also, these ladies back up what I am saying. You do not need to spend a fortune or to go and buy a brand new outfit for a day or two shooting. Use what you have and you can always add to it throughout the season. Focus on being a good, safe shot and enjoy your day. Get involved in the atmosphere and banter. Relax from the nerves – which hit me everytime I approach my peg for the first drive of every shoot. Work hard and shoot well. You will soon forget what you are wearing once you put that first shot in the air! But don’t just take my word for it…
My favourite item of clothing for game shooting is my boots because if your feet are cold or wet then there is nothing more miserable. I currently have Muck Chore boots with a neoprene lining. They are comfortable hard-wearing and light…but I also have my favourites of all time my Dubarry Galways. I’ve had them for 5 seasons and they are as comfortable and waterproof as ever!
My game day wardrobe varies depending on the weather and where I am shooting. I always make it my priority to dress for the weather and also ensure I wear what I feel comfortable and confident to shoot in. I once wore a friend’s beautiful tweed coat, which had a fur collar, and I had an awful day; it was too fitted and the fur just got in the way! Practical clothing definitely trumps style in the field for me! My game day attire consists of my Musto coat and breeks, with either a shirt or polo neck. If I want to smarten my look I replace my breeks with a Joules skirt. However, if it is raining I am 100% that person who rocks up in head-to-toe waterproofs! Footwear wise, I always go for a pair of Dubarry boots but 110% my favourite item of clothing for game days is my Musto coat. It is comfortable, practical, warm and flattering. I have had it for a few seasons now and it still looks really smart.
At the start of the season I wear my breeks from The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club tweed range as they are comfortable but, most importantly, washable. I team them with pink socks – as I’m the only girl gun on the shoot. My shirts come from Rydale (2 for £20) and my jumpers come from Sainsbury’s. My big extravagance is boots! They have to be comfortable and functional. My current ones are Dubarry. Expensive but they are on their third season and still look like new. Hunter also do a great leather boot. When the weather gets colder or wet, my musto gamekeepers jacket saves the day. For a change in outfit, I love Gamebirds moleskins or Tesco green cords. You don’t have to spend a fortune to look smart and wearing the clothes is all part of a great game shoot day for me.
This will be my fourth season and what I wear now differs from what I wore for my first game season. I really worried about my first day at Ripley, so I looked on the Internet at what other ladies were wearing and tried in vain to emulate them. I opted for green jeans, a checked shirt and a sale bought laksen shooting waistcoat, it was a warm September day. Once I was shooting, I forgot all about what I looked like (but that’s normal for me)! Since then, I have learnt that it doesn’t matter what you wear, you have to be comfortable, your trousers/breeks need to stretch enough to climb a stile. Your shirt loose enough to allow full circular arm movement to swing your gun. Thin layers for warmth rather that really thick jumpers and jackets that truss you up. The adrenalin warms you up once the keeper’s whistle has gone.
My most worn item of clothing is my Schoffel lightweight ghilly waterproof jacket in olive green. I use this for game and clays, with or without jumper and waistcoat according to the weather. My favourite item of clothing is my Nomad Jacket, it is technical tweed, windproof, waterproof, snug and light. You wouldn’t wear a ball gown to climb a mountain; it’s not a fashion show. You’ve probably paid a small fortune for your day’s game shooting so, be comfortable and wear weather appropriate clothes and with the exception of my tweed breeks, I use all my gear for both clays and game.
I love my tweed waistcoat made by Carters country wear in Helmsley, he ordered the purple leather especially for me. It is so soft – the type you would normally make very good quality gloves from. It has even featured in a couple of magazines! But I do also love my purple socks…I get so excited when I put them on! I have corduroys, shirt and my tweed coat. If it’s cold I will also wear a jumper under it too. My boots are also essential, being a size 20+, it took me ages to find some that fit – so they are very special! I also have some gorgeous scarves, including a vintage green and purple pheasant scarf silk that I bought last year.
I love a plain shirt (H&M do some fabulous ones for about £15) with my Hull Cartridge neck scarf. I live in my Alan Paine Durham coat, which has so many pockets, perfect for my lip balm and phone. I either wear my S&CBC tweed breeks or some brown skinny trousers from H&M or TK Maxx. Part of the beauty of game shooting is you can dress up as much or as little as you like. If you’re lucky enough to be shooting grouse, make sure you don’t wear a white shirt!
My clothes have to be durable as I end up walking up to 20K a day through hedges, cover crop and mud! I wear moleskin green breeks with pink or purple socks, a shirt (pinks and purples) and a scarf. I have a huge collection of scarves I have gathered over the years as I refuse to wear a tie! I then kit up and cover it all with oilskin over trousers and either a tweed or green coat, a cap and an ear warmer.