Game shooting laws

7th December 2012

Game shooting has become increasingly popular in recent years. Anyone engaged in the sport should, however, be mindful of the laws that apply.

  • Game birds are defined under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as any pheasant, partridge, grouse (moor game), black (heath) game or ptarmigan.
  • Game birds can only be killed or taken at certain times of year. The periods during which they may not be killed or taken (the close seasons) were established in England and Wales by the Game Act 1831. It is also an offence to shoot game on Sundays and Christmas Day.
  • When acquiring a shotgun, you must inform the police force which issued your shotgun certificate by recorded delivery within seven days of the transfer. If you give or sell a shotgun to anyone (or lend a gun to anyone for more than 72 hours), you must enter the details on the other person’s certificate and also notify the police force which issued your own certificate by recorded delivery within seven days.
  • One certificate holder may borrow a shotgun from another for 72 hours or less without notifying the police or entering the details onto the borrower’s shotgun certificate.
  • You may only lend a shotgun to someone without a shotgun certificate if you are with that person and on land of which you are the legal occupier.
  • Section 161 of the Highways Act 1980 makes it an offence to discharge a shotgun within fifty feet of the centre of a highway (having vehicular rights) without lawful authority or excuse if, as a result, a user of that highway is injured, interrupted or endangered.
  • To shoot across a footpath or bridleway could constitute a public nuisance. There could also be liability in negligence if it is known that someone is on, or likely to be on, the footpath or bridleway. This is particularly important in respect of bridleways where a horse rider could easily be injured or endangered.