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First Time on the Clays? My Clay Pigeon Shooting Journey

Yep, that's me in the photo, about 15 years ago. My first ever visit to the Sporting Targets Shooting Ground to try my hand at clay shooting as a birthday gift. Bad clothes, bad hair, bad form, bad shooting. So, was there actually anything good about this day?? The answer to that of course, is YES - because this was the day that Shooting Girl With An Afro was born!

I've always been a competitive person, a perfectionist and one of the lads. As a teenager I was a tom boy; I played football, basketball, was in the top 3 on the athletics track and I wore the baggiest clothes you ever did see. At college I was a professional dancer who wore the tiniest leotards and tightest catsuits (and had the tightest abs!) But outside of college, I was a wannabe skater girl who wore hoodies and combats. The common theme remained through all of this - I was a determined perfectionist who wanted to be (and usually ended up being) good at anything I tried.

Well, along came shooting and I realised I had found something that I definitely was not good at! I was instantly humbled and frustrated at the same time, but I loved the challenge it presented me with, and the ability to 'compete' against myself. The tom boy in me loved 'playing with guns', and the athlete in me wanted to improve my shots, my skill, and my results. Now, I continually try to improve my technique to respect the quarry that I shoot, and to enable me to help others in the sport safely; rather than trying to improve my personal best score.

Picture - pheasant shoot in Lancashire, enjoying the banter. I'm usually the only lady gun (not much that's lady-like about me though!)

Back then I was using a borrowed gun; a Beretta silver pigeon if I remember rightly. It was a 12 bore, which I am glad that I used, as I have continued with 12 bore to this day without having to chop and change guns, moving up the bores. I currently use a Yildiz as my over and under; it's affordable, it's as good a fit as I will get being a slim built woman without getting a bespoke stock made for me, and I'm proud because it was the first gun I ever owned.

I had no idea what I was doing on each stand, but I soon picked up. I learned that there's some kind of etiquette when waiting for someone to finish on the stand you want to shoot. I learned that I needed to press the clay button to see what the clay did first, rather than just looking at pictures or relying on wording that I didn't understand (wtf does 'quartering' mean anyway??) And I also learned that shooting 80 - 100 cartridges in 2 hours really, really hurts your shoulder - especially if you're a skinny bean like I am and don't mount the gun properly! Although, no amount of correct gun mount will help if the gun isn't fitted to your body - the bane of most women's life - sorry girls, but that's a topic for another day...

shooting girl with an afro - clay pigeon shooting at ej churchills shooting ground high wycombe - e j churchills ladies clay shooting day

Today I am a little better on the clays but still not at competing level - I'll leave that to the experts. But I still enjoy it as much as I did that very first time. The most important thing that I have learned from my experience on the clays over the years is that;

1) I constantly pick up bad habits in the field so it's good to get on the clays to rectify them

2) it helps me with psychological blocks when it comes to certain behaviours of birds in the field (for instance I struggled with hitting birds flying away until I focused on these on the clays)

3) you CAN teach an old dog new tricks (I hit the rabbit clay for the first time in EVER at the E J Churchill Ladies morning in May this year!)

4) a private lesson is how I learn/retain information the best

5) no matter what I hit or don't hit, it's really, really good fun!

We all have to start somewhere in our shooting journey. If you start on the clays you'll set yourself up well for having a good foundation of your form/posture, and understanding gun safety and cartridges etc. But your first journey out into the field is going to be a whole new ball game - get ready and enjoy!


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I hope you're enjoying reading my blog! I'm not an expert, I only wish to share my personal experiences, of someone who did not grow up in the countryside nor enter the hunting world in the traditional way.

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