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My name is Claudia

I’m very much a beginner at shooting with little experience, so I hope I can help some of you who are worried about getting involved, or not sure where to start- if you can get through to the end!

Firstly a little bit of background on myself, my name is Claudia, I live in Leicestershire and I’m just about to head to the wrong side of my twenties! I’ve always been a country girl and loved the outdoors. I have ridden horses from a very young age, both out in the field with hounds and competing. 8 years ago whilst studying Equine Sciences at college, I met my partner, who I now share a home with on his family farm with our two dogs. 

My boyfriend introduced me to shooting

It was my boyfriend who introduced me to the world of shooting, starting with going along to his local shoot and either standing on peg, or going to help the beaters. I sadly lost my dad on New Years Eve 3 years ago which completely changed my life, and during those first few weeks Ollie took me out to more shoot days with friends and family who really helped me take my mind off things. I loved going along and the general camaraderie and banter through the day –not to mention the group made the most fabulous elevenses!

Everyone was so supportive

The season following on I started to have the odd shot on a few drives, and was thrilled when I got my first pheasant and partridge. I’m a very competitive person and was very reluctant to “have a go” to begin with for fear of not doing well, but found everyone to be so supportive and encouraging to getting new people and generations into the sport. 

My confidence dropped

That summer for my Birthday I was very lucky to be treated to my very own gun, a Beretta Ultralight, but due to me not having a license, I really did not get out shooting as much as I would have liked too and felt my confidence drop. I was worried about the next time I shot by not being successful, or the gun kicking back because I wasn’t holding it right.

Crispy, my fox red lab

As I wasn’t shooting much and had previously loved watching the dogs work, I became a very proud owner of my Fox Red Lab Crispy. I started training with him on the hopes of taking him out in the field to work whilst watching Ollie shoot as I had just about dismissed the idea of me ever being confident enough to do a day myself. 

Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club

An event popped up on Facebook that caught my eye – National Ladies Day Shooting, hosted by the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club at Doveridge. After reading more into it and realizing you didn’t need to have your license or a gun as the equipment was all provided for you, alongside instruction, I thought it would be a great place to start and get back involved with shooting again myself.  The day came and I was a bit nervous going on my own, but I pulled myself together and was so glad I did! Everyone was so welcoming, there was lots of tea and cake! And the instructors were great at encouraging all of us. It pushed me to finally send off for my license so I can be independent and get out much more!!

I got the call from our local firearms officer

When I got the call from our local firearms officer to arrange our meeting to complete the forms for my license it all started to become very real. I made sure I had tea and plenty of biscuits and reminded myself to act normal and not like a criminal! It all went very smoothly with very straightforward questions about why you want to get into shooting, where you will be keeping the guns etc. and within a few weeks I received my certificate through the post.

During this time I’d also gone down to Bisley Clayground to be a guinea pig for teaching for exams for Clay Instructors. I learnt loads about gun fit and safety and after coming home I started to think more about whether my gun fully fitted, which I then started to convince myself it didn’t. 

At the start of the season I was very kindly asked to shoot down in Cirencester with our friend group, where all the ladies shot for the day whilst the men got to play loaders. Again my nerves started to take over as to whether I would be any good, but after chatting to the other girls over breakfast it was clear we all felt the same! Although I didn’t hit much, it was such a good experience to be out on peg all day, and I felt I’d learnt a lot but also gained confidence in my gun handling too. 

Crispy excelled himself

Crispy has also began his shooting journey this year and been out on a few shoots with us, we still have a lot of steadiness and direction to put in which will come with time and practice, but he certainly loves his job! He’s had some cracking retrieves and can’t wait to mark a bird once a shot’s been fired. My favourite day being at a shoot in Warwickshire where I was asked to retrieve a runner out of a brook, I confessed he wasn’t very experienced so didn’t think he would do it, but after some encouragement and re-assuring me just to give it a go I let him get to work. Well he completely excelled himself and managed to sniff it out and bring it straight back to us, we were praised by the pickers up and it left me with a great feeling of pride.

I had the perfect excuse for missing!

Recently I headed down to Hereford and Worcester clay ground that had also put on a ladies day with instruction and advise on gun fit. This sounded perfect so I could finally get a professional opinion on my gun fit whether it didn’t fit or it was all in my head. Before I was very hit and miss (pardon the pun!) but after speaking to the instructor and looking at my gun, we made some quick adjustments with a comb raiser and my shooting was so much improved already. It turned out the stock was slightly too long which was bringing my eye line down and basically was not able to see down the barrels – at least I now feel I had a perfect excuse for missing in the past! I have now left my gun to be adjusted so it will fit me perfectly and can’t wait to pick it back up and get back out.

Thinking about getting your license? Just do it!

I’ve found over these last few years men are actually very encouraging of woman into the sport both with the shooting aspect and with working the dogs. There is also so many amazing woman already involved in the sport who all seem to share the same mentality of woman supporting woman. My advice to anyone thinking about getting your license – just do it! See a social event by the likes of the Chelsea Bun Club or local Ladies Shooting Groups and you like the sound of – just book onto it!! There are so many like minded women, men, younger and older generations and it’s great social media helps bring us all together to share our love for the sport. 

My shooting journeys only just started and I can’t wait for a summer of practice on the clays, training Crispy, and then finally being able to book onto a few of my own game days next year with my own peg and dog to pick up with.