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Simulated Game day with the WCSS

One afternoon in September last year, Grant Hussey, an instructor at the Barbury shooting school decided, possibly in a moment of madness, to try and assemble a team of Clumber owners to do a simulated clay day; that is basically a day where a group of guns shoot at clays flying as if they were driven game. Grant scoured the country for the finest shots available but sadly couldn’t find many and so was good enough to invite me along instead. And so it was that on Saturday May 11th 2019, sixteen very excited shots met early at the Queen’s Arms pub in the beautiful Berkshire village of East Graston. Having all partaken of a bacon sandwich, a cup of coffee and asked Grant the same questions about a dozen times he sensibly handed us over to the head “keeper” Josh, who was to run the day. There was a general briefing with helpful safety tips, such as “don’t shoot one another”, “wear safety glasses and hats” and “no, really, don’t shoot one another” as well as a run down of the day we piled various shotguns, several thousand cartridges, assorted hangers-on and the ‘elite’ team into vehicles and set off for the first drive.

At each of the five drives the gun line worked in pairs, with one person shooting and the other loading. Halfway through Josh blew a whistle and the roles reversed, so that each person got to shoot at a similar number of targets…..and what targets they were. Clays whizzed high overhead, to the side, and skimming the horizon with every person in the line getting a roughly equal number of chances…and of course an equal number of chances to steal a ‘bird’ off their neighbour. In total, over all the drives and the short competition drive, there were something like 6,500 clays to go at, so the work was fast and furious with hot barrels and bruised shoulders for the unwary. Personally, I got through a box of 250 before lunch, with 2 drives to go, and I wasn’t alone. Fortunately, we had been well briefed and only one person (they know who they are) ran out on a drive before being hurriedly re-loaded by a friendly neighbour.

There was a good deal of camaraderie between pairs and in the team as a whole, despite many of us not knowing one another before the day started, and it was lovely to spend time out in the countryside, having fun, meeting new people and doing it all whilst bathed in glorious late-spring sunshine. As anyone who shootings during the game season knows, there’s nothing quite like trying to spot a bird and do something about it when you hands have gone numb, your feet are frozen and the rain or snow is pelting down, so it was a refreshing change to be in short-sleeve order with sunglasses on and having immense fun….not to mention there being no fear of a huge overage bill should anyone get carried away.

Of course, the day was officially a meet up for WCSS members, but without game birds we had few dogs with us on the drives themselves. Had it been a game day I fear there would have been a lot of runners behind me, but I had great fun blasting away and, pleasingly, getting my neighbour’s birds at least as often as they got mine. By 4pm the day was over, and the team relaxed in the warm after-glow of a day spent outdoors over a few swift pints back at the Queen’s Arms; at some point Grant rather foolishly offered to organise

it again next year and I can’t wait to return

By William Carver

Images kindly provided by Daisy May

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