The True Reality

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It’s been a few weeks since I last posted and, as I write this, I am enjoying my first holiday in months with the rest of the Sadler clan in North Wales. I absolutely love being in Abersoch. We’ve been having family vacations here (and have even lived down here for extended periods) for my entire life so it has become something of a safe haven where we all completely unwind and relax. It also has a pretty epic shooting school which will be featuring in a future blog…

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Taking some (well deserved but overdue) time out with my boy in North Wales

I have really been looking forward to a break and taking some time out. My work weeks are
usually very demanding and then I tend to head on out to the countryside every Friday evening. Being so busy, doing lots of driving and constantly being on the go can really take its toll, so I was excited to know that I was in for some serious down time with the most important daily decision being ‘which beach to walk the dogs on’! Before I hit holiday mode, I had two big shoots – a sim day at
Six Mile Bottom in Cambridgeshire and The Fieldsports Champion of Champions Shoot at Grimsthorpe Shooting.

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Six Mile Bottom sim day is a ‘must’ for anyone in the South/Midlands who wants to get their eye in ahead of the season. Guns meet at The Green Man Pub for breakfast, so I turned up nice and early ready for a top day of shooting but also catching up with some of the girls. I make sure to get a day’s shooting at Six Mile every season as I think the hospitality is excellent, the targets varied and challenging but the most impressive aspect is the stunning scenery!

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Ali absolutely acing the driven targets

With breakfast and the safety briefing wrapped up, it was time to head off to the first drive – I was so excited to put some lead in the air. All the guns were paired up, but each shooting a full drive, and I was lucky to be paired with the lovely Ali Henton from The Field magazine. It was the first time we had shot together and I really wanted to make a good impression but – and rather embarrassingly – Sod’s Law prevailed and I was absolutely rubbish. I was of course safe with every shot I attempted, but I just couldn’t get my eye in! I love a Sim day – more so than going to a clay ground – but I was not enjoying my poor efforts. At one point, we had some cracking driven targets, which are my favourite, but I was missing them! I was mortified. To make matters worse, Ali told me she wasn’t a huge fan of a driven targets but that morning was absolutely smashing them! I was actually grateful for the horn to go at the end of the first drive and I joked that I was shooting on behalf of the Clay Preservation Society…

This pattern continued for most of the morning although post-elevenses, with sugars and salts replenished, on the fourth drive my eye returned. I must have gone through a good 100 cartridges on this drive alone and loved every second of it. Unfortunately, I hadn’t put one of my ears in properly and, being in such close proximity to the other guns on the platform, I could feel my ear ringing. Excellent.

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Team Picture (provided by Six Mile Bottom for every gun)

By the time we reached the final drive, I was looking forward to getting back on the driven clays. I remembered this drive from previous visits and loved the high soaring driven targets flying out from the forest. I started shooting and felt I was back on form. It was getting very hot and so I took my baseball cap off and threw it to the floor. Within seconds I’d had an almighty hit to the head, which knocked me for six, and cut my head open. Great. I know that if I had kept my hat on there may not have been such a cut but it would have offered little protection from the wallop! Thankfully it was shortly time to call it a day, which was lucky considering (and I didn’t know this at the time) the whack to the head would give me concussion…

In an age of Instagram filters, Facebook check-ins and witty Tweets, is easy to think that everyone is out there winning at life but, and this is the reason I have written this particular Blog, sometimes things do go wrong! We all have off days. You have to just draw a line, call it a day and don’t let it impact your confidence or future shooting ability. Even if you have been shooting all of your life, there will be days when you forget a piece of kit or just aren’t on form. Forget about it and move on. Some days things go wrong regardless of how well organised or experienced you are. Some days you seem to struggle getting your eye in or your favourite target has turned into your nemesis. Everything that could go wrong at Six Mile Bottom had gone wrong. I’d even forgotten to put my ears in properly – something I’m incredibly pedantic about. Shooting is a mental sport and when you have over exerted yourself whether through work demands, a long drive or too little sleep you can really notice this on your concentration. So I decided to take my own advice and to draw a line, move on and try and look forward to the weekend’s  Fieldsports Champion of Champions competition.

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If nothing else, I turned up to Grimsthorpe hoping for a good catch up and laugh with some of my favourite ladies in Bun Club. FYI Cheryl I’ve “borrowed” this picture from you…

I was nervous about turning up to Grimsthorpe, the location of the Fieldsports Champion of Champions event. This event saw the winners from each category (Beginner, intermediate and Experienced) from National Ladies Shooting Day 2016 come together to compete in order to find the Champion of Champions. I had been invited as a guest by Fieldsports Magazine and The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club, having hosted National Ladies Shooting Day at Oxfordshire Shooting School back in June. The invite was also extended to the other hostesses of National Ladies’ events so, even though I still felt a bit embarrassed at my poor form the week before, and did try and back out mid-week, in the end I told myself to go and treat it like a great social event if nothing else. It’s about how you come back from those off days and how you channel the nerves that matters.

