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Learning to shoot wild boar

Al Gabriel heads along to The West London Shooting School to learn to take on driven wild boar

Al on the range

When you think of driven wild boar, London wouldn’t be the first place that comes to mind. But that is exactly where I went for a practice session on learning to shoot wild boar. I had only been in the city for 24 hours and I was already exhausted. Every train seemed to be running late, and meandering in tunnels with subterranean Londoners was draining. As I got close to West Ruislip tube station, the concrete jungle gave way to some green space, and the scenery improved dramatically the closer I got to the West London Shooting School.

The school is nestled in what resembles the countryside, while still being inside the M25. It was a novelty shooting in smart trousers and a shirt, but given that I had to travel via the tube, turning up in full camo kit didn’t seem like a good idea.

Al loads up some Hornady 286-gr bullets into the Mauser 9.3×62 he is using for the day

I checked in at the reception and was greeted by a friendly staff member. While waiting to meet Paul, my instructor for the day, I couldn’t help but enjoy some of the artwork and trophies displayed on the ground floor. After meeting Paul, I was asked to select my calibre of choice for the day.

shooting rifle

Instructor Paul watches on as Al Gabriel lines up for a shot

I wasn’t going to miss the chance to get my hands on something large, so I ended up opting for the Mauser 9.3×62. It was unmoderated with a wooden stock, impressive action and a classic driven shooting scope. It was loaded with Hornady 286-gr — dangerous game ammunition. My adrenaline was pumping. (Read more on the best calibre for wild boar.)

Learning to shoot wild boar

The range is large and well-equipped, with a variety of targets to shoot at for different skill levels. The wild boar moving range spans a whole 100m. The running boar covers a 20m track; it is fast action. I started off with some basic drills, practising my stance and aim. The Mauser rifle didn’t come with a detachable magazine; top-feeding felt like a classic move. It was delightful.

A few shots in, I could see a mirage forming in front of the rifle and the target, and soon I could pretend I was in South Africa. I got a feel for the rifle and recoil. The recoil was surprisingly light, and my aim was acceptable but still left much to be desired. It was time for the main show. I followed Paul to a higher ground, where the mechanical system is located for the moving target. It is an ingenious, simple design operated on a rail system, designed to test stamina, concentration and timing.

learning to shoot wild boar

Paul watches Al tackling some targets, then suggests adjustments to improve his accuracy

Paul explained the preferred technique to ensure consistent kill shots, which was to move pass the snout of the animal and take a shot, which will drop back to the chest area. The real challenge for me was following the target in a straight line. I kept dipping in the middle during the follow-through. It turned out I was holding the rifle much too close to my body, and I just needed to extend out my forearm towards the muzzle without affecting barrel harmonics.

Belgian boar I remember my first experience on wild boar in Belgium. On the first drive I heard numerous successive shots, only to discover that at the end of the drive there were only a couple of roe does on the deck. It is an experience that has never left my mind. If there were ever a case for the need to practise on moving targets, that was it. (Just how many wild boar are there in the UK?)

After shooting nearly a whole box of ammo, I was having a great time. I was hitting the targets, although I wasn’t quite in the right zone. I did manage to get a few kill shots, which I was happy about. To give myself a break from the fast and furious moving target, Paul took a few shots to demonstrate the proper way of doing it, which was great to watch.

Learning to shoot wild boar

Target practice, alongside tuition, is a great way to gain confidence before tackling a new type of quarry

In-between shooting and checking targets, we talked about the most important topic of all: deer management. I always find it fascinating to learn how different people in different parts of the country manage deer and about the local, specific issues they face. I continued to practise for another hour, and by the end of the day I had made significant progress. A long way off from being a decent shot, but even a short practice on such a rare target was gold dust.

On our way back to the gunroom, I asked Paul the types of clients that enjoy driven boar moving targets. It was clear that one of the main advantages of having this outdoor facility is that most Brits get to practise before a trip to the Continent or even Africa. The number of Brits who are shooting driven wild boar days is on the rise, thanks to the sport’s growing popularity.

On my first trip to Europe, I realised that there was a lack of skill set, given we do not engage in driven wild boar in the British Isles. I would have had more confidence if I had spent time on such a range. I tried my best to practise locally, but static targets don’t do it justice.

Target shooting

I think for many of us, target shooting is a humbling experience, but it is also a great confidence builder. Skill and performance, just like any sport, goes up and down, and there are good days and bad days. It is often said that “you are only as good as your last shot”. The idea of practising with rifles should be no different from practising on clays. More and more, I’m encountering shooters who think it is acceptable to pull a out rifle that has not been shot or tested for a year and aim it at deer. This is fundamentally wrong. More bullets need to land on paper targets than on live quarry. Only through target practice and failure can one really appreciate the skill set required to become an effective shooter.

Although we do not have driven wild boar in the UK, more people are spotting wild boar in some parts of the country. It is not a bad idea to start thinking about getting some practice in. You never know when you might get invited driven boar shooting or when they might suddenly start appearing on your ground.