Halcyon Clays: Clay Shooting at University

University days stay with students for the rest of their lives, so what better time to introduce them to clay shooting? We hear about the experiences of new shooters at Oxford University.

The Oxford University Clay Pigeon Shooting Club has existed on and off since the 1980s, consisting predominantly of experienced shots. Over the last decade, however, there has been an increased focus on promoting clay shooting to beginners and providing regular opportunities to those wanting a crack at the sport. As a result the club has consistently grown year on year.

In addition we run regular practices for experienced shots and attend competitions across the country, as well as plenty of social events. The support of Eley, Browning and E.J. Churchill over the past couple of years has been crucial in helping the club make the sport as accessible as possible.

Since the start of this academic year the club has had a record level of interest, which is absolutely fantastic and certainly bodes well for the sport in general. Students from all corners of the globe signed up to try out clay shooting during the Fresher’s Fair in October.

As a result the club orchestrated outings for over 200 shooters – over half of them complete novices – during the eight weeks of our first term. The superb instructors at E.J. Churchill have been responsible for laying down the foundations for these new shooters, and students have certainly enjoyed the experience, with one of them commenting, “It was amazing and I loved it”.

We have been doing such a good job of promoting the sport that demand for shooting outstripped supply, so next term we are organising even more sessions!

Obviously our sport can’t be practised in the centre of Oxford, so the club has also acquired a DryFire training system. This has proven to be a brilliant addition to our inventory, allowing us to run weekly practice sessions in the dark winter evenings in the warmth of the sports centre.

A club practice day at E.J. Churchill, with teals the order of the day.

This lets beginners work on fundamentals such as stance, mount and gun handling at minimal cost. More experienced shots make developing their approaches to target types and problem-solving their key aims, meaning they too benefit greatly from the unlimited ‘shooting’ on offer.

As well as running plenty of introductory and beginners’ sessions, we have been busy on the university competition circuit, with some great results! Early November saw 20 students (of whom plenty have only recently picked up the sport) make the 400-odd mile journey to Scotland to attend the St. Andrews Challenge, held at Auchterhouse Country Sports.

The men’s team landed a fantastic result as winners of the Flurry, and the ladies finished a strong third in the Sporting competition. After strutting their stuff around the clay ground, it was time for the infamous Welly Ball, which this year took place at Kinkell Byre.

Class of ’19

Here’s what Oxford University’s latest  clay shooting intake thought:

“After my first outing I truly fell in love with the sport – the amount of time and support the committee is willing to provide for the beginners is incredible! All the outings and competitions are extremely well organised; as a beginner I found it very easy to attend these the first time, having a fantastic time! I love shooting as it’s both rewarding but… very challenging; there’s always something to work on!” Venla

“At Fresher’s Fair I decided to try something really ‘British’ because I’m here just for a year and went for OUCPSC. I went to St Andrews with the club, it was amazing and I loved it, the people in OUCPSC are super nice.” Ed

“Everyone is very helpful and constantly offering valuable pieces of advice (safety and performance-related) as well as motivating feedback.” Dennis

“Despite growing up in the infamously gun-loving US, it ironically took coming to Oxford to pique my interest in learning how to shoot properly. The club has been great fun so far – offering instruction and a picturesque English shooting experience.” Kate

A week after the Scotland trip, it was time for a competition that was thankfully much closer to home. The Oxford club hosted the inaugural Oxford Challenge, held at the award-winning E.J. Churchill ground. Close to nine months of planning were rewarded with a sold-out event in perfect weather.

175 shooters made their way around an immaculately presented Sporting course and Flurry, competing for a fantastic prize pool made possible by The Field, Eley, Browning, Lledrmorgan, Mercury Hearing and Purdey.

A shooter celebrates a small success at the Oxford Challenge, a new fixture in the university calenar

At the end of the day Oxford finished as the overall winners, with the Oxford Ladies finishing first in their category and the Royal Agricultural University taking top spot in the men’s category. It was then back to Oxford for a fantastic dinner at the Cherwell Boathouse. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, we’re already planning the Oxford Challenge 2019. A massive thank you to everyone at E.J. Churchill for their help running the day, putting on a great course of targets and keeping the traps throwing!

Next up was the Christmas Cup, run by Hart Events in Monmouth and set against a beautiful Welsh countryside dotted with sheep. Santa hats and Christmas jumpers were the order of the day. An Oxford contingent of around 20 students, including experienced and novice shooters, made the trip.

A 50-bird course was presented; the targets were very hittable, but lapses in focus were quickly punished by a rapid fall down the leaderboard. There was a Flurry included, which was a very entertaining way to burn through cartridges, as the high-scoring squads demonstrated brilliant strategy and communication. Oxford Men and Ladies squads finished well and achieved second place in both categories, having been pipped for first in both by Harper Adams University.

The last competition before the Christmas break was the British University & Colleges Sport Championship at West Midlands Shooting Ground. The Oxford squads were first around the 12-stand, 100-target circuit, which included plenty of sim pairs and more than a few challenging, distant targets.

Getting familiar with a gun’s workings helps beginners develop confidence and control.

At the end of the day the Oxford Men’s team missed out on third place by just three clays. Big congratulations to Harper Adams for taking first place in the Men’s, and to Liverpool for first in the Ladies.

Things won’t be slowing down for the Oxford club in 2019. Already in the works are loads of introductory sessions for beginners, new coaching sessions for intermediate shooters and dedicated practices for the experienced shots. As well as shooting, the club will stay festive long past Christmas, with plenty of social events and post-shoot dinners!

With the huge amount of ongoing interest from new and experienced shooters alike, the clays of 2019 look to be in trouble thanks to Oxford club outings.

We’re also set to attend plenty more competitions over the next few months, spread across the country – in Edinburgh, Hull, Nottingham, Newcastle and Bristol, to name just a few. Looming large on the Oxford 2019 calendar is the annual Varsity shoot, in which two teams of eight students from Oxford and Cambridge go head to head on a 100 Sporting course.

The match will be held at the Cambridge Gun Club, home turf to the light blue club. To retain the Varsity trophy we’ll need to give it our best shot, so fingers crossed!


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