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Grimsthorpe is a stunning ground with some great targets. I love a challenge and the high far looper was a personal favourite. Most of the ladies there had never shot in a competition style environment before and the nerves were visible. My first competition style shooting was at The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club’s third anniversary competition at  Lady’s Wood Shooting School.  I only did it because Gabs Whorwood (my shooting ‘bestie’) convinced me it was a great idea. I was so nervous in the car over there that I was toying with the idea of helping score and not shooting at all. When Gabs and I had to have a shoot off for first and second place in our category I remember being so nervous I sweated all over the stock of the shotgun we were sharing!

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The Lovely Danielle Brown who always brings her ‘A Game’.

What I have realised is that shooting is predominantly about bringing your mental ‘A Game’. It can make such a difference to your performance if you are mentally in the zone but can stay there. I am queen for pulling myself out of the zone – sometimes I am put off by how many people are watching or, when I have shot a pair and have to repeat my performance, I’ll think to myself ‘you can do this’ – knowing full well that this will only have the reverse effect. This is something I spoke to Duncan (my coach at Lady’s Wood Shooting School) about before I shot the English Open back in May, and his advice was that the moment I think of something  which pulls me out of ‘the zone’, to take a second, (safely) lower my gun and take a big deep calming breath. This physically relaxes the shoulders and neck and gives me chance to focus on something else – which is usually my dog Archie. Then raise your gun and start again.

I am not an experienced competitve shot nor am I saying that I am out winning competitions all the time, but I thought it might be useful to set out how I combat any nerves or how I stop piling on the pressure when I feel I have performed badly:

  1. Just try and just enjoy yourself. Easier said than done and I know we all want to do well, but competitions can be nerve wracking enough without piling the pressure on yourself to hit everything. If you have had a bad day, take your next shooting opportunity as ‘one for fun’ as a confidence builder.
  2. In your first competitions, have an achieveable score to aim for and be pleased if you hit it. If you have a coach or instructor you see regularly, ask them for their predictions of scores. I aim for 50% and anything above that I am delighted with.
  3. Don’t shy away from shooting in front of other people! It doesn’t get easier the less you do, so desensitise yourself by getting out there as much as possible. Ladies shooting is brilliant for a confidence build, but so many ladies get super nervous the moment a man is in the vicinity. Get down to your local ground and just have fun or partake in any competitions they might have so you can get use to the formality and the competition day nerves.
  4. Find your shooting bestie! Buddying up can keep you calm during competitions but can also help pick you up when you are having an off day. I wouldn’t have participated in any shooting competitions if it wasn’t for Gabs and when I am beating myself up about a particular stand or an off day, she is the first to remind me of my ability.  We work well together and understand each others approach to shooting.
  5. Try and either make a note of (or jot it in your phone) of any targets you are struggling with- whether in a competition or just on your off day. Take these to your instructor and turn it into something to positive to work on. I have sent pictures of my score card to Duncan before now showing where I have dropped points or next time I’ve been at Lady’s Wood will say “I was less than 50% on stand 5. It was crossers, can we work on those?”
  6. Learn your coping technique. I once asked Anita North, at one of The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club conferences, how did she deal with the mental pressure to perform well. I still use her advice now. She said that she has a routine when she gets onto the stand. This helps prepare her mentally and by doing the same thing each time helps get her in the zone. Competitive clay shooting is about being successfully repetitive and so this made sense. For some people its about distancing themselves from others just before they take their turn. For me, I like to adjust my glasses and hat so that I feel comfortable but have no distractions visually. I mentally switch off from any conversations going on around me. I have found that recently I have taken to blowing down my barrels after I’ve finished each pair. This started when I shot particular cartridges which struggled to fully clear after each shot, but I do this now regardless, as I find the big exhale actually calms me down and keeps me focussed.
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Having your own team of Paparazzi doesn’t really help with the pressure…

In the end, I shot well at Grimsthorpe and had a really lovely afternoon. I was glad that I ignored my nerves and got back out there. Positive self reflection is a good tool to aid with development, so, after a week of poor shooting performance, concussion and a competition (albeit an informal one) what did I learn? No one starts off perfect but – as they say – practice makes perfect. Keep at it and don’t let one below par day or experience impact your future ability. Don’t be put off by others watching you or feeling self conscious about your ability. The truth is, everyone’s actually focussing on their own scores and how to shoot the target that you’re tackling. Learn from your mistakes, remember that we all had to start somewhere and don’t listen to the nerves.

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Attacking the buffet and hog roast afterwards. Happy Sads.

