Looking to get your eye-in? E.J. Churchill, Bob Valentine, Roxtons, Rule Valley, West London and Raisthorpe all offer cracking simulated game shooting days.
The timings of the simulated game shooting day will depend on the individual provider. But simulated game shooting is a lot more flexible than game, because traps are a bit more predictable than birds, and beaters! Because most simulated game shooting days take place in the spring and summer months there are also no worries about getting finished before dark.
Typical simulated game shooting days are run along very similar lines to game days. You will all meet for coffee and a bacon roll at about 9-9.30am. Then move off to the first drive. Guns are pegged out the same way as on game days, although the gaps between pegs will often be smaller. There will be no shortage of clays in the air and poaching is not so frowned upon in this arena. You might even find yourself taking on clays going over someone three pegs down from you. But it’s best not think about that too much, and just concentrate on shooting the clays in your window as well as you can. It’s great practice.
One major and common difference is the numbers in the team. Whereas on a typical pheasant day there will be eight guns in the team it is quite normal to have 16 on a simulated game shooting day. So there will be two of you on every peg, and you will take it in turns to load and shoot. Because the traps are so easy to control (unlike pheasants and partridges) there can be a break halfway through the drive to swap around. And don’t worry you won’t feel like you haven’t had enough shooting. The problem is more likely to be over-shooting. It’s best to be selective and go for the really testing stuff. Otherwise you may end up with a very sore shoulder.
After a couple of drives it’s normal to stop for elevenses then back into the action until lunch. But because it’s all so flexible, thanks to mobile multi-trap devices, the day can be tailored to suit your needs. If you and your team only want a morning or afternoon’s shooting then just ask. In the long evenings of June and July you could even arrange something for after work, if you get organised.
Some providers will also arrange a competition element, where you might split into teams of four to shoot a flush. Obviously this is a far cry from game days but it can really add an extra element of enjoyment to the day.
At the end of the day it is considered normal for the guns to put some money in the pot for the hard working trappers who do a lot of work behind the scenes. This doesn’t need to be the same amount as you might tip a headkeeper after a 400-bird pheasant day, but £20 each should do it.
What to wear on a simulated game shooting day?
A lot of teams wear normal shooting clothes, ie breeks, shirts, waistcoats, ties, etc to make the day feel more real. And if you have a full day planned along the lines of a normal game day this is probably the best bet. Although if the weather is forecast to be very hot, it may not be advisable. This is one form of shooting in UK where shorts may be acceptable, but it’s best to check first and don’t turn up in your Bermudas!
On a less formal day you will be able to wear jeans with a shirt and a waistcoat, but if you aren’t sure then don’t take the risk. Better to be over-dressed and show the rest up than feel like the poor relation all day. That said, it’s meant to be fun and this may be the chance to wear something you wouldn’t normally risk on a pheasant day.
Most importantly hats and glasses are a must due to the number of clay fragments which are likely to be flying around. This cannot be stressed enough. Please take heed and wear both at all times. It’s not worth taking the risk.
What gun to use on a simulated game shooting day?
Due to the amount of shooting you do on the day an over-under is best because the barrels on your side-by-side will get extremely hot in the thick of the action. Even if you have gloves and barrel protectors this can still cause problems, particularly on hot days. But it is generally best to use the gun you shoot game with in the season to ensure you are getting the best long-term practice out of the day.
So, if you normally shoot with a side-by-side then you will need to have a think about whether you want to run the risk of dealing with red hot barrels or not.
It is very important to use a light load cartridge, such as a 21gram or maximum 24gram due to the volume of clays you will shoot in the day. And shot 7s or 8s will be fine too. Remember, a clay has no vital organs so you really don’t need those 36gram 4s!
What will a simulated game shooting day cost?
Obviously this will depend on what format you go for, but expect to pay a minimum of £150 each for a very basic package, and then anything up to £350 each for a full day with complete catering at one of the most prestigious estates. For a day’s shooting with catering with all your friends this is great value for money. You will not be disappointed and it won’t do your shooting any harm either.
