Back to basics

Shooting Times & Country|July 01, 2020

Back to basics
In a bid to boost his shoot-to-kill ratios, Simon Garnham goes back to school to reacquaint himself with the basic principles of shooting
Simon Garnham

Regular readers will know that I’ve confessed to some fairly unimpressive shots-to-kill ratios of late. My game diary shows that in 13 outings since March I’m averaging 19 birds for 46 empty cartridges per outing. Put another way: 41%. Or phrased another way: pretty embarrassing.

None of us would argue that shooting is only about pulling the trigger and hitting the target. Fieldcraft, camaraderie, conservation and crop protection, of course, are all much more important. But if I’m privileged enough to be published alongside the likes of Will Garfit and Tom Payne, I think I really ought to aspire to figures more like their percentages at the wily woody. I’m sure they don’t miss six out of every 10 birds.

So last week I headed back to school with the nearest person north Essex has to a shooting guru: Mr Robert Radcliffe of KD Radcliffe Ltd, Colchester. Mr Radcliffe’s shooting ground is on the way to Mersea Island. It’s the place I first wielded a shotgun which I went on to buy for £50 with money I’d saved from weekend jobs. It’s a lovely wooded ground and I still remember that joyful feeling of hitting my first ever clays there under Mr Radcliffe’s watchful tutelage including — wonder of wonders — from the high tower that still stands proudly more than 100 years after it was constructed by Robert’s father.

On the day in question after a catch-up and the chance to put the world to rights, we started with the simplest of single driven targets and three straight misses from Garnham.

“I’m think I’m down the side of them,” I speculated weakly, feeling both ashamed that I hadn’t improved since 1986 and vindicated in my analysis when we met that “the wheels have come off a bit”. “Try aiming straight at it,” Mr Radcliffe suggested with a tone reserved for children attempting something as mysterious as feeding themselves with a spoon.

Simple solution

And sure enough, a simple enough solution such as “aiming” bore dividends. Seven smashed clays followed. “Sometimes we over-think these things and it’s surprising how often you can be in front while your well-meaning neighbour’s suggesting you should give it more lead. Mount the gun to your cheek. Forget the shoulder, forget the ear-defenders. Gun to cheek and shoot it.”

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July 01, 2020