England: Covid Safe Shooting and Gathering Limits

Since the announcement of new restrictions the BGA has been working closely with Defra, while our partner organisations have been doing vital work with Ministers and MPs. The Government has now announced Covid-safe shooting can continue under the new gathering limits.

Date: 14 September 2020 Updated: 21 September 2020 – further updates in bold italics

  • Any outdoor physical activity which requires a licence issued by a public body for the activity itself, or for equipment used during the activity, will be exempt from the gathering limits.


  • For shooting, this means that where the organiser or a participant holds a valid shotgun or firearms certificate, there is no limit to the number of people who can gather for the purpose of the relevant activity whilst outdoors. 


  • The organiser will be required to have undertaken a health and safety risk assessment and put in place all reasonable measures to limit transmission of COVID-19.


  • The exemption does not apply indoors where the gathering limit of six people will still apply.


  • Employees, such as beaters, pickers-up and loaders are also exempt from gathering limits, both indoors and outdoors, where their gathering is necessary for work purposes.




This document outlines the principles for Covid safe operation of game shoots in England through reference to relevant Government guidance and regulation. It has been produced to assist those managing game shoots to think about and manage the risk posed by COVID-19. It is not exhaustive, and each shoot will need to evaluate its own operations.


The document has been updated to reflect changes in the coronavirus regulations which came into effect on 14 September 2020. For ease of reference changes are in bold text. 


The Government has outlined five practical actions to take to manage the risk of COVID-19. Those actions that can readily be applied to shoots to help reduce the risk posed by COVID-19 currently include:


  1. Carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  2. Developing cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures
  1. Maintaining 2m social distancing
  2. Where people cannot be 2m apart, managing the transmission risk


Assessing the risk of COVID-19 on shoots is essential for the safety of all participants. How risk is managed must take into account the regulations and government guidance in force on the day of the shoot.


It is a legal requirement that anyone organising a gathering must undertake a health and safety risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19.




Anyone displaying symptoms of COVID19, or who shares a household with any individual displaying symptoms, must not attend the shoot day.


Keeping COVID-19 out of the shoot is the most effective way to minimise the risk of infection. Anyone with symptoms, or who has, or may have been exposed to COVID-19 within 14 days prior to the shoot must not attend and should follow government guidance on self-isolation.


Shoots must comply with government guidance to support NHS ‘test and trace’ efforts. Further information and relevant guidance can be found here. 

You must follow any local restrictions which apply to the area in which the shoot takes place. Those attending the shoot must also follow any restrictions in place where they reside (e.g. restrictions which may prevent travel out of the area). Details of local restrictions are published here. 


Considerations prior to the shoot day


Risk Assessment


Individual shoots should undertake their own risk assessment and scenario planning for shoot days to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect all participants.


When applying mitigation measures you must refer to and take account of government regulations and guidance in force at the time the shoot is to take place. 



Determining who Should Attend the Shoot


Government guidance on determining who should be attending a place of work can be readily applied to shoots. The measures you need to take to reduce the risk of COVID-19 can be found in here.


Travel to the Shoot


Measures to limit the risk of COVID-19 for those travelling to a shoot can be found here.


Accommodation for Participants


Consider any restrictions on accommodation and the hospitality sector and communicate these to visitors. The latest government guidance for accommodation providers can be found here. 


Visitors from Abroad


Have discussion with any visitors from abroad who are due to attend the shoot. There may be quarantine rules for those arriving from overseas which would need to be observed before they can visit the shoot. The latest government guidance can be found here.



New government regulation came into force in England on Monday 14 September, restricting social gatherings to no more than six people both indoors and outdoors, unless a specific exemption applies.

The limitation on gatherings does not apply to physical activity which is carried on outdoors and for which a licence, permit or certificate issued by a public body to carry on the activity, or for any of the equipment used for the purposes of the activity is required. Such a licence, permit or certificate must be held by the gathering organiser, or any person taking part in the activity.


Shoots are encompassed by this exemption, where the organiser or member of the gathering holds a shotgun certificate.


The shoots organiser acting within this exemption is legally required to prepare a risk assessment in accordance with regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The organiser will also be required by law to put in place all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus taking into account the risk assessment carried out and any guidance issued by government which is relevant to the gathering.


The exemption does not include gatherings indoors, which must not exceed six people unless from the same household. Shoots that run as a business may host more than six customers inside their premises, however no social group may exceed six people, social distancing must be maintained, and there must be no social interaction between individual groups.


