Ahead of the game

Clay Shooting finds out about Simulated Game Days at West London Shooting School

Right from the bacon sandwich that starts the day, simulated game days follow the exact same format as a typical game shooting day. This even extends to the quarry, to a certain extent, as many providers will design their drives so that the clays simulate the flight of a specific bird.

This gives shooters the opportunity to test their hand at pheasant, partridge or grouse, to name just a few examples.

Simulated days are available during the closed season and offer great value. They are also an excellent way to warm up for a game shoot, as the shots are less sporadic and so there are plenty of opportunities to shoot. This allows participants to warm up, get their eye in, and seriously practise their technique.

This large quantity of shots makes it essential to take a lot of cartridges and a vest with deep pockets; there’s nothing worse than running out of cartridges halfway through a drive.

A light load of small shot is best, as there is no need to make a clean kill. The head instructor at West London Shooting School, Mark Heath, says: ‘I recommend an over-and-under rather than side-by-side, as the barrel can get hot with that many shots and sometimes gloves aren’t enough.’

Why is it getting popular? 

The most common reason people are taking up simulated days is to keep their eye in during the out-of-season period. The sheer volume of shots available mean that there really is no comparison when it comes to getting some practice.

Simulated days are also a great way to socialise as guests meet one another on syndicate days. Overall, for the price you pay they are by far the closest thing to an actual game day, run as close to the real thing as any great game shooter would expect.

With shooting as a whole growing in popularity, the uptake on simulated days has continued to grow and is now considered the norm for preparation for the upcoming season.

The Shoot at Great Tew

Great Tew is a quintessential English estate in the heart of the North Cotswolds, a little over an hour’s drive from London. It offers an outstanding variety of drives and has a renowned game shoot, so it lends itself naturally to offering the best simulated game drives anywhere in the country.

The estate is so passionate about its shooting legacy that several years ago it built a line of eight stone grouse butts. No other simulated shoot in the country provides comparable facilities.

West London Shooting School has worked with the estate for over 25 years to offer a range of private and syndicated days throughout the off season, running between March and late July.

When shooting over the pond targets include duck, teal and pigeon

A regular participant, Richard Morley says: “I have shot simulated game at Great Tew on a number of occasions and typically go April/May to get over the depression of the end of the game season and as a fillip to keep me going until August/September.

“But I don’t just do it for medicinal purposes. This is good shooting, and as close to real game as I have seen. Obviously the main difference is the absolutely incredible number of clays that you see. Some upper body toning with light weights will not go amiss for these days.

“You will not believe how tired your arms can get until you’ve tried it! Another tip, which is especially important for anyone shooting with a side-by-side, is to be aware that your barrels will get extremely hot. Gloves are essential for side-by-side users, and they’re a good idea even if you use an O/U.

“Back to the shooting. Three drives. Mixed pheasant and partridge. High pheasant and low-ish partridge. All driven. You will never be short of targets and remember, unlike a game shoot, it is compulsory, within safety limits, to poach the birds from your neighbour pegs.

“These drives are followed by a shoot over a pond at various targets, duck, teal and the odd pigeon. This is shot in teams of four and is scored – for fun. Or not, depending who you are shooting with. And then the driven grouse.

“This is fast and furious and spectacularly good fun, with the eight stone grouse butts adding to the authenticity. All of this carried out under the watchful but also humorous care of the WLSS Staff before heading back to the lodge for a delightful light lunch.

“This is a great day out, whether you’re with friends or on corporate day and is a perfect way to keep that hand eye coordination sharp.”

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