Gracing the Clay Ground…

It’s been a welcome change to have a few quiet evenings this week  after a mad busy May. Unfortunately, I haven’t got out shooting this weekend, which is such a shame, but I’m preparing for next weekend; The Shotgun & Chelsea Buns Club’s second National Ladies Shooting Day (NLSD). Not only will this be an incredibly busy day but will provide some serious opportunity for clay pigeon shooting! I am hosting at Oxfordshire Shooting School (which has sold out) and will be joined by one of NLSD’s headline sponsors – and favourite of the shooting industry – Dubarry of Ireland.

Last year saw over 1000 women out shooting at over 20 grounds in the UK, and this year it is proving just as popular!

dubarry boots
Dubarry Galway boots – a firm fave of the fieldsports industry!

NLSD is a personal highlight of mine as it is really encouraging to see  so women out giving the sport a try. Last year I hosted at West London Shooting School and out of the 50 ladies we catered for alone that day, about 80% were beginner or complete novices.

Speaking of encouraging ladies into the sport; a few weeks back, while catching up with a family friend of mine, he mentioned that his newest work team member, who had recently moved to London, was a big fan of fieldsports. Having been in the position of a newbie to London and unsure about how to get back into my fieldsports from the Big Smoke, we arranged to meet so I could tell her all about my membership of the UK’s largest ladies shooting club, The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club. We finally met for coffee on Wednesday and she seemed super keen to get out there so I suggested she comes along to NLSD next weekend. I reassured her there would be women of all ages and of a similar level to her on the day – as is the beauty of NLSD!

Trying anything new can be intimidating and with the anticipated huge numbers of beginner and novice women gracing the clay grounds next Saturday, I thought it might be helpful to set out some tips ahead of the big day.

What to Wear?

Firstly, you are attending a clay ground for some instruction and are not on a game day in the field, where there is formal dress/ etiquette, so quite frankly, wear what you want as long as it is comfortable and practical. You do not have to buy anything new for the day  as you can make do with what you have in your wardrobe. But, if you do want to invest in a few pieces, I would recommend Dubarry of Ireland – especially for field-worthy footwear – as your first port of call. I live in my Dubarry boots when I’m not in heels in the office, although I did wear my boots to work once! They go quite well with a suit…

Dubarry and Suit
Proof that Dubarry Galway boots go with EVERYTHING …and that my suit somehow matched the office carpet. Awkward.

So, assuming you will be relying on the existing contents of your wardrobe next weekend, here’s a few pointer when deciding what to wear:

  • Firstly, hearing and eye protection plus hats will be provided by the ground. However, feel free to bring your own sunnies and hat if you would prefer.
  • Steer clear of skirts and dresses – apart from being impractical, if there happens to be a gust of wind when you try to shoot, it could be a bit embarrassing all round. In fact, its best to steer clear of shorts as well for the time being. Stick to jeans, trousers, jeggings…whatever is comfortable and covers your legs.
  • Layer up! If it gets hot you can remove layers, but if it is a bit chilly on some of the stands (most of the grounds have areas which are predominantly in the shade/ under cover) you will be grateful for that extra layer. Layering will also provide some extra padding between you and the stock of the gun.
  • Check the weather next weekend, if there’s even the slightest chance of rain – remember your waterproof. There is nothing more miserable (even in summer) than being soaked through!
  • this girl canWith tops/ jumpers, again, there is no strict rule but steer clear of any embellishments round the neck or near your shoulders. Also, if you are wearing a shirt, be mindful of any pockets on your chest which may have buttons. Both of these can prove a bit uncomfortable if they are in the way of your gun mount.
  • Similarly, don’t wear any long or dangly earrings – these can be a bit irritating when you try to rest your face on the stock. I shoot in studs and find these do not interfere, but it is personal preference.
  • With regard to footwear, again pretty much anything is acceptable so long as they are flat and closed toe (so no flip flops or sandals); trainer, converse, flat boots are all fine to shoot in.

What happens on the day?

So you are now ready and dressed, but what can you expect from the day? On arriving at your ground go and find your hostess and let her know you have arrived. All the ladies who are hosting are amazing girls and Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club members, so don’t feel embarrassed or intimidated. We all had to start somewhere and be the new girl at one point too! Once you are all present and ready to go, your hostess will let you know your groups and you will head out with your instructor. You will be grouped with other ladies of similar ability.

Your instructor will ask you for your prior experience. Please don’t worry if you are a complete and utter newbie. I can guarantee you that there will be more than one lady at the ground with you who is also taking her first steps in the sport. Your instructors will help you with eye dominance (how best to look at the clay in order for you to shoot it accurately), show you how to stand and make sure you mount your gun correctly. There’s a lot to take in on your first shoot so just try and enjoy it. You will have full instruction to get you dusting clays in no time! Remember, gun hire and cartridges will be provided by each ground.

tea and rossettes

After shooting, you will all return to your hostess for tea, cake and the awards! There are rosettes for the best shot in each category, the best baked cake and – as its NLSD – there are a few special additional prizes to be dished out!

There is one thing I hear more often than not from women who have not shot before; ‘will the gun bruise my shoulder’? The answer is bruising can happen but if you mount your gun properly, lock it in with your arm and face and trust the gun – you will be fine. Most bruising is caused by lifting your face away from the stock when you pull the trigger as the gun is no longer locked in place and so can move (or recoil) more when you pull the trigger. Your instructor will make sure your gun is correctly mounted before the clay is even released and you can fire, so please don’t worry about any bruising!

Check out the official This Girl Can video on YouTube showcasing last years NLSD.



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