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The HFT community: Good people – great sport

PUBLISHED: 16:13 10 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:34 10 July 2018

Yours truly, getting to try a new Anschutz

Yours truly, getting to try a new Anschutz

Archant

HFT enthusiast, Daniel Gordon, gives us his experience of the true meaning of community

The start of the 2017/2018 Daystate Midland Hunter Series (DMHS) came only a few months after I really became immersed in the world of HFT. This meant new clubs I hadn’t visited before, new people to go round each course with, and having my scores compared to the best shots in the Midlands – including some of the best shots in the world! I’ll be honest, I was getting anxious about how competitive each competition might be, and the attitude of the other shooters. Would I even enjoy taking part? It was with crossed fingers that I committed to a full series of the unknown.

Depth and passion

So how does the DMHS work? In total there are six shoots, at six different clubs around the Midlands. Each club lays out a 30-target course to current UKAHFT rules, and your best four scores count towards the final result. It’s as simple as that, but as I discovered, it’s actually so much more. It’s also an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, get advice and improve your shooting – and most of all, spend time outside enjoying your hobby and having fun. I experienced all of these things, and it was over the the course of this series that I really discovered the depth and passion of the HFT community.

It’s a wonderful thing, turning up to a shoot and seeing a group of people who share your passion for the sport, the banter and friendly rivalries, where strangers hand you their pride and joy so you can try it out.

Sometimes the friendly rivalries will come down to a shoot-off. I'm trying to hide my nervousness here at the PJBRC.Sometimes the friendly rivalries will come down to a shoot-off. I'm trying to hide my nervousness here at the PJBRC.

Great memories

I remember the first time I visited ‘Zone HFT’ for a practice shoot before the DMHS round that was due to be held there. I had introduced myself on social media the previous week, terrified that I would spend the day as an outsider. When I arrived, one of the organisers recognised my name, immediately started introducing me to people and offered to be my shooting partner for the day. Within a few minutes of arriving my anxiety had melted away, to be replaced by anticipation of what the day would bring.

Then there was the first time I plucked up the courage to ask for advice. We were shooting into a tricky, switching wind, the kind where the target reset string is being blown left and right at the same time. I really didn’t know how to tackle it, but in no time at all I was being given advice left right and centre, and I mean that literally. My shooting partner, the group in front, and the group behind were all eager to help. Later on that day, I found out that one of my advisors was an ex-World Champion. No elitism here, just genuine down-to-earth people.

All the class winners for this year. Top competitors, but also friends and mentors to everyone on the circuit.All the class winners for this year. Top competitors, but also friends and mentors to everyone on the circuit.

Community spirit

This sense of community was epitomised at the final round of the series. This is the last chance to improve your overall ranking, and often the class winners will be decided here, as well as the winners of the many rivalries that inevitably build up over the months. The culmination of the series is at the end of the day, with all the victors being declared and the much anticipated end-of-series raffle.

After delays due to the weather, and relocation to another club, it felt like a long time coming when we finally made it to Lincs HFT on a breezy April Sunday. But none of the anticipation or excitement had been lost. The day started as normal, with a quick check of our set-ups on the zero range, and catching up with people we hadn’t spoken to since the Worlds shoot a few weeks previously. All smiles, punctuated by some slightly nervous, last round tension. Titles were on the line! Business as usual then, but we were brought back down to earth for a few minutes at the end of the safety briefing. There was a quick announcement to say there would be a collection for the Houghton family throughout the day.

DMHS organiser Greg Hensman (left) presenting Joff Haigh with first prize in the raffle, which was immediately donated to charity. What a fantastic gesture to close out the series.DMHS organiser Greg Hensman (left) presenting Joff Haigh with first prize in the raffle, which was immediately donated to charity. What a fantastic gesture to close out the series.

Jon Houghton and his son, Jack, are well known and liked names in the HFT scene, and previous winners of ‘The Spirit of HFT’ award. An award given as part of the UKAHFT series to recognise the unsung heroes of our sport.

Jon’s 10-year-old daughter, Amy, has been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma (a bone and soft tissue cancer) and is undergoing intense chemotherapy, with an operation to replace her hip and femur approaching. They are trying to raise money to cover the cost of a wheelchair and new bed, and the occasional nice day out in the weeks when Amy is not on chemotherapy.

Throughout the day shooters and their families from all walks of life, many who had never even met the Houghtons, were making donations. A group of people coming together to help a worthy cause.

Chris Pantling with his hard-earned trophies. A top shooter who has offered me much free advice over the last year.Chris Pantling with his hard-earned trophies. A top shooter who has offered me much free advice over the last year.

Generosity

It didn’t end there. The top raffle prize this year was a brand new Daystate Wolverine ‘C’ Type, which could be won by anyone who had attended at least four of the six rounds. On hand to draw the lucky ticket was regular HFT competitor and Daystate representative, Joff Haigh. The crowd hushed as the lucky number was drawn, and the winner was ... Joff Haigh! He asked for another number to be drawn, but the crowd was adamant he should keep the top prize, being equally deserving as the rest of us. In an unexpected and incredible gesture, Joff agreed to take the prize, but only on the condition that it be sold and all the proceeds be donated to Amy.

As if that were not enough, the gesture was repeated by both Kieran Turner and Ethan Pantling, donating their raffle prizes of an MTC HD rangefinder and Optisan EVX 10 x 44i scope respectively. This show of generosity was enough to bring a tear to the eye, but this isn’t a rare occurrence. In fact, this same scene can be found across the country. Special shoots and courses, run by volunteers, raise thousands of pounds every year for various charities. Rarely have I had the pleasure of being associated with such an unselfish sport, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Jon and Amy Houghton. Although not familiar faces to everyone, that hasn't stopped the generous donations.Jon and Amy Houghton. Although not familiar faces to everyone, that hasn't stopped the generous donations.

Different story

Shooting sports can get a lot of bad press in the media. If only they could see what we see week in and week out, I’m confident it would be a different story.

I would like to end with a few words from Jon Houghton that say more than I ever could:

‘I would like to thank everyone for everything they have done for my family, especially Amy. We can’t believe the generosity of everyone. Amy is doing her best to fight this horrible disease, but it’s taking its toll on her now. She has a very big operation coming up to remove her femur and hip and have it replaced with titanium, but she has another five rounds of chemo first, then five more after the operation. Thank you everyone from the bottom of our hearts, from the Houghtons.’

Find the Just Giving page for Amy Houghton here.

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