Variety is the spice of life on the road, says Anita North!
In previous articles I’ve written about being brave, taking risks and putting plans in place. One of the ways you can act on these principles is to get out and about to different shooting grounds. It is very easy to get into a routine of going shooting at the same places all the time. When I started shooting there were just three grounds I went to regularly, all of them with limited opening hours, and only operating for a limited number of days each year.
This meant that to shoot every weekend I had to move between the three as their timetables dictated. This went on for some months, and during that time those grounds became my shooting world. It’s great to get the basics of shooting under your belt by having regular instruction and practice sessions at venues that are familiar and feel like home, but there will come a point where familiarity begins to limit your development.
So what happens next? How do you develop your shooting skills? How can you enrich your experience and enjoyment of clay shooting? Part of the answer is to get on the road and try shooting at some different grounds.
There are shooting grounds all over the country, and different grounds can teach you different lessons, whether you are training to compete or simply shooting for your own enjoyment. From small clubs that only open once a month to large commercial concerns that host championships and are open several days per week, all well-run shooting grounds will lend their own added dimension to your clay shooting.
The layout of a shooting ground – from the clubhouse, to the shooting stands, to the presentation of its targets, to the backgrounds you are shooting them against – can be completely different. Atmosphere, organisation and catering arrangements can also differ. Some grounds may leave you feeling a little overwhelmed at first – I know that’s something I have experienced. It can feel intimidating going to a larger, busier ground than you are used to.
Unfamiliar target set-ups can be unsettling. However, these things can be great opportunities, broadening your experience, contributing to your learning, and making you a more adaptable shooter. I cannot emphasise these benefits enough.
Shooting in different conditions is an important learning process and enriches your shooting skills. Think of it as adding to a library of reference material that your brain stores for later use. A familiar target can appear new to us when presented against a different background.
Sloping ground, hills, wooded or sandy backdrops, different weather and light conditions – all these are little extras for the brain to process. Your shooting skills develop as you learn to interpret targets’ flights whatever the surroundings. Familiarity with these surroundings helps you to relax and let your brain do what it needs to do; you become more adaptable.
Even if you don’t feel the need to refine and develop your shooting skills, consider the social benefits of going to shoot at different grounds – you may meet more people this way. I have seen friendships develop because people met thanks to their shared enjoyment of clay shooting.
If you are worried about going along to a new ground by yourself, ask a shooting buddy to go along with you. Failing that, I can vouch that the vast majority of shooting grounds are friendly and offer a warm welcome. If you go with your partner or family, then you can make your visit into a mini-break, especially if the ground you choose is a fair way away from home. A day at a shooting ground can be balanced with a day’s tourism and exploring with your family or friends.
I have been to shooting grounds all over the country: the open spaces of Brook Bank in Somerset; the imposing wooded hills (and accompanying seasonal midges) of Glenmoriston near Loch Ness in Scotland; the rolling Irish countryside around Courtlough and the green Welsh hills around Griffin-Lloyd. All of these are quite different to my home ground of Nuthampstead, and there are still more grounds left to visit. I am looking forward to seeing what they offer.
You can even think about travelling further afield. There are shooting grounds all over the world. You do not have to be competing to travel abroad with shooting in mind. Take the opportunity to make clay shooting a part of a holiday. In recent years Italy, Cyprus and Spain have been popular destinations with competitive and recreational shooters alike.
My only concern is that Brexit will impact on the relatively smooth process currently in place when travelling to EU countries. Presently, with some planning beforehand, the travel process within the EU has been smooth. I am maintaining a keen interest in how this will change once the UK leaves the EU. Fingers crossed.
I love training and competing around the world. My first experience of shooting abroad was a trip to Spain. As part of a holiday visiting family on the Costa Blanca I visited a local shooting ground not far from where we were staying. It was the first time I ever shot Olympic Trap and it was instrumental in getting me hooked on the discipline.
My first visit to Australia was to visit a former GB teammate who had emigrated there. She was a shooting friend, so of course I took my gun along. We had great fun visiting her local shooting grounds around Melbourne.
As a Trap shooter, I feel my home is Trap Concaverde (otherwise known as Lonato), near Lake Garda in Italy. It is a mecca for shooters. It hosts local and international competitions, but it is also a great fun to go and just shoot for pleasure at the ground, no competition required.
I am writing this article in January as a competition event takes place at Club de Tiro Jarapalo near Malaga. This competition has been held for the last few years, and an increasing number of British shooters are making the most of it, travelling out there to combine training for the forthcoming competitive season with a relaxing winter break. I wish everyone the best of luck. Here’s for great shooting by all.
So go on, get out there. Enrich your shooting. Keep up the learning and development. Enrich your social life and get to see new parts of the country, even the world, while you are about it. You can find out lots about shooting grounds on the internet of course. The ground finder on the CPSA website is a great place to start.
Until next month, happy shooting folks!
Anita North won silver and gold in women’s Trap at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and 2010. She is now a British Shooting GB Talent Programme coach.