Lady Melissa Percy on why shooting is her favourite fieldsport
She's founded clothing label Mistamina and is never happier than when out in the field. Tom Veitch talks to Lady Melissa Percy
How important is it to get more women involved in shooting?
It is great that so many more women are getting involved in shooting. It promotes the sport and is slowly taking away preconceived ideas that it’s a man’s sport. I love shooting and while I am a competitive girl, it’s what comes with it that I couldn’t live without: the beautiful countryside we are lucky enough to have around us; the dogs showing unbelievable skills in retrieving and flushing the birds (as well as our badly behaved dogs that just have a good time); the keepers, dog trainers, beaters and, lastly, but most importantly, the friends and family I shoot with. This makes shooting my favourite fieldsport.
Both men and women can be equally matched
My father never differentiated between the girls and the boys in my family, so we all enjoy it as much as each other. Shooting is a sport in which both men and women can be equally matched – we can compete with no advantage on either side. So the fact women are getting more involved is great news.
There are plenty of shooting schools to get you started and there are lots of women forming women’s clubs for those who want to shoot more. I have been lucky enough to meet some great women and go on some girls-only shoots.
What steps are you taking to make this happen?
This year, I am very proud to be supporting the Ladies Mac Nab Challenge through my clothing label, Mistamina.
I took part last year and it is a fantastic way to promote the profile of women in the sport. I also love bringing friends out who have never shot before and showing them how accessible the sport is.
What barriers have you come up against?
I have witnessed some scepticism towards women shooting but once you get out there and put those who don’t agree that women should shoot down a peg or two, they change their tune pretty quickly. It’s a satisfying feeling. This is the modern day. We all have equal opportunities. Men work, women work, men hunt, why shouldn’t we?
When did you start shooting?
When we were little, my dad would take us out with a spotlight and a rifle and we would shoot rabbits out of the sun roof of the car. We would take some hot chocolate and sneak pockets full of sweets. We’d all pile into the car in a disorderly fashion. The four of us were always giggling together so the rabbits often heard us before we could fire the shot, but that was part of the entertainment.
I shot my first pheasant at nine. I remember it well. It was at a drive called North Bunkers at Alnwick (one of the highest drives in the country). The birds looked like little dots in the sky. It took a lot of shots to bring down my first bird but when it came down and I heard my family shouting, “Well done, Miss,” it felt amazing.
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What is your favourite type of shooting and why?
Grouse is my favourite type of shooting. It’s so exciting and sporting, whether you do it walked-up or driven. The speed and adrenaline you get when shooting grouse is second to none. I also shot my first wild quail in Georgia, USA, recently, which was an amazing experience. We were on horseback with English pointers working around us. Watching the dogs do their thing and then jumping off your horse to walk these quail up was incredible. The quail dart away so quickly that you have to concentrate immensely and be very fast.
Lady Melissa Percy ranks shooting as her favourite fieldsport
Why did you decide to launch your own clothing label, Mistamina?
I decided to start Mistamina because I believe there is a lack of fun, affordable yet still practical clothing out there for women. I struggled to find clothing that had style and suited my outdoor lifestyle and I was bored of having to buy either boys’ clothing or have things made. I launched Mistamina to provide a range of outdoor clothing for women only that is fresh, affordable and functional out in the field.
Is it important to focus on the younger generation?
It is important for the sport that the younger generation get involved in shooting, in order for the sport to carry on and thrive. My father and my mother both love shooting. My mum took it up because she thought if she wanted to spend any time with dad and enjoy herself at the same time then she should learn.
She booked herself in for shooting lessons in Sussex, where they both lived before I was born, and she is now the best women shot I know. My favourite weekends are at home shooting with my family. They are very special days.
What’s the greatest threat to our sport, if any?
The greatest threat to our sport is the misunderstanding of the those who assume that shooting is about bag sizes versus the conservation of the game, the habitat and the countryside.