Shooting is a wonderful sport, particularly if you're a fan of the great outdoors. But beware, it can cause adrenalin rushes, fresh air addiction and lifelong friendships, writes Sam Proctor
There are many misconceptions surrounding country sports, and shooting often suffers from them. A regular assumption made is that for beginners, it is difficult to be accepted by those involved, expensive to start, and inaccessible to the majority. As is often the way with assumptions, this is oh so wrong.
I’m not going to tell you that getting into shooting is cheap, only that I don’t believe that it is much more expensive than all the other ‘specialist’ sports. What you’ll pay for a professional golf instructor, all the necessary clubs and your membership fee will be very like what you spend as an avid clay shot. But just as you can head to your local driving range and be taught the basics without the need for a large initial investment, you will find clay grounds are hidden all around you and offering fantastic beginner packages.
The shooting buzz
Clayshooting is the perfect way to realise why many let shooting take over their lives. Yes, the first few clays may seem impossibly fast, small and dastardly – defying all your attempts to bring them out of the sky. But, that rush of satisfaction when one turns to dust is incomparable. Very soon you’ll be addicted and you’ll be asking for higher, smaller and seemingly impossible clays to push yourself. With each booming retort of the gun, spent cartridges zipping over your shoulder and the acrid wisps of cordite at your nostrils, you’ll only wonder why you didn’t have a go sooner. I doubt that poking a few balls down the fairway after hacking divots out of the grass all morning sounds quite as fun…
Choosing where to shoot
Wherever you are in the country, you will not be more than 45 minutes from a clay ground – and most will be much closer than that. You’ll find some premium clayshooting grounds here, but smaller, less famous grounds found online can offer a similar experience for less money. Soon you will be touring your county or even further afield to discover new and exciting grounds.
Understand the jargon heard on the clay shooting ground with Mark Russell's tips for shooting beginners
New to clayshooting? This is what English Sporting, English Skeet and Trap shooting involve
Clay pigeon shooting: I am 14 years old and have just got hooked on clay pigeon shooting. As a present…
Clayshooting beginner’s checklist
- Choose your local ground; the cost will reflect the facilities. If they’re offering a glamorous clubhouse and acres upon acres of shooting the price will shoot up.
- Book a beginner’s lesson! I cannot stress how important this is. Learning the basics of safety and technique are vital to dusting that first target.
- Prices for a one-on-one lesson for an hour’s shooting will range from £40 to £60 (but many grounds offer discounts for a shared lesson).
- Don’t worry about kit or clothing – everything you need including the gun and cartridges are part of the lesson cost. A sensible pair of shoes are advisable and keep an eye on the weather to decide on how many layers to wear.
- After a couple of lessons, head for a few clays without an instructor – to test your new skills and help keep the cost down.
- If you start missing, don’t worry! Remember what type of clays are getting the better of you, book another lesson and tell the instructor about your new nemesis. Even the pros have an off day.
- Before long, you’ll be signing up to local competitions or maybe looking to get your first gun, but that’s another story …
Writing this has made me envious of anyone discovering the gloriously exhilarating pastime of clayshooting for the first time. In my humble opinion, there’s no better way for anyone, young or old, to spend an afternoon. Get out outside, grab a gun and blast some clays from the country’s skies!