Good morning everyone.
On Saturday I was up in Durham for my first driven shoot in two years, which the same friends have been generous enough to invite me on every year for over a decade, together with Mrs PM and YPM (spectatingÖ). Now Iíve never been a very good shot with a shotgun, which is a bit of a problem as opportunities to actually shoot at something edible are few and far between. Iíve been using a shotgun, and one particular gun, for twenty years, but I was pretty much self-taught, not very good, and no talk of five-bar gates, footwork, tail-head-bang or anything seemed to make the slightest bit of difference to this. It was particularly galling for wildfowling as you work very hard and need a fair bit of luck to create opportunities, only to fluff them when they came.
This shoot (which I donít consider counts as hunting in any real sense but is good fun nonetheless and free for me to boot) is useful in that it provides a more or less measurable benchmark for the quality of my shooting over the years. Two things were clear and I was resigned to them. The first is that over the course of anything from 4 to six drives, I always averages a cartridge to kill ratio of 7:1 at best, more like 12:1 at worse. This is also with a variety of guns and cartridges over the years, none of which seemed to make any noticeable difference. Itís never been a kit issue. But within those days, Iíve been all over the place too. Iíve had the odd great drive, but I remember also shooting 36 shots for 1 duck, and firing 25 shots at essentially the same crossing pheasant a dozen times before hitting one. These things are just dynamite for my confidence. Someone put it quite well once and said that I didnít know what to do anymore because I had no idea of what success looked like.
Anyway, in the past two years, Iíve been attending the BSRC in Bisley regularly of not frequently, and making a point of taking my .22 for a spin on the running boar, and the running deer when itís not busy. To my surprise, after some early help offered by one particularly kind gentleman getting on in years, I found that I could hit these targets. Not all in the heart or the head, but the vast majority on the actual target at least, most somewhere that would kill the boar or deer. And so I thought that I would have nothing at all to lose by just pretending that all the birds were a flying driven boar target. I was unlikely to do worse. I just had to remember to acquire the target with the muzzles, pivot around the muzzles to bring the gun into the shoulder, pull ahead of it, swinging all the time, and pull the trigger, hoping for the best.
Well Iíll be damned if it didnít work like nobodyís business. I fired 92 cartridges for 20 birds (that I know of), better than 5:1 and so far better than Iíve ever done before. Whatís more, I jotted down the outcomes after each drive, and itís consistent all the way through: 6:1, 4.5:1, 4.5:1 again, oh, and again, and finally, finallyÖ Eighteen shots for five partridges ENDING WITH MY FIRST RIGHT-AND-LEFT ON ANYTHING EVER!!
To say I am happy is a bit of an understatement, I had more or less completely given up on ever being able to do this. Now Iím hardly one of the Great Shots, but if I can keep this up, I am at least perfectly competent. So thanks to the BSRC and all the kind people who have helped me!
Iím shooting again next weekend with friends on a low-key walk-one, stand-one day, and now I no longer dread that it will all be a washout.