EDUCATION IS EVERYTHING

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This time two weeks ago it was ‘set-up’ day for the Game Fair. Four of us were on our way to Ragley Hall to assemble The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club stand and, hopefully, have a successful couple of days enticing even more women to get out there and try clay pigeon shooting. We rocked up late afternoon with two cars full of merchandise and decorations. My decorative contributions to the stand were somewhat under appreciated; one clay and a vase of pinecones. I’m still not sure why I thought they would bring in the crowds but that’s what you get when you pack having opened a bottle of champs…

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After a few hours, the stand was starting to take shape but it soon became very clear that I was far better at the heavy lifting than with the decorative element. After placing pictures in all the wrong places and having the complete wrong idea about where merchandise should go, I gave up!

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Being serious…                   …if only for a second!!

I really enjoyed my four days at Ragley Hall. Firstly, the social side was great and a particular highlight has to be The Game Changer party on the Friday night. Organised by Zambuni PR, Chelsea Thoroughbreds, Bettws Hall and Orvis, it was tipped to be the party of the Game Fair and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I hadn’t actually seen dad or Jack for about two months so what better way to catch up and have some banter than while supping on Pol Roger, sat in the back of the Orvis Land Rover?!

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Secondly, it was also great to get some bargains ahead of the game season and a welcome opportunity to catch up with friends without the distractions of being on your peg or in a clay ground. However, what I enjoy most is the speaking to and meeting the Game Fair visitors. I felt that there was a different type of footfall this year, this could have been a result of our position in a very busy stretch of Gunmakers Row, meaning that we actually just had greater footfall than last year, but what was clear is that there is still plenty of room for ladies shooting to grow! I spoke to so many ladies (and their other halves) who were attending their first Game Fair or who had never tried shooting, but had heard about the Club and wanted to give it a try. One lady was actually referred to us by her Dentist! It was also great to see how many men were popping by to pick up details for daughters, wives, girlfriends, daughters-in-law and the like. I think ladies shooting certainly has its feet under the Fieldsports industry table but there is still so much more room to grow.

The ladies passing by our stand fell into one of four categories: (1) not interested in shooting at all, (2) tried shooting and given it up for some reason, (3) already a keen shot and interested in taking it further or (4) they were already a member! Some women (and men too) have just never thought about trying shooting or haven’t found a way into it. For others, they’ve tried it but either a passing remark was made on their shooting which knocked their confidence, or the gun didn’t fit properly so they couldn’t enjoy the day or they suffered recoil and so were put off. All of these reasons are things that can be corrected and it’s taking the time to engage with others, showing that there are ladies are out there shooting and explaining that their one experience does not determine their ability which makes all the difference.

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Helping Rob Collins out in the arena with a bit of duck calling

On the whole, by standing in front of our stand explaining what may have caused their experience and reassuring them about trying again, most of the ladies I spoke to were ready to sign up and get back out there. The most common questions or feedback I received at the Game Fair was around recoil, fear of the stock hurting faces, ladies accompanying their partners to a local shoot and lacking confidence or that a man, at some point along the way, has made a passing remark about that lady’s ability which has caused her to put down her gun. This is something we can change! Be mindful of new starters, take the time to understand what is motivating them or the root of any nerves but also remember that everyone started somewhere. What resonated the most with me about this is that with a bit of education to non-shooters, we can get the message out there that clay pigeon shooting is a lot of fun and can be an incredibly inclusive sport! It does not matter on age, background, height, weight or sex. All of this can be, and is, accommodated for. With a sprinkle of confidence to those who have been put off, we can call them back. Taking some time to explain and  positively promote our sport and industry is crucial to our growth – but it has to be a team effort from everyone.

Having said that, it is not just about educating others, actually, we need to make sure that we are educating ourselves too. Can you answer (honestly) and in the affirmative to the following: Do you know how to disassemble, clean and reassemble your gun? Do you understand chokes? Can you select the right cartridge for your sport or quarry? Do you know how a shotgun works? If you are a game shooter, do you fully understand your quarry? It is this basic level of knowledge that helps not only make you an integral part of the shooting community, but will build your respect and credibility to others outside of the community. Here are a few links which can help beginners:

  1. Fur, Feather & Fin – ‘Cartridges explained
  2. Shooting UK – ‘How a shotgun cartridge works
  3. Shooting UK – ‘Which Game Cartridge
  4. The Field – ‘Guide to Shotgun Choke
  5. Napier of London – ‘How to Clean a Shotgun’ youtube video
  6. BASC – Pocket Quarry Identification Guide 

As part of positively promoting the sport of shooting, it is important to take the time to explain to others outside of the shooting sphere. In London, while there are definitely those who actively participate in a variety of fieldsports, there are far more who do not. I have had many a conversation about shooting, the pros and cons of fieldsports and even have a friend who, every time I meet her, tells me how she disagrees with shooting. I completely respect those opinions but I feel very passionately about getting the other side of the story out there. There are so many myths and misconceptions around shooting which ever prevalent every year in the build up to the 12th August.

