This post is borne slightly out of annoyance, but I feel it is something important to discuss – especially for those who haven’t used an agent before, may be unsure what one does, or, indeed, questions why they should use one. Obviosuly, I think that many people should, that goes without saying. However, it’s important to choose the right one, as there are some less than prime examples of agents out there.
After seeing yet another “I have a team looking for…” type post in Facebook’s Game Shooting Opportunities group, I went on a bit of a rant. The following is a slightly edited and restrained version…
I remember when sporting agents were sporting agents. The term implied an awful lot about what and who they knew, and what they could do for a client. They had contacts at shoots which they actually visited and knew. Importantly, they understood the sport and could tailor a suitable day based on a team’s requirements and ability. By knowing the shoots they worked with, and having good relationships with the owners and keepers, a traditional agent could tweak and adapt days so that they always met the clients expectations.
Now, though, we seem to have an influx of ‘agents’ who are charging people for doing little more than popping a request in the a Facebook group.
If you don’t know where to get a 150 bird day in Yorkshire, you shouldn’t be a sporting agent. If you’ve no idea where is good for a 700 bird day, you shouldn’t be a sporting agent. These are rudimentary things to know. Importantly, there are many shoots who will say they can put on a 700 bird day – but there’s a very small group of shoots who can actually do it, and do it well. There’s nothing worse than a shoot stretching itself, forcing an extra ten minutes of eeking out the last bird or two to attempt to fill the bag. When the day is made up of bag-filler drives full of birds so low you could club them out of the sky, rather than challenging and sporting birds, it loses something.
You can book a day on Guns on Pegs – but… caveat emptor! A couple of years back I wanted a little day for me and a few friends at late notice. As such I visited a shoot I had found through the ‘eBay of shooting’. It was described as a shoot that could present “high, challenging pheasants”. Across 800 acres of farmland (and a couple of woods) there can’t have been more than one contour’s worth of height variation… Needless to say, I would not take the team to that shoot. (I love Guns on Pegs, for the record – it has probably facilitated the biggest democratisation of our sport since commercial shooting began to appear with the first sporting agents).
So, this is our value – and it’s something that the latest influx of ‘keyboard sporting agents’ simply cannot compete with. Over years of shooting, we have built an extensive array of contacts and gained a good deal of knowledge about the industry. Since the agency was formed, three years ago, we have pumped money into travelling the length and breadth of the country – from Cornwall to the Cairngorms and mid-Wales to Lincolnshire – visiting no end of shoots. We meet the owners and the keepers, who we then stay in contact with. We see what the terrain is like and how the drives are designed. We sort the wheat from the chaff – of the shoots we’ve visited, we probably consider less than half of them for our clients. Knowing the estates as well as we do, we use our understanding of the shoots available to tailor a perfect day in the field based on the client’s needs.
So… If you are going to pay someone to arrange your shooting for you, make sure it’s someone who is providing expert guidance and advice, not just posting on Facebook.