Traditional country pursuits reimagined for the modern world
Whether you are new to shooting or a seasoned veteran on the peg, the off season is an important time to prepare for your first day, explains top game shooting instructor Simon Ward.
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Firstly, whether you have only used your gun a handful of times or shot almost every day this season and cleaned it thoroughly after every shoot day, you should have your gun sent away for a full strip and clean service with a professional gunsmith. They will be able to find and replace any damaged parts or mechanisms – firing pins, ejectors, leaf springs etc. – that are generally hidden to us, and will ensure that your gun is in full working order when you come to use it next and also extend its life. I would recommend that you have your gunfit checked by a professional too, as all the hard work on the training ground will be for nothing with an ill-fitting gun.
As for your performance, I’d advise you seek some advice from an instructor to help iron out or identify any faults developed in the season and any particular scenarios you have struggled with. Whatever your problem, big or small, it’s best to highlight how to fix them and make a training plan with your coach. It is likely that you will book one or two training sessions a month for an hour or two, working on the specific areas you have highlighted. In these sessions the focus will be placed on the intricate details of the shot or skill you are trying to learn with a very low volume of shooting.
In this phase of training you don’t have to stop going to the clay ground on your own or for a jolly with friends over a weekend, and if you do go, where possible try and put what you’re working on into the layouts that are applicable, rather than just going through the motions. By taking it seriously, one can derive benefits and speed up your progression. That said, many serious game Shots tend to avoid sporting targets as they can require different methods than that used on a driven shoot.
By June, and some half a dozen lessons plus a few independent visits to the shooting ground later, you should have grown confident with your improved techniques and be able to replicate the movement on your own. The next stage is to increase the volume of shooting so muscle memory is developed and the new method can be conducted instinctively. One of the best ways to do this is by shooting on simulated game days as they offer realistic driven shooting scenarios and lots of opportunities to shoot right across the line.
You may wish to have your instructor join you on one or two days so that your transition to more intensive shooting is a smooth one. It is important, however, that they don’t over coach you and allow you to self-analyse where you go wrong and attempt to rectify the issue yourself. This is so that you are able to do the same when on a game day when it is unlikely you will have anyone with you to tell you where you have gone wrong and continue to enjoy your day.
Indeed, it is important to be calm and show restraint on simulated days instead of firing at anything and everything, as this can soon undo progress with your technique. You should approach it with the same mindset as a live game day and focus on the ‘birds’ which your new technique applies to and make sure that every stage of your movement is spot on. Two additional benefits to this are that it helps you to pick your bird and offers you the chance of a second shot – both of which are important when shooting live quarry, which is not the ‘done’ thing on a sporting layout.
After a few controlled simulated days throughout the summer your confidence will hopefully have been lifted or restored and you will be ready for your first day on the peg. Again, you might decide it is a good idea to be joined by an instructor on your initial days who can see shot and assist you as and when necessary, giving you a good start to the season to build upon. It is amazing how people act differently on game vs clays when the adrenaline starts pumping and I’ve seen on numerous occasions people doing things they would never do on the clay ground. Having an instructor on the peg is becoming more popular, but it is vital that you check with the shoot host or estate whether this is acceptable in advance.
Traditional country persuits reimagined for the modern world
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