Yorkshire is one of those parts of the UK blessed with more than its share of seriously high-bird shoots. Turn west off the A1 and the gorgeous Dales butting up against Cumbria and Lancashire are paved with them. Head east and the equally beautiful North Yorkshire moors are ringed with pheasant-rich estates marching cheek by jowl. Duncombe Park, Nawton Towers, Mulgrave, Ravenswick, Murton Grange, Garrowby, Rievaulx, Thimbleby, Warter Priory, Spaunton, Kepwick, Ganton and Raisthorpe come straight to mind. Want more? Then how about Place Newton and, a little further to the west, Sawley and Swinton? Sandwiched in between are a myriad of other farm syndicate shoots, hardly or never heard of, showing equally tasty high helpings.
But where do game-shooting Yorkshiremen go in the closed season to keep their eye in and stay in the groove ready for the autumn?
Sadly, the county isn’t as well blessed with shooting schools with high towers as it is game shoots. Much is the pity, but two of the five featured here do have a cast iron reputation for showing the highest driven clays in the UK. If you can do a job on what they throw into the stratosphere then you’ll be well prepared when it comes to the real thing.
Coniston Shooting Ground
Coniston Cold, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 4EA.
This CPSA Premier Plus clay ground is a Mecca for trap, skeet and sporting shooters, but it also caters for game shooters with a modern high tower that you’d be silly to ignore.
Standing almost 100ft tall, it’s well capable of throwing 40 yard-plus targets at speeds and angles to test the best game shots.
Automatic traps fitted to the corners of the square structure can be raised, lowered or angled to replicate whatever sort of bird you need to practice on – even curlers and wide crossers with a deceptive mix of standards and midis to keep you guessing.
My advice would be to avoid weekends when the ground is packed with shooters and go instead midweek. Have a word with ground manager Peter Manley ahead of your visit and let him know what you want to shoot. He can even have an instructor on hand to iron out any weaknesses that the targets might expose.
Coniston Shooting Ground is set in the heart of the stunning Yorkshire Dales just off the A65 between Skipton and Kendal. Facilities are superb, with a comfortable, well-appointed clubhouse and, if you want to stay overnight, before or after shooting, there’s the highly rated Coniston Hotel right next door.
Kelbrook Shooting School
Kelbrook Lodge, Foulridge, Colne, Lancashire, BB8 7QH.
OK, this compact little ground isn’t actually in Yorkshire… but it ought to be! It’s within spitting distance of the border and only five miles away from Coniston. The two are a 10-minute drive apart, which means both can be comfortably shot in a day if you get your bookings right.
The 70ft tower isn’t in the same league as Coniston’s but if you book a mid-week slot in advance with ground owner Mike Megginson and his son, Aaron, the pair can arrange for a wide variety of targets to be thrown at heights over 100ft and shot as straight overhead driven, or wide crossers. You can also have them launched as fast as you like with a selection of standards and midis to test your skills.
Kelbrook Lodge has an interesting history as a game shooting venue going back more than a century and is set atop hills giving commanding views of the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria fells. Glorious.
It has easy transport links and is open six days a week. There’s a snug cook shop on site as well as a unique gunshop/clubhouse selling a wide selection of guns, including some fine English side-by-sides.
Tel: 01282 861632 / 07831 351960
Gleneagles Shooting School The name of Gleneagles is celebrated. Based on 850 acres of Perthshire countryside, Gleneagles is a world-renowned…
Cottondale Shooting Ground
America Farm, Fordon Lane, Staxton, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO12 4TG.
If you want to leave the wife and kids building sandcastles on a beach while you shoot, then this place is a serious contender as it’s just 10 miles inland from Scarborough.
Ground owner Terry Harper jokes that his high tower stands just 12ft tall, but then it does have the advantage of being perched on top of a steep 100ft hillside. By angling the traps, Terry is able to throw targets in excess of that, and you can make things as testing as you like by shooting them from different positions in the valley bottom. Again, to get full benefit from the tower it’s advisable to contact the ground ahead of your planned visit so the staff can make any necessary arrangements for you or your team.
One of the attractions of the high tower here is that the traphouse is hidden by trees on the hillside so the clays appear more ‘natural’ than those thrown from a stark steel structure straight in front. Cottondale also has one of the nicest clubhouses you are likely to find, with good quality catering and easy access just off the B1249.
Park Lodge Shooting School
Finleys Lane, Cowick, Goole, East Yorkshire, DN14 9ED.
Located just a few minutes from where the M62 meets the M18, there’s no way you could ever describe Park Lodge as being in a natural game-shoot setting – it sits on table-flat ground with few trees around to soften the surroundings. But forget about the lack of an interesting view… what game shooters come here for is the fearsomely high tower – all 140ft of it. And if the targets from this colossus prove too much of a test then there’s always the tiddling 90ft tower to fall back on to restore some confidence in your shooting.
Both towers are fitted with automatic traps that can be raised, lowered or angled at the touch of a button, so you’ll never run short of variety. The set-up also means you can practise on birds you find hardest on a real driven day, such as a dropping crosser, or one curling imperceptibly over your shoulder.
Ground owner Tom Bayston can make sure one of his instructors is on hand, if required, to put you right on the high stuff. If you lack confidence on tall targets then it probably makes sense to have a tutor stand behind giving advice. After all, what’s the point of banging away at clays you have totally misread and stand no chance of hitting?
Yes, the targets here can be a serious challenge (which is why the big hitters come for practice) but the birds can be instantly adjusted to make any visit a pleasure, not a torment. There are also extremely comfortable facilities on site with top notch shop and good restaurant.
Monckton Shooting Ground
Hunsley Road, North Newbald, York, East Riding of Yorkshire, YO43 4TW.
So finally we come to the daddy of them all – Monckton Shooting Ground’s green goddess, with her twin traps sitting very nicely 160ft above the nearest level shooting position. Don’t worry though, the targets are all hittable with a standard 1oz trap 7½ shot, as proven by a plaque that records an incredible 100 straight by game shooter Neil Ramsey of Boston Spa.
I will be back at this little ground in the Yorkshire Wolds several times before my season kicks off. No way will I ever match that 100 straight…but I’d gladly settle for a 50 or 60!