Employees are exempt from gathering limits where their gathering is necessary for work purposes. Social distancing and other COVID-safe working practices must be followed.


Arrival at the Shoot / Shoot Briefing

Congregation of the shoot party, beaters, pickers-up or others poses transmission risk for COVID-19. Social distancing measures should be put in place in accordance with the government guidelines and restrictions on gatherings must be adhered to. Further information can be found as follows:


  • General guidance for Coronavirus (Covid-19) here
  • Social distancing here
  • Cleaning here and here.
  • Meeting other people here
  • Gatherings guidance here


Utilise ‘fixed team’ working (called bubbles) to reduce the risk of transmission between groups. Further detail can be found within the COVID-19 secure guidelines for ‘Construction and other outdoor work’ here.




Where possible, travel around the shoot should be on foot, as this allows social distancing to be maintained and reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 


If practicable, individuals or different household groups should travel in separate vehicles. Transport should be planned well in advance of the day to ensure appropriate provision is in place. 


Where a vehicle / transport is used for multiple occupants, shoots should refer to the relevant Government guidance for transport around worksites here and public transport here.


Shared Equipment, Cartridges and Waste


Sharing equipment on shoot days increases the transmission risk of COVID-19. To reduce the risk follow guidance for outdoor work for ‘cleaning the workplace’ here.




All Government guidance on social distancing and limits on gatherings in place on the day of the shoot must be followed.  Guidance for meeting other people can be found here with further guidance for gatherings here.


Provision of Food and Refreshments


Many shoots will provide food and refreshments. The provision of food and refreshments is a high-risk area for transmission of COVID-19. Further guidance on food hygiene during the Covid pandemic can be found here and here.


Refreshment breaks (e.g. elevenses) may be taken outdoors during the shoot day. During such breaks, all participants must maintain social distancing, and appropriate hygiene measures must be in place.

Shoot meals (e.g. shoot lunch) do not fall within the exemption for gatherings which apply to shooting. Shoot meals must therefore conform to the ‘rule of six’ whether hosted indoors or outdoors. 

Shoots operating as a business can host a meal for more than six people in total however no social group may exceed six people, social distancing must be maintained, and there must be no social interaction between individual groups. 

Shoots not operating as a business must not host meals for more than six individuals in total on the shoot premises, whether indoors or outdoors. 

Shoot parties may visit pubs or restaurants for their shoot meals but must be in separate groups of six and must not socially interact between groups.


Handwashing and Hygiene


Frequent handwashing or hand sanitising are effective ways to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. You should consider ways to improve and increase the frequency of handwashing and sanitising on shoot days. General guidance on limiting risk from COVID-19 can be found here.


Informing Others

With a rise in public access to rural areas, shoot organisers should consider other land users such as walkers who may be present on shoot days. This will increase other risks associated with the shoot day, as well as potentially increasing COVID-19 transmission sources.


Guidance for beating and picking up 


Employees are exempt from limits of gatherings, where gatherings are necessary for work purposes. You will still need to consider adopting appropriate measures for your workforce. Government guidance for ‘outdoor work’ can be found here.


Guidance for Guns / Shoot Party


You must comply with restrictions on social gatherings in force at the time of the shoot. Shooting is exempt from gathering limits as a ‘licensed outdoor physical activity’ whilst outdoors. Gathering limits will apply indoors. (see section on Gatherings and Provision of Food and Refreshments for further detail). Refer to government guidance for gatherings here and regulation on gathering here.




Loading, whether for single gun or double guns, requires individuals to operate within 1m of one another. Unless the loader is from the same household, this breaches guidance on social distancing. As such loading should only take place if absolutely necessary, following the government guidance for ‘close contact’ services here. Individual shoots should also take into account any additional implications for health and safety from following this guidance.


Loading for double guns poses a higher risk than single gun loading, due to the constant handling and transfer of guns. Appropriate cleaning and sanitising precautions should be in place for all shared equipment in line with government guidance here.


Guidance for handling of shot game

All game should be handled in accordance with established game handling and hygiene requirements. These requirements can be found here. General guidance on social distancing and hygiene should also be in place.



You should consider the transmission risk associated with handling cash or cheques in relation to payments. Electronic payment is the lowest risk option for payments and should be used where practicable. Where physical payments are made, measures should be in place to meet hygiene and social distancing requirements. 



You can download this information here.