The thrill of the hunt
Gun club membership is booming and game shooting is becoming a big business for the rural economy
Game hunting is an addiction, of that there is little doubt. It was a well-known line used by the late Douglas Butler as he freely admitted his undying love for shooting in his many publications on one of the most popular field sports in Ireland.
Last Sunday thousands upon thousands of fellow shooting enthusiasts across Ireland satisfied their addiction too as they took to the fields, mountains and woodland for the opening day of the new pheasant shooting season.
"It's akin to a religious obligation to shoot on November 1. It really is a major day on the shooting and social calendar," commented Des Crofton, chairman of the National Association of Regional Game Councils.
Aside from its conservation work the NARGC oversees some 1,000 gun clubs in Ireland which, between them, have close to 30,000 members.
"And I can honestly say a large percentage of them were not at home in bed on Sunday morning, but rather enjoying a day in the country shooting," Crofton added.
Records show that field sports in Ireland have grown to such an extent over the years that it is estimated that there are now some 300,000 people directly involved year-round. A large percentage of those come from the farming community.
An independent study carried out by University College Dublin (UCD) some years ago found that the economic value of field sports in the Irish economy amounted to in excess of €100m a year.
And game shooting plays an important part in maintaining those figures, with on average 500 new members joining their local gun clubs each year.