Those of you who follow my recently launched Twitter account (@iacluk) may have seen my recent tweets ahead of my first game shoot last Saturday. I really didn't know what to expect, especially being the only girl on the shoot. The feelings were a mixture of excitement and nerves.
I was lucky enough to have been invited by my other half to join him on his Uncle's shoot on their stunning and idyllic Sussex farm. Having grown up in the countryside, and with farmers as friends and neighbors it was difficult not to hear about game shooting, however that is really as far as my knowledge of the sport went.
P.S - this isn't the outfit! Don't worry I didn't wear white jeans haha.
Thanks to fellow blogger Harriet the girl behind agirlaboutcountry.com and her recent post Shot to Pot, this allowed me to get ahead of the game a little; with what to expect, ideas on what to wear etc. She saved me from going in totally blind!!
I'm not going to bore you with the facts, as a lot of you I am sure have more experience than I do in this area.
A day's game shooting is often viewed as an upper class elitist sport, which I can empathize with to a degree. We were discussing membership prices, and I have to say I was gobsmacked at first, James near enough had to pick my jaw up off the floor.
However it wasn't until he explained it to me a little bit further from their point of view that my reaction changed from shock to agreement.
The cost of maintaining and feeding the birds throughout the year by far out ways the membership costs to be a gun.
We rolled ourselves out of bed at 6 (actually he was so excited, he pretty much jumped out!).
Lots of layers and armed in tweed with a flask of coffee made, off to the farm we went.
I think I got the best of both worlds, not only attending the shoot, but being part of it - behind the scenes so to speak.
The early morning consisted of ensuring any escapees were pushed back into the woods.
After a quick drive back to the yard leaving the other half in the field to let the horse out and give him breakfast, it was time for the members and their dogs, beaters and guests to arrive at the designated meeting point outside the farmhouse.
It was a welcome site of pick ups, Defenders and Range Rovers parked up with gun dogs and men in tweed catching up on life's events since their previous meeting.
The first drive:
We were split into two groups, I stuck with James (quite frankly because I didn't have a clue what I was doing!), he was shooting first - of course. As the other team set off to flush out the game for the first team of guns I was handed a dog, who became my companion for the day, 13 year old retriever Ben.
He may have been a little bit passed it, but he still worked the birds, albeit with selective hearing!
As James took his position, the nerves came over me. I was quite aware I was standing there like a little bit of a lemon with old Ben.
As the beaters began to wade through the birds started to fly up and the shots started to echo through the woods.
I watched the birds drop from the sky, and I was unsure.
In the same breath, I was enjoying myself, watching James aim, and fire. It all seemed so effortless.
After a while the whistle blew and the drive was over, dogs and pickers up began retrieving the fallen game.
The second drive:
The first team of guns, now swapped over to flush the birds through the next section of woodland for the second team, giving them a turn to shoot. The beating term finally made sense!
Admittedly my least favorite part - I think partly down to my attire. I opted for some olive green skinny jeans which offered little to no protection from the brambles and nettles.
(*Not to self for next time - bring a bag and bring some over trousers! My legs are an array of pinks and reds, with scratches and pin pricks dotted all over.)
It didn't cross my mind that I was massacring my legs, I was too engrossed in the countryside and woodland around me to notice - it wasn't until after that me and James compared, it is safe to say; I WON!
This is how the rest of the day went really, we alternated between shooting and beating, this was because the shoot is relatively small. Everyone knows everyone and many of the guns have been members for years!
I was so nervous to go, partly because of this, I didn't know how they would receive a new face, especially being a girl. However everyone (with the exception of one, the feeling was mutual), was so welcoming and supportive.
Of course there was the typical banter, but I am used to this, so I loved being able to give it back.
By the end of the season they won't know the difference!
After a delicious homemade lasagne and coffee to warm us up and refuel for the afternoon we headed back out into the crisp Autumn air.
The afternoon followed a very similar format with alternating roles. We moved over to another woods on the farm for the remainder of the day, this side is known to be busier, and it really was! The majority of the game came from here, James and I didn't know where to look on our last peg they were coming from every which way.
We had a good system going by now; he would load, I would get two cartridges ready, he would shoot, reload, and so we went on. Perfect team work if I do say so myself.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that I shot my first 12 bore, whilst I didn't have a go this time around as didn't feel confident enough to shoot a moving target surrounded by other guns.
I (luckily) have the rest of the season and ample space to practice!
The farm even has it's own clay trap! That is if I actually get any shooting done with an instructor like mine - distraction is likely!
Well I am definetly planning to get some practice in before the next shoot, in a fortnight.
It is my 21st in January and I am thinking of looking into getting my licence. Whilst I am looking at joining The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club there is a local shooting club to me: Southdown Gun Club which offer ladies instruction, I am interested in seeing if we can promote the sport and it's social benefits further down this way. The fabulous communities of the Femmes Fatales and The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club look amazing, they are just so far away for us Southerners!
Subscribe to my blog to follow my experiences throughout the season, there are sure to many!
Thanks so much for reading.