As you know, here at Landed Houses, we throw ourselves whole-heartedly into country sports. Which is why, on a chilly Saturday in March, the team decided to send Carlie to learn to shoot. And, apparently, eat a lot of cake…
When I was first told I was off to learn how to wield a shotgun, I was immediately horrified. It wasn’t so much the thought of shooting that scared me, it was the people, and doing it on my own. What if I said the wrong thing? Or laughed at an inappropriate moment?
Well, I was a muppet for worrying – I couldn’t have had a nicer day, or better introduction to shooting.
The whole thing was arranged by Victoria Lacks (possibly the most glamorous of Lady Guns), of Ladies-Shooting.com, as part of her club, the girls only ‘Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club’. The idea is that ladies from all over the UK meet up for a chatter, shoot in a friendly competition, then eat cake and chatter a little more.
Before it all started, I was sent an email that explained the form of the day, what to expect (and wear!), and how to get to the venue – The Oxfordshire Shooting School.
When I arrived at 10:45, I was met outside the shooting lodge by a very handsome chap with a lovely smile, who immediately unburdened me of my banana cake, and brought me into the lodge to introduce me to a few ladies, and pour me a cup of tea. So nice!
I didn’t have a moment to stand feeling like a spare part – within seconds I was sipping tea and giggling with a couple of girls who’d also never shot.
Once everyone had arrived, we were grouped into six or so, according to ability, then assigned an instructor. Safety gear was then doled out (glasses, caps and ear-plugs), and then we were off to the first stand. My group (all beginners), got Clive, who was great – not at all patronising – you felt you could ask him the silliest of questions. The first thing we did was to find out which of our eyes were dominant, by holding our arms out like superwomen. Clive then told us a bit about our gun (20 bore), a bit of safety, and then it was time to shoot.
I was second of the group, and as I stepped forward to take the gun, nerves made me as stiff as a doll. The gun was heavier than I expected, and it felt odd to arrange my body around it. You have to really squish it tight to your shoulder to limit recoil, and hold your cheek down hard against the stock. Clive loosed a clay for me to track without firing, but then it was time:
Two-three, just ahead, Fire!
Yowzas. It didn’t feel at all how I expected – it felt much more lethal, loud and powerful than I imagined it would. Not at all like shooting an air-rifle as a child!
By the third clay, I had relaxed and had my eye in, and by the fourth, I was hooked. After the six of us had shot, we moved on to a different stand (there are 8 in total), which all simulate different sorts of flight. The trickiest for me proved to be the rabbit, which shot out along the ground. Despite ‘the rabbit’ being bright orange, I still couldn’t hit the damn thing.
A few hours later, we were done, and more than ready for tea and cake back at the lodge. We had a good photograph of our gang – all by now firm friends – then we got stuck into pots of tea and amazing home-made cakes served on vintage china.
By the time prizes for the best scores had been given out, we had all made plans to return and shoot again – a lady in my gang was going to ask her husband for a 20 bore for her birthday…although her daughter looked a little worried.
The next Shot Gun and Chelsea Bun Club day at Oxfordshire Shooting Ground is on Saturday 5th May. You can bet your best Dubarry’s – I’ll be there!