The 12th August is referred to, in the Fieldsports community, as the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ as it IMG_3093marks the start of the grouse season – which in turn marks the start of the game season. There are a lot of people who feel incredibly strongly against game shooting and the Glorious Twelfth rouses a lot of emotion; especially given the amount of adverse publicity it receives. There will always be people that cannot understand or comprehend game shooting, and I respect that, but there are those which have formed an opinion based on what they have seen which, historically, has been incredibly one sided. This year more than ever, the Fieldsports industry has tried to emphasise the benefits of grouse shooting including BASC and Jonathan McGee producing short films explaining the positives from both economic and conservation perspectives. If you have not already watched these, please take a few minutes to do so:

  1. BASC – “No Moor Myths”; and
  2. Jonathan McGee- “Grouse Shooting – The Real Story

I would also recommend that you read The Telegraphs article as this is a very balanced portrayal of grouse shooting and moorland management.

But should the public perception of grouse shooting matter to anyone from the shooting or Fieldsports community who will not be visiting a moor this season? Answer: yes. I IMG_3097respect all opinions as long as they are formed from an assessment and understanding of both sides. My issue with the reporting on grouse shooting is that there is a dominance of those who oppose grouse shooting with very little recognition of the benefits. But I guess this could be said about shooting generally. Due to this imbalance there is even more responsibility on all of us to try and communicate the positives – and that is why anyone in the Fieldsports community should care about the perception of grouse shooting in the press.

I have found that taking the time to explain and educate those who are not involved in Fieldsports as to the ‘why’ and the benefits of this way of life actually helps non-shooters understand why Fieldsports are imperative to conservation and sustainability. For example, very few people understand that Fieldsports – and shooting in particular – are based on the principles of respect, conservation, tradition and responsibility. Even fewer understand that the countryside needs management and this is the motivating factor, not just an thirst for “blood sports”. I have had many a conversation with friends in London on this topic and when I answer their questions, they are usually taken aback. I have heard “Oh I didn’t know that” on numerous occasions – and that’s the point. In fact, one friend of mine used to be a vegetarian until she learnt the respect that game shoots pay their quarry, how important it is to anyone in this industry to know where their food has come from and to ensure it has had a good life, but that we also take responsibility for all stages of food – including preparing the birds and cooking them afterwards.

It is this latter stage which actually means the most to me. Yes I do game shoot. Yes I do come from a family who live off the land, so to speak. I do this because I do not believe in the ethics or morality in eating animals – or their byproducts – that have been cooped up their entire lives. I want to take responsibility for where my food comes from. This is an ethos which has seen several of my vegetarian friends decide to dally in meat eating every now and then. It is either from a local butcher or something I have brought home, because we can both vouch for the farm or the life that the animal has had.

The more that we can understand our world, the more that we can educate others. As I have said, there will be those who cannot understand the loss of an animal’s life to become a food source, which I entirely respect. I am not saying that we should aim to convince everyone, but let’s get our message out there and give the non-shooting community chance to make up their own minds. Take whatever opportunity you can to show that shooting, even just clay pigeon shooting, is not a bad thing to be part of. 

 

I’M CURRENTLY LOVING…

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Shooting on BBC Breakfast this week at my Gym! YES!

The olympics and the great coverage that shooting sports are getting – not to mention the medals we have won! a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Ed Ling and Steven Scott for their Bronze Medals for Team GB. We are so super proud of you!

If, like me, you are seriously addicted, then I have listed below the shooting timetable and key events. The BBC does have a full schedule of the shooting events.

Day Time of Coverage Finals event

Today

13:00 – 17:00 Women’s 50m Rifle 3 positions finals

Friday

13:00 – 20:00 Women’s Skeet finals

Saturday

13:00 – 20:00 Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol finals

Men’s Skeet finals

Sunday

13:00 – 18:00 Men’s 50m Rifle 3 positions finals

THE GAME FAIR GUIDE

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Hands up, who is coming to The Game Fair at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, next weekend? Pretty much everyone with a spare afternoon and a passion for fieldsports will be at Ragley at some point from Friday 29th – Sunday 31st July. The Game Fair is the successor of the ‘CLA’, which The Telegraph described last year as the “agricultural Glastonbury”. It has historically been the biggest game fair of the season and this year looks set to be no different.

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Sadler family day out to a game fair last year

I really enjoy game fair season. It is a great opportunity to catch up with friends and get excited for the forthcoming game season. I like to use it as a chance to stock up on any items I need (or want as a treat) so always hit the game fair with a shopping list. Dad’s favourite is Weston Park and he has had many a bargain over the years just before game season starts! Game fairs are a firm favourite in the Sadler household. We have been going as a family for years and love heading out together to make a day of it, whether it be Chatsworth, the Cheshire Show or the CLA, we would pack a picnic and off we go! Nowadays it is a bit different as Dad and Jack will work on the BASC stand and I will be helping Victoria on The Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club stand, but we will make sure to catch up with each other throughout the event!