Simulated game shooting estates in the UK
This is by no means a comprehensive list of simulated game shooting suppliers in the UK, as there are many shooting estates providing this option. However it will give you some idea of your options.
Bob Valentine Shooting School
Situated in north west Wales this is a lovely corner of the UK and guests gather in the morning in the shoot room for coffee and peg drawing. The day includes ‘driven grouse’ (from proper butts), ‘driven partridge’, followed by a mixed drive of ‘pheasant’ and ‘partridge’ before lunch, with a stop for elevenses. After lunch the afternoon commences with a ‘duck flight’ as a warm up for the ‘high pheasant’ drive to finish. Followed by a relaxing drink back in the shoot room.
Cost: From £150 to £350, (plus VAT) per gun, including cartridges.
Simulated game shooting days are run on the 5,000 acre West Wycombe Estate, owned by the Dashwood family for over 300 years. The estate is less than an hour’s drive from London and is situated in the rolling Chiltern Hills with easy access from the M40 and M4. The estate lends itself perfectly to simulated game shooting due to its steep, wooded valleys and high hedges. Elevenses are served after the second drive in the grounds of West Wycombe House.
Field & Game Shooting Agency
This East Anglian outfit provides tailor-made days to suit your needs, mostly based at the famous Six Mile Bottom Estate just south of Cambridge. They can cater for groups of five to 21 people, including stag and hen dos, with varying packages, depending on your needs and budget. Safe to say you will have a great time and want to return.
Cost: Varies depending on what package you are after, but for 14 people it’s £3,150 (plus VAT).
Set in the Yorkshire Wolds, the day begins with coffee and a draw for pegs in the stunning purpose built shooting lodge. Refreshments are provided throughout the day and lunch is included. The shooting day can be located anywhere within the grounds of this fabulous shooting estate, so there is great variety on offer and the Promatic traps ensure the clays are presented beautifully. Simulated game shooting is available until the end of October for groups of eight to 16. But larger groups can be catered for on request
Cost: From £200 (plus VAT) per gun for evening shoots with a barbecue. Full day simulated game shoots start at £300 (plus VAT).
Really Wild clay days
Hosted by the excellent instructors from The Royal Berkshire Shooting School, these prestigious days are held at venues such as Highclere, Hambleden and West Woodhay, which have been chosen for their topography, history and international reputation as sporting estates. Dependent on the type of day teams meet in the great hall of historic houses or the local pub.
Cost: There are three packages ranging from £4,000 (plus VAT) to £7,000 (plus VAT) for teams of 16.
The Roxtons simulated game shoot is based at Hilldrop Farm near the village of Ramsbury in Wiltshire, 15 minutes from Junction 14 of the M4. Set in the rolling countryside of the Marlborough Downs, it’s both picturesque and perfect for shooting. Designed for 16 people, the day can be expanded to accommodate up to 20. For those who haven’t shot before, instructors are readily available. And you can also take the opportunity to shoot at model aeroplanes or ‘gnats’, for an extra £750 for the day.
Cost: £4,000 (plus VAT) for up to 16 (not including cartridges). For individual gun days the cost is £275 (plus VAT) per gun.
Rule Valley simulated game
This new enterprise is based over 1,000 acres of idyllic Scottish Borders countryside, incorporating beautiful sweeping valleys, scenic farmland and charming rivers; all providing a picturesque location for simulated game shooting. Whether you are looking for high pheasants, pulsating partridges or glorious grouse all mixed in with a wee tipple of Damson gin and generous hospitality this brand new destination has got it covered.
Cost: Half and full days range from £150 – £295, including unlimited cartridges, food and drink.
www.rulevalley.com Tel. 01450 870202.
West London Game Flyer days
From spring to autumn these days will give you access to five top shooting estates, including Ashcombe, Great Tew and Bereleigh. Teams of up to 16 can enjoy five challenging drives and top-notch hospitality in the hands of experienced professionals from one of the most established and well respected shooting schools in the United Kingdom.
Cost: From £305 per gun (plus VAT).