Why joining a good shooting club could change your life
PUBLISHED: 13:31 20 November 2018
"It is nice to see, and any youngster, or someone that is trying for the first time, can really enjoy the sport if we care enough to give them support and the knowledge we have learned over the years."
This month I have taken a break on writing about my hunting exploits in the field. Instead, I am going to reveal how I first started out into the air rifle scene and then progressed to hunting. When I first started shooting I would practise alone, shooting tin cans and any other targets I could find, for hours so that I could get good enough to get out in the field. After a while, I got talking to a friend who was shooting FT (field target) at the time, and he invited me to his club. He explained that the different targets they shot would help to improve my chances of learning how a pellet behaved at different distances and angles. I was still pretty green, as they, say so I accepted his offer.
It was a cold and frosty Sunday morning when we arrived at his local meet. He was shooting a shiny PCP, and I had a battered Sharp Inova. I was informed that I had to have my rifle tested over a chronograph before I was allowed on the course because FAC rifles were not permitted. I had no clue what my rifle’s power was. I didn’t have a luxury of a chronograph and, to be honest, I was just happy to have a rifle that shot straight with a nice 4x20 Smartie-tube scope. Well, to cut a long story short, for the test, I decided to put in one less pump of air than normal, just to make sure I didn’t get banned before I had even taken a shot.
While I was waiting for my mate to stop messing on the practice range, I decided to go and take a look at all the rifles being charged up by the club members. I had never seen rifles like the ones they were shooting. At the time, they were ‘space age’ compared to mine; they had massive scopes, shiny barrels and tubes – they also had girly feathers hanging off them, as I recall saying to my mate. He just laughed and set us off around the course. I remember how hard it was, trying to hit targets from five out to 45 yards. I had no clue about hold under or hold over because I had just shot at targets at around 25 yards. Anyway, I was getting frustrated on the first run because I was only hitting the odd target. I was also getting the mickey taken out of me from the regulars who were shooting the latest shiny, feather-laden rifles. I recall never being offered any constructive advice from any of them.
This went on for a few months. I was becoming a lot better, but it was getting me down – just because I was shooting an older rifle I was an idiot, and it was a waste of time me being there, I recall being said. This put me off going. They could have taught me a lot about rifles and trajectory if they hadn’t been so stuck up. I stopped going in the end, and made my own course up in a local wood. It might have taken me longer to get to the point where I was good enough to go hunting, but I had done it mostly by myself and some help from a friend. It was a shame that there had been so much negativity from the top shots, and I never went to a club again. I have spoken to guys of the same age who also had the same welcome as me, and they decided enough was enough pretty quickly. Thankfully, these guys stuck to the task and are pretty accomplished hunters in their own right.
Whilst working one night at my new job, I met somebody who is now my new manager. We got talking about our hobbies and strangely, he had been shooting for the last couple of years at a club. I explained what kind of shooting I was doing, and how my past experiences could have turned me away from the sport. Luckily, he had not encountered any negativity and through shooting at the club he has now got into hunting with other members. After hearing his story and what had happened since he joined, I wanted to share his experiences and give the new shooters to our sport a way into getting the help you need to become a better, safer shot.
Andy had joined a club, the Kibworth Shooting Ground and was using a spring rifle at the time at a cost of around £80. When he first walked on to the range, he was welcomed from the very first minute by the regular shooters. He shot the spring rifle for around eight months and hadn’t felt inferior to any of the other shooters with far more expensive rifles. They helped him with his technique with the gun that he had. As time went on, and after trying the many rifles on offer to him through the other members, he progressed to a more expensive HW97K with a laminate stock. He was now a gun-tart, ‘one of the crew’ in his eyes. His bond with the other members also grew and he was getting very good with the rifle, all because he was getting help every time he needed it.
Two years on and he is now part of a gang called the Hole Punchers. These guys all helped Andy to become the shooter he is today. It is not just the shooting that he enjoys. The banter and meet-ups away from the ground make him feel like he is part of something special. The group consists of members ranging from 20 to 80 years old; a good mix of ages that only goes to support the chemistry amongst the guys trying to help each other become the best they can be. They also make their own targets that they use at the club, and there is certainly a more serious side to the shooting when another member beats the one who made the targets, and Andy is a regular winner, so he says.
I asked Andy if he would have been hunting now had he not had the support from his new friends. He categorically said that he wouldn’t.
“We set targets out from 10-50 yards so we can learn hold under and hold over,” he told me. “We then try to learn what the wind does to the pellet at different speeds and ranges. You need this knowledge to gain enough confidence to know that you can kill the animal cleanly and without suffering. I also go out with some of the guys in our group, and without them I wouldn’t be hunting as much as I would if I were alone.”
You can clearly see that Andy was a lot luckier than me when he started, out and it shows how times have changed. I’ve noticed this kind of atmosphere when I’ve gone along to clubs just to have a chat with members to see how they progressed with the help of others. It is nice to see, and any youngster, or someone that is trying for the first time, can really enjoy the sport if we care enough to give them support and the knowledge we have learned over the years. It is not all serious when it comes to club shooting, as you will see from some of the pictures I was given by Andy. Andy was getting a bit sentimental when it came to his friends and he wanted to thank them in this feature for all the support and friendship he has received since joining the club. I nearly got a tissue out for him in the end.
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