 

I think the reason that we enjoy the game fairs so much is that there is something for everyone! Whether it’s the displays and demonstrations, doing a bit of shopping or just sampling the delights in the food courts there is something to keep every family member happy. Having said that, if you are only visiting for a day then it can be difficult to see the entire fair – or at least select the stands/ areas to visit. This year the Game Fair will have over 850 exhibitors so to help get the most out of your visit I have offered my opinion on the ‘go-tos’ and the ‘must sees’ for any ladies who will be visiting next week.

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Doing a bit of shopping with Dan on the Fairfax & Favour stand last year

Things to see

The Game Fair has dedicated areas for each aspect of fieldsports so there is something for everyone. There is Gundog Row (a hub for all things gun dogs, with demonstration areas and competitions), Horses and Hounds Mini Ring (showcasing different breeds and disciplines but – and most excitingly – the inaugural show jumping championship following 9 different qualifying rounds at different agricultural shows) and the Game Larder Theatre (for demonstrations and cookery masterclasses).

Make sure you check out Countryman’s Corner which will be housing the brilliant Rob Collins aka The Ole Hedge Creeper. Rob has assured me that he is putting on a star filled lineup and will be offering a variety of demonstrations in pigeon shooting, wildfowling, air rifles, ferreting and much more.

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Catching up with friends on the Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club stand last year

Time for some shooting

At 585m, the Game Fair will host the largest ever shooting line in Europe! Sponsored by the shooting ground EJ Churchill, the line has exhibitors from some of the biggest names in the shooting industry. Here you can test equipment, develop some new skills or even take part in a competition, and for £12 for adults (£10 for juniors) have a go at ten targets with the CPSA.

Time for some shopping

If you will be doing some shopping at the Game Fair then I really do recommend coming along with a shopping list – which I always do. If you are relatively new to shooting this is a great opportunity to acquire some of the essentials and you can try everything on. To FullSizeRender-7begin with, look at investing in either decent footwear and/or a reliable shooting coat. Most of the clothing stands will have all of the top brands for you to try. With regard to footwear, my favourites are Dubarry boots or Le Chameau wellies. I do have a pair of Harkila boots for rougher terrain but the Dubarrys and Chameaus will get you through shooting in all weathers. If you are looking for a new shooting coat remember it needs to be waterproof, enough freedom of movement to allow you to mount your gun and as, come autumn, you will be wearing a jumper or shirt underneath it will need to have a bit of room!  Make sure you look for nice deep ‘drop’ pockets for loading up with cartridges.

The Game Fair is a great opportunity to check out the different memberships that are available at the range of shooting and countryside organisations – most of which offer the benefit of insurance cover. I always make time to head over to the BASC, so if you find yourself there, do make sure you say hi to Dad and Jack!

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Jack and Dad on the BASC stand earlier this year – looking dapper!

The best thing about shopping at the game fair is picking up some fantastic bargains. I have had some brilliant buys in recent years including my Holland Cooper wrap and a dress from Really Wild for £50 which is a favourite in my work wardrobe! In my opinion these are the stands not to miss:

  1. Dubarry – well worth a visit as they have a great selection of ladies clothing, you can try on a pair of Galways or treat yourself to some new tweed. I have a stunning blazer and waistcoat from Dubarry which are suitable for both the field but also the office and I live out of my Galways;
  2. Plugzz hearing protection – go and visit Plugzz and get the moulds of your ears taken there and then. It will only take about 20 minutes of your day and there is a great range of colours to pick from. I have quite sensitive (and small) ears and have struggled with hearing protection in the past. The guys at Plugzz are brilliant but are also great value.
  3. Ogden Shooting supplies – all of my shooting accessories come from Phil Ogden. I
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    My gun slip and cartridge bag

    have a stunning leather gun slip and matching cartridge bag with an ostrich leather finish. I also love my cartridge belt and pouch. Phil has a range of fantastic and high quality goods but you can also order something bespoke from him. It’s not all shooting though, my mum and sisters actually have bags from him that they use day to day!

  4. Visit the Shooting Village – housed in a large marquee and with food by the Shotgun Chef, please do go and say hi to the very talented (and lovely) taxidermist Kate Latimer-Matthews, I can guarantee her stunning work will be the talk of Game Fair. Kate will be sharing the Shooting Village with, amongst others, Rachel Elizabeth Wood jewellery and the up and coming Glorious 12th clothing. Rachel’s stunning jewellery is perfect if you would like to treat yourself and Glorious 12th Clothing offers a glamorous and eye-catching twist on the traditional tweed.   

