Try out driven game shooting
- Credit: REBECCA GREEN
Finding a way into driven game shooting can be a daunting and difficult prospect for newcomers, but Prescott Shooting School in Cheltenham has a solution: an Introductory Driven Game Shooting weekend. Rebecca reports…
It’s easy enough to take up clay shooting – you just head over to your nearest clay ground and have a lesson. No experience necessary, no gun of your own needed and you’ve got an instructor there who can keep you safe and teach you the ropes. But unless you know the right people or live in the right place, getting into game shooting can be a lot harder – and there’s a lot more to get your head around. For a total novice – someone who hasn’t, say, been beating or picking up on a shoot before and who really has no idea what to expect from a driven day – the whole prospect can be very daunting.
Prescott Shooting has designed a two-day package to help overcome all these obstacles and get more newcomers into game shooting. I went along to one of the introductory weekends last year to find out how they work…
Day one is spent at Prescott Shooting School in Cheltenham. There’s a warm welcome from owner Daniel Prescott and his team as the weekend’s participants arrive from far and wide (one couple have come over from Jersey) and bacon rolls and hot coffee are at the ready. We are all given name badges (which I find really helpful at this sort of event) followed by an introductory talk from Daniel.
The group is split into teams and each team allocated an instructor, who helps us get our kit together. As we mill about there is a chance to get to know the group. One young couple from London, Donna and Steven, have inherited a couple of guns and want to put them to good use. Steven has also been inspired to take up shooting by his father, once a keen competition shooter. No pressure then! Another couple are retired and from Jersey. As a long-suffering shooting ‘widow’ she has decided it’s time to give it a go herself. There’s also an experienced clay shooter who has decided he wants to have a go at game, and others who have no shooting experience whatsoever but who have found themselves living in areas where shooting is all around them and want to take it up. The beauty of this format is that it works whether you can shoot or not – as we were about to find out on the clays.
Those who had shot could use the morning’s clay tuition as a warm-up; those who hadn’t could get the basics sorted. Regardless, our instructor ran through gun fit, safety, gun handling and shooting technique, talked about what to expect the following day and explained the etiquette of game shooting. Of course, this information isn’t all imparted in one great whack – we talk and ask questions throughout the day: “How can you tell a cock bird from a hen?” or “When will I know which bird to shoot at?” By the end of the day, if anyone is still unsure of anything, there’s time to ask. The aim is for everyone to feel relaxed and confident when they arrive at the shoot the next day.
But back to the shooting school… After a morning’s tuition and lunch at the clubhouse it’s time for a team flush and a chance to get a feel for the ‘real thing’. It’s exhilarating stuff and good fun – a nice touch to the day and one that puts everyone at ease. We are also given gun cleaning lessons and a talk by the gamekeeper at the estate where we will be shooting tomorrow (in our case, Forthampton Estate). There is also a gundog display from Matt and his picking-up team. By the end of the day the group is really starting to bond and we leave full of anticipation for the day ahead.
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Prescott is in the fortunate position of having the use of several good shoots in the Gloucestershire area – it’s not every day that a shoot will turn itself over to a bunch of novices ‘in training’ for a real shoot day. Today we are at the formidable Forthampton Estate, set in 4,000 acres of stunning Gloucestershire countryside. It’s a shoot renowned for its fast, curling partridge and screaming, tall pheasants… let’s just hope we can do it justice!
The first thing to say about the shoot day is that essentially it is run as per a ‘normal’ shoot day. There is a safety briefing (over bacon rolls), then we all load up and head out, ready for the first drive. The main difference is that we are split into three teams, which will rotate between shooting, beating and picking-up over the course of six drives. And every Gun on the shooting line has an instructor with them. Other than that, the keeper runs the day as normal, with the usual break for elevenses out in the field.
Looking around as we all load into our respective vehicles, I’m struck by how well we’ve all scrubbed up! Traditional shoot attire is a requirement of the day, but as any experienced game shooter knows, that ranges from basic breeks and a wax jacket to full tweeds and leather, so there really is an entry level for everyone.
Understandably, there are a few nerves amongst the first-timers, but once the drive begins and they realise their instructor isn’t going to let them do anything wrong or stupid and, more importantly, that we are all in the same boat, everyone relaxes and it’s not long before a few ‘firsts’ are in the bag – giving plenty to smile about at the end of the drive.
Those who were shooting then move on to join either the beating or picking-up team. This is a great idea, because it’s important to understand all aspects of a shoot day – even if you only ever want to be a Gun – not least from a safety perspective. The fact is, on most shoots, the beating and picking-up is great fun. If I’m honest, this was one area where I felt that more explanation could have been given. Those joining the beating and picking-up teams were rather left in the dark at times as to what they were doing and why. However, this is a minor point and one that can easily be addressed.
Daniel’s aim is that no one should go home without having had a bird and the instructors do everything they can to help you achieve that. Part of Daniel’s job, like any host on a shoot day, is to keep an eye on who’s been ‘in’ the shooting and who’s been ‘out’ of it, and to rectify that where possible. He did this well and by the end of the six drives everybody had shot something – and many had added a healthy share to the bag!
Everyone I spoke to said they thought the whole weekend was great: a good idea, well executed and lots of fun. Some were already planning their next shooting trip, and a few said they’d even come along to the same weekend again. The bonus of doing this with Prescott is that there are opportunities for the really keen to join roving syndicates and get into game shooting properly if they desire.
Driven game isn’t the cheapest way to get into shooting, but it’s all some people are interested in doing. If that’s the case for anyone reading this, you really can’t go wrong with Prescott’s all inclusive two-day package.
TRY IT FOR YOURSELF
The next Introductory Driven Game Shooting weekend takes place on Friday 4 and Saturday 5 October (with the game shoot at Cold Aston Shoot). The weekend costs £799 all inclusive.
If you or someone you know wants to take part in this, or any other events like this, contact Dan at Prescott Shooting on 01242 673542 or 07921 951477. Email: email@example.com or visit www.prescottshooting.com