As I mentioned last week, my efforts recently have been focussed on the biggest event in the lady gun calendar – The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club’s National Ladies Shooting Day 2016 (“NLSD”). I spend a lot of my time, both at work or to friends in the City, harping on about my shooting adventures and so I love this time of year when I can encourage my girl friends to get out there with me!
This year, I was hosting at Oxfordshire Shooting School. I hadn’t actually been back to the ground since the Dubarry’s ladies day last summer, and have to say I was stunned at the transformation of the club house – professional yet welcoming. It has really upped its game! I do recommend this ground to anyone within the area. The range of targets is excellent and there’s something for all abilities, the ground itself is not so sprawling that you feel you have to walk lengthy distances between stands and it has a very relaxed – ‘lets just shoot and enjoy ourselves’ atmosphere. Rachel, who has taken over the managing of the ground, is so helpful and just wants to make sure that her customers are looked after and have a cracking morning/afternoon’s shooting. The instructors were also fantastic on Saturday. I think NLSD can prove a bit more difficult to cater for and instruct because you do end up with a much wider range of abilities and experience.
In fact, I’d just like to say a big thank you to all the instructors involved on the day across all the grounds – not just at Oxfordshire Shooting School. It is the instructors who really make the difference between a good day and an excellent day. They also seem to get how important it is to see new and keen people out in the clay grounds, learning about this sport.
I should probably come clean and say that I don’t actually host at The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club events that often because, quite frankly, I love shooting and would rather be out there smashing clays than organising the day. However, the one day that I am more than happy to host – and bake – is for NLSD. So what makes NLSD different? Surely with the rise of the ladies only shooting groups and days across the UK, one day really can’t make that much of a difference?
Firstly, there is the buy-in from some big names in the industry. Most of the major shooting schools and grounds across the country host successful events. There are also some major sponsors who donate impressive gifts – this year we had a shotgun from Browning and a £1000 voucher from Dubarry, not to mention generous prize donations from Alan Paine, Fur Feather & Fin, Hull Cartridge and HiHo Silver.
NLSD opens the doors far wider than any club, group or event could do for the shooting community. By creating a ‘National Day’, there is a different atmosphere which seems to encourage newcomers, because they are part of something big and have a ready-made collegiate by being part of, what I understand to be, the largest ladies only event of its kind in the world. This actually encourages more people to take notice of the sport but creating an ‘excuse’ to give clay pigeon shooting a try. It makes the sport more mainstream; people who may not come from a shooting background or have any connection with the industry can take part in the day just for fun. I saw this in particular last year when hosting at West London Shooting School, City dwellers are usually quite surprised to learn that there is a shooting school pretty much accessible by tube!
As a hostess, it is always interesting to hear what has motivated the ladies to come along to NLSD. Sometimes it’s a simple as seeing the day advertised at their local ground or on social media, but for some, the day has a much stronger impact. At my ground we had two ladies attend who work in the game-keeping and fieldsports industry. Both were keen Beaters and regulars at their local shoots in the game season. Historically, they had received their rightful invites to Beaters days and had – until now – handed those days over to their husbands as they did not have the confidence to stand on the line and grace the field. However, their confidence has grown and last season they owned their rightful peg. One of the ladies even showed the rest of the guns ‘how it was done’, with (according to both accounts) some pretty impressive shooting and retrieving!
As with any industry or sporting diversification, women do tend to be the first change. The industry has grown exponentially over the last few years, something that I am sure has been impacted by the rise of the lady shot. However, opening the industry’s doors to more and more lady guns is just the start. To ensure our industry, passions and community continues to grow and survive, we need to be building on all areas of diversity and making our sport as accessible as possible to people of all ages, sex, race and background. This includes our young shots.
There are some individuals who are already doing just this. In particular, BASC, including Duncan Thomas, and also Rob Collins, make incredible efforts with youngsters and look at passing down all the knowledge and passion for being out in the field as well as supporting young shots. This encourages newcomers from a young age and protects the respect for the industry. It is BASC, Duncan, Rob and Victoria Knowles-Lacks (owner of The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club) investing the time in promoting and encouraging others that we see a real difference in our community. And that’s why for one day a year, I am happy to leave my shotgun in the cabinet and play my small part…
If we continue to build on this trajectory of inclusiveness and encouragement for anyone who is showing an interest in learning more about shooting – or the industry as a whole – we will continue to educate the masses and secure the future of our industry.