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    one of Kate’s masterpieces on sale at the CLA last year
  5. Really Wild Clothing – I will visit this stand twice a day as there sale rail is FANTASTIC. Everything is reduced down to super cheap prices and the stock is replenished continuously throughout the Fair.
  6. The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club – if you are not already a member of the UK’s largest ladies only shooting club then head over to visit and hear all about this growing movement and see what events are upcoming near you.
  7. Holland Cooper – the seasoned lady gun will already have something by this wonderful British make in her wardrobe. Stylish but practical and guaranteed to enhance any outfit, it is definitely worth having a look at this stand and I am looking forward to treating myself to something new…
  8. Fairfax & Favour – I treated myself to a pair of suede Regina boots at last years game fair and whenever I wear these to work I always get compliments. I am looking forward to trying on the Explorer waterproof leather boots.
  9. Renapur – not an obvious choice for some lady shopping but this stuff is excellent! Use it to treat all your leather goods and I guarantee it will bring your Dubarry Galways up as if they are brand new. I use this on my gun slip and cartridge bag and if you melt a bit in the microwave you can even use it to rewax your Barbour jacket! It won’t break the bank and I recommend grabbing a tub for future needs.

Finally…

Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your visit:

  1. If you are camping or staying over, have a look at the forecast and then prepare for all eventualities. You would expect warmer temperatures with it being the end of July but last year caught out most campers as there was almost a ground frost overnight. It is worth preparing for rain and the cold as well as bringing layers in case of warmer temperatures.
  2. Wear suitable footwear. The weather reports are showing that next weekend should be sunny and warm but it only takes one small shower for the ground to be churned up. I will be in Dubarry’s or Chameaus regardless of the weather, but then again, you are at the perfect place should you need to do a quick footwear purchase.  
  3. Bring cash with you. There are cash machines littered throughout the ground but these have a small levy and it can be a pain to keep going back or queueing up to replenish depleting funds!
  4. Get there early. The Game Fair is huge and in order to a) miss the crowds and b) get the most out of your day you will want to be there when the stands open at 9am.
  5. Buy a programme and check the display timetable before you do anything. There are lots of different events and displays to watch throughout the day. In fact you could spend an entire day watching the displays if you wanted to!
  6. Have a shopping list. The theory is that if you have a shopping list you will spend less…if that doesn’t work then at least by having a list you will make sure you visit all of your favourite stands.
  7. Bring some snacks and water. The foodie side to the fair is great but I bring a few cereal bars and some fruit to carry round with me. It also helps save on the pennies!
  8. Get involved. The Game Fair is a great opportunity to find new brands and clothing to add to the wardrobe, to try a new fieldsport or to even sample the latest foods in the food court. Just get stuck in and try it all!

Have a fab time!

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PROGRESSING AND IMPROVING

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People take to fieldsports for a variety of reasons. I was introduced to shooting by my dad, who had been introduced to fieldsports generally by my grandad, and so on. It can be something that is done for fun as a hobby, something that can be taken more seriously by competing in your sport or turning into a career in someway or maybe it is ingrained into your way of life. For me, it is a mixture of the three. I do think that it can depend on how and why you were introduced to your chosen sport. I have grown up in a fieldsports countryside environment and my dad still regales stories of his pursuits with my grandad, including passing on lessons he was taught either from my great-grandad or experience. It is this sense of progression and heritage that resonates with me but struck me in particular at a Holts Auctioneers evening in London recently.

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Not only was this evening a great opportunity to catch up with friends, but it was a treasure trove of different guns, collectors items, memorabilia and paraphernalia ranging IMG_2512from the historic to the modern day. One lot which drew particular excitement was the Browning C3 Trap gun that Bob Braithwaite used to win a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics. This is a shotgun steeped in history and Bob himself was legendary in his achievements. Bob was regarded as a great game shot before he began shooting trap. In terms of training for the Olympics, as Bob was a veterinary Surgeon, he could only practice his discipline when work permitted. Itts understood that he had a trap installed on his land and with the help of the local priest, who would man the trap, he would shoot in the region of twice a week. Quite remarkable really that this set him up to score 198/200 at the Olympic games and securing him a gold medal! Bob’s legend is evidence that – sprinkled with some obvious natural talent – that investing in your sport in order to progress and improve is imperative, but it also depends on how you train and what you want to achieve.

Not everyone wants to shoot competitively, just like not everyone wants to shoot game. But the evening at Holts got me thinking about progression and improvement. What did I want to achieve over the next year? My particular passion is shooting and I enjoy it for the three reasons I listed above – it is something I take time to enjoy, I have dabbled (and am in no way excelling!) in something more serious and competitive but it is also a way of life having been brought up on the edge of the Peak District. I think the important part is getting the balance right between enjoyment and development.

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Out shooting with Ivan – practising for some walked up shooting last game season

I have the most fun when I am out shooting with friends or my family and recently had a weekend in the Cotswolds with my dear friend Gabs. I met Gabs through The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club and we are regulars at both the grounds local to her and also a few game shoots. Whenever I go to stay with Gabs, we always go shooting. Shooting with Gabs is an opportunity to just have fun and relax while smashing some clays – and this is exactly what we did the other weekend.

