Partridge shooting seems a very English pastime. The truth is though, you are more likely to be shooting Red Leg (French) Partridge, which have been put down, rather than the wild Common Grey (English) Partridge, which is not so common anymore! Because of the way farming practice and habitats have changed, we tend to look after the Greys we have and only shoot them when they've had a good breeding year.

Partridges are often presented over hedgerows, so safety is your first concern. Make sure you know where your neighbouring guns, beaters and picker uppers all are, especially if you’re divided by a hedge. Let them know you’re there.

Partridges, especially early season ones, can lose height quickly, so under no circumstances take a low shot. Be aware of your fire angles and stay alert. Partridges can be deceptive, as they move at considerable speed; around 30-35 mph. This is not as fast as a pheasant, but they look as though they are going faster due to their size. On approach they may present as an unsafe shot, but quickly pull up. Partridges tend to rise, gently climbing over a line of guns. Learning to read the birds’ behaviour will have a massive impact on your shooting.

It can help to practice on clays ahead of the shooting season. Choose a shooting ground that offers coveys (flocks) so that you can learn bird selection. Think about the following three things.
Gun position

Barrel position is key here. Place the barrel somewhere in relation to the bird. This gives you an advantage, so when the bird arrives, you can keep it in sight all the way through to the point where you feel comfortable to shoot it.

As the bird approaches pull your gun up to the bird, pull through the bird, firing and keeping the gun moving. Make sure that you keep your head firmly in contact with the stock, this should ensure a clean kill. Putting your barrel over the target can cause your head to lift, and/or maybe your left eye could take over if you shoot with both eyes open because the target is underneath the barrel. Both of these will make you less accurate. If your head lifts, even by one cm, out there the shot can change by anything up to 2 or 3 feet.

Mental concentration

You need to keep your concentration. If you have a few partridges coming at you, the excitement factor kicks in. On the drive, focus on your peg and your zone.

If a covey of partridges comes over the line of guns, look through it, not at it and you will naturally pick out a bird to shoot. Once you’ve selected a bird to shoot, don’t change your mind, stay focused on that bird and taking the shot before thinking about your second bird.

Feet position

As with all shooting, clay or game, footwork is one of the most important things to remember. Place your feet in the position you need to be shooting at, rather than the position at which you’re locking on to the bird.

So if you read that that the bird is going to go left to right in front of you (this is why reading the drive is so important), set your feet for the kill point. If you don’t, you’ll be off balance and it will all go wrong!

Get your feet right and the shot will be right.

Partridge shooting tips

  • First and foremost,be safe and enjoy your day.
  • Walk to your peg quietly – partridges are nervous birds
  • Think on your feet
  • Try to keep the barrel doing as little as possible - “smooth is fast”
  • Make sure you’re positioning your feet correctly
  • Try some good quality cartridges like Gamebore Black Gold black 30grm 6s. They throw a lovely pattern all the way through the shot.
  • Tips from experienced instructors can be invaluable