A trailblazer for wheelchair shooters
Richard Faulks speaks to Jean-Paul Gaudin, who hs overcome adversity to become a trailblazer for wheelchair shooters
Jean-Paul Gaudin, or JP, is a force of nature. He has a lust for life and a passion for game shooting. He follows his passions. A motorcycle accident in 1988, when he was in his twenties, resulted in devastating spinal injuries – he was dragged behind a horse box for nine miles along a main road – but it was never going to define him. If you learn that following this he was ‘jump-started’ by medics three times, you get a glimpse of the man’s fortitude. His rehabilitation took almost three years.
Fast forward a few years and JP’s wife, Katy, declared that she was keen to have a go at clay-pigeon shooting. JP had been a keen rough shooter during his teens in his native France and Katy’s suggestion was the catalyst for him to pick up a gun again. They now enjoy driven game and clay shooting.
A few seasons ago they booked a day at Mountgarret in North Yorkshire, to see whether a shoot day would be manageable in a wheelchair. It was, and there has been no looking back for JP since then. Mountgarret proved that with a little planning, forethought and a few minor adjustments, shoot days for people with impaired mobility are possible. The most obvious necessity is for help getting to and from the peg, and having a dedicated person to help and drive a Gator. Due to topography, some shoots will never be able to accommodate wheelchair shooters but many can. The only modification to JP’s wheelchair is the addition of a set of pneumatic, treaded tyres that are a little wider than the standard, solid, narrow tyres, and useful for negotiating muddy ground.
Advice to others
JP, 47, has become something of a star attraction on the shoots he attends. He is regularly asked for advice from fellow Guns. Questions such as: “My brother’s in a chair now and misses shooting and we’d love to get him back in the field…” Or, “I’ve got a friend I’d love to take shooting. How do you go about it?” Estates where he’d shot were starting to ask questions about his day – the service they provided, things they may need to work on or change, such as ramps, doorways, transport, toilets, parking, staff to help throughout the day. JP was happy to help but he was out for a day’s shooting and just wanted to be himself; to enjoy the day and forget about those things.
Website for wheelchair shooters
JP’s website Seated Gun offers advice to shoots and clay grounds about wheelchair shooters, helps to ensure that they are mobility friendly, plus much more. JP posts video reviews of shoots and acts as an ambassador for shooting brands such as Croots, Churchill’s Shooting Ground, Simpson Brother’s Gun Shop and Animal Transit Boxes.
JP: “If it helps a couple of people and puts a smile on their faces; if it helps them come out of their shell; if they can sit in a field and shoot a few birds, have a bloody good day and feel normal again – do you know what? Brilliant.” The Seated Gun can also be found on Instagram and YouTube.
JP explains what people should think about when booking shoot days and what he’d recommend game and clay shoots need to do to ensure they can accommodate people with limited mobility.
“If you are looking to book a day’s shooting for yourself and haven’t been to the shoot or ground before, think about what it is that you really need help with first and, more importantly, what you’d like to get out of the day. Be honest with yourself and the shoot about your situation and level of fitness. Everybody will have different requirements and priorities.
“Getting in and out of a Gator and into your chair roughly 14 times on a day can be a challenge for some people, and more help may be needed to achieve this. Discuss the terrain of the shoot or ground and what sort of vehicle you have and what sort of surfaces are manageable for you. Sometimes you’ll be able to drive to your peg if you have a suitable vehicle. Explain the distances you’ll be able to traverse in your chair if you have a modified chair like mine.
“Ask questions about the shoot room: does it have steps at the entrance? Does the toilet door open outwards to allow easy access? What happens at lunch? Discuss with whoever is driving you around how your chair packs down. Probably all things that seem blindingly obvious to you, but getting everybody on the ‘same page’ upfront will save frustration on what is supposed to be a fun day out for you.”
JP says that sometimes there is a lack of forethought. For example, he has asked if a Gator would be available on a day, only to find that the shoot did not have someone to drive it and assist him.
Think, too, about the kit you need. JP swears by his Bonart leather gloves for use pushing through the mud. And they obviously get caked in it, so think about having another pair of gloves for shooting in – if you like to shoot in gloves.
The British winter can be a bleak, wet time of year and being seated there is more chance you will become chilled. JP has had breeks tailormade to fit and cover his lower back while seated. He uses Samuels the Tailors in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, and a pair costs only a little more than buying breeks from one of the well-known brands.
Jackets also need to fit differently. It’s no good having loads of excess material hindering your movement, so JP wears shorter jackets. Take plenty of layers and waterproof clothing, and always plan for inclement weather.
JP says shoots should take time to survey the areas that will be used on shoot days; think carefully about staffing and the drives to be done. Some flexibility will be useful when choosing drives and it may be necessary to juggle pegs around to ensure that there is a piece of flat ground available on each drive, even if that means Guns swapping pegs or allowing back Guns. These aren’t insurmountable problems and JP has found that the vast majority of Guns are more than willing to help – especially when they’ve seen him shoot a couple of drives and realise that he’s not there to make up the numbers; he’s an accomplished shot and will wipe the eye of many Guns.
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I can vouch for JP’s shooting prowess on clays. We spent a few hours at Churchill’s Shooting Ground and I didn’t see him miss a single one on the driven practice stand. JP is blessed with good upper-body strength and positions his chair at 45 degrees to the target to allow for limited lateral mobility to his left. This has the advantage of ensuring that if he was face on, and happened to shoot a target late directly above him, the angle stops him from tipping backwards. He makes it all look incredibly easy – as all the best shots do.
So, if you’re looking for advice about getting out in the field or are a shoot wanting to ensure you’re ‘mobility friendly’; if you’re interested in reading shoot reviews or getting JP along to your shoot to do an audit of your facilities, visit Seated Gun.