If you are not looking to take your scores too seriously and just want to have fun, then I cannot recommend enough just getting out there with your friends or family (whether or not your ability or ground requires you to have a caddy) and enjoying it! This keeps you motivated but also encourages the people you are shooting with. Learn about yourself as a shot and tackle those harder stands or the ones that may have recently caused you some trouble. This is something I try and do every couple of weeks. Its also fun to try something different, maybe once you know you can hit a stand, try shooting it quicker or before the clay reaches a particular landmark/point or take both clays as a pair and see what you can do! You might be surprised. This is a fun way of progressing and developing your skill set without feeling like you are taking it too seriously.

There may come a point when you want to develop your shooting further, but this does not mean that the fun has to stop! In particular, will try and have some coaching sessions once the game season finishes. I find it is very easy to pick up a few bad habits from instinctive shooting in the field. It was through having these lessons that I discovered the difference between an instructor and a coach. An instructor will make sure you know the basics and will help correct any bad habits to keep you hitting those clays. However, a coach is someone who works with you longer term, who knows you and your shooting style and will help you to progress and train. It is important that you find the right coach for you.

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Lady’s Wood Shooting School

My favourite ground is Lady’s Wood Shooting School out in the Cotswolds.The clay ground itself is set in woodland in the heart of the countryside and the lodge is just stunning for après shoot drinks and cake.  I will travel from London for a lesson with Duncan Kay there – sometimes returning to the City the same day. The range of targets is excellent, Duncan is a fantastic coach and the high tower is GREAT fun. In fact, it is becoming the Sadler choice of ground with Jack coming across from University before game season last October and one of my sisters is coming down soon to have some lessons.

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Jack smashing the clays off the high tower in October last year

When I am trying to develop or progress my shooting, and being a bit of an over-thinker I tend to have a few things that I want to work on, I will give Duncan my ‘wish list’ or I will tell him what problems I have or am struggling with.  Over the next few sessions we work on correcting and improving. So far this year I wanted to shoot quicker (I find I am waiting longer than I need to before pulling the trigger), to work on right to left crossers (as for some reason I seem to have struggled with them) and to try and close off my mind to over-thinking or lack of confidence as this is causing me to try to hard on a particular target or to not shoot as assertively as I need to. With Duncan’s help – so far so good!

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The Shooting ground is in beautiful countryside…
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while the Lodge is the perfect place to relax afterwards!

In order to progress in anything, I think it is important to self-evaluate. It doesn’t have to be done in any kind of formal or laborious way. I would recommend thinking about the following three points and then mentioning it to your shooting buddy or coach:

  1. what you would like to improve on,
  2. what you feel you are struggling with or which target you would happily avoid; and
  3. which target you most enjoy shooting.

You need to work on 1 and 2 which, while not sound appealing, will allow you to see your progression and help build confidence whether you are looking to shoot competitively or just to help your shooting come game season. If you finish on 3 every time you have worked on 1 and/or 2, you should leave the ground feeling happy and energised even if your lesson or time at the clay ground has been particularly challenging.

So, for me:

  1. As I have mentioned, I wanted to improve the speed in which I am taking a shot without compromising on accuracy;
  2. I have struggled with right to left crossers; but
  3. Love a high tower or something instinctive so I try and finish on these. Last week, at Lady’s Wood, Duncan and I finished the lesson down near the grouse butt with a selection of targets. I was not allowed to call ‘pull’ for the clay and did not know which of the four targets was going to be released until it was in the air – including the dreaded looper. It was great fun!
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I always have a play on the high tower to round off a lesson – so much fun!

Your priorities for progress will change over time and I think it is important to revisit these. Just keep them in the back of your mind and don’t be put off if it takes some time to achieve 1 or 2. I like to push myself so will always tackle the target I am struggling with. If I am at a Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club day and one target on a stand is more difficult than the other on the stand – I always ask to leave the easier target (if I know I can hit it) and work on the more difficult target, often leading to poorer scores but a greater sense of achievement. I should add that difficulty is subjective, so you may find that your shooting buddy can hit a particular target that you struggle with and vice versa. This is quite often the case with Gabs and I and is another reason why I love shooting with friends – I learn from them. I ask them how they see the target, where they are when they are shooting it, how much lead they are giving it?

Finally, do not be afraid of setting goals. This will not take the fun out of it but can show you how far you are progressing. Progression is important in whatever shape or form it may take so that we can continue to learn and, in turn, continue to pass the sport on in years to come.

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Getting out and enjoying the sport can be just as good an opportunity for improvement and progressing as a lesson.

TOP GUN – ANITA NORTH

Anita-North-high-res-close-up-e1412240047510Anita North is an Olympic Trap shooter who has represented GB & England in a shooting career that started in 1991. Amongst her international medals, Anita won silver medals in the trap individual and pairs (team of 2) at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and won gold and silver in the individual and pairs in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Not only is she obviously an amazing shot and inspirational lady, but she is a big supporter of getting new shots into the sport. She is equally as well known for (what was) the pinkest hair in sport and her love of Leicester Tigers! She is quite possibly one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. In fact, get her talking about shooting and her passion for the sport is contagious.

I absolutely love spending time with ‘my Nitty’!  

Having recently cut back on her competitive shooting, she now works with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, a charity aimed at helping young adults get their lives back on track by using world class athletes to inspire with their passion and attitudes. I honestly cannot think of anyone more suited to this than Anita!

Anita is my first ‘Top Gun’. A new section of the Blog where I am going to put 10 questions to the top shots, personalities and companies within the industry so they can offer their insight, advice and passion for anyone who wants to get involved…

So, Anita:

How did you get into shooting?

I had a go at the Midland Game Fair when I was in my mid-20s and I was hooked!  I took it up as something to do on a Sunday morning and it kind of escalated from there…

Where is your favourite ground?

In the UK: Nuthampstead Shooting Ground – it’s my home ground. I’m so lucky to have somewhere so close to home and The Barkers, who own the ground, have been so good to me over my shooting career.

Overseas: Trap Concaverde near Lake Garda in Italy – it’s the home of Olympic Trap. I also loved the Dr Karni shooting ground in Delhi with its amazing backdrop of an ancient fort.

What is your preferred cartridge?

RC4 Champions or RC4 Red Shot – I have been using RC cartridges for so long now. Other cartridges are good too and some have definitely impressed me. There’s such a selection of brands out there.

What advice would you give any beginners setting out in the sport?

Safety first at all times – think safety!!

Find a good instructor/coach. You need to get the basics sorted in order to build on good firm foundations. Also, I’m seeing lots of people lean too much on one foot or raise their back foot when trying to perfect their stance. Lets keep both feet on the ground folks! You have two feet for a reason – use them both!

Gun fit is essential. Your first gun may well likely not be your last gun.

You should also try lots of different shooting disciplines – there’s something to learn from each.

Safety is paramount but you also need to protect your hearing. I double up when I am shooting – custom moulds from Plugzz & ear defenders as Olympic Trap (“OT”) is under covers. I have CENS custom moulds from Plugzz for sporting or open situations & when coaching from a distance.

Also, protect your eyesight.  Use proper shooting glasses and not just your normal (small) glasses or sunglasses.

What are your top tips for anyone starting to shoot competitively?

Get stuck in – remember everyone starts somewhere – and get to know yourself as a shooter.

Find a coach that works for you – and that’s a coach rather than an instructor. Like any sport, you also need to learn to train, not just practice.

Hone and refine your equipment. Get the right tool for the job as different guns suit different people.  I have been using a Perazzi shotgun for much of my international career. A major investment, but so worth it.

Get your eyesight checked (regularly!). I get mine checked by Ed Lyons, Sportsvision specialist who also supplies my shooting glasses.  I currently have some Pilla 580 glasses which I am loving using.

How do you deal with the mental element of shooting competitively and how do you deal with the pressure?

I am challenge driven, so when it’s right, I thrive on pressure. I’ve worked with sports psychologists in the past and more recently worked with Henry Hopking of the Brain Training Company.  Keeping things simple is a great strategy.

What is your bad shooting habit either now or one that took a long time to lose?

Rushing the target. It took me a while to understand myself and to relax when I shoot.

What does life post-Team GB hold in store for you?

I do a lot of coaching. I’m working on the British Shooting Talent Programme, with a particular interest in mentoring ladies and junior ladies.  I also have run introduction to Olympic Trap days for The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club.  Most recently we also included Olympic Skeet.  I hope to do more of these days and encourage newcomers to the sport.

I am also doing voluntary work with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. I am a member of their Give Back team of world-class athletes working to empower young people facing disadvantage to help them fulfil a positive life.  I have just taken 2 groups clay shooting and they really really enjoyed the experience.

What does your own personal shooting post-Team GB hold in store for you?

I’ve booked a game day this coming season!  I did shoot game many, many years ago, but due to my commitments to training I did not have chance to do much. I’m also loving sharing my love of shooting with more and more people!

What is your favourite shooting snack that’s alway to hand on shoot days?

Jack Oatbars are my go to snack – tasty, nutritious and sit well on my stomach. I do have to say that I also would hate to count up the number of bananas I have eaten during training and competitions!

A drink is also a necessity – hydration is essential to maintain good vision. You can’t hit the clay if you can’t see it.  In very hot weather that means not just water but something that will also replace electrolytes.

 

I’m currently loving…

WON 2

Women’s Outdoor News or ‘WON’ was launched in 2008 in the U.S. WON shares news, reviews and stories about women who hunt, fish, shoot and live outdoor adventures. I have followed WON on Twitter for a while now and love that their content is written by women for women. I was also lucky enough to meet Barbara, who founded WON, a few weeks back when she travelled over to participate in NLSD 2016 – what a woman!  Its also interesting to see what the ladies are up to on the other side of the pond. It is well worth checking out.

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