Shooting instructor Georgie Stanford shares some tips for getting youngsters ready for the new shooting season.
Having grown up in the countryside, Georgie is a country girl through and through. Coming from a long line of country people, her first instructor being her father, she became involved in all aspects of game shooting from the age of five and hasn’t looked back.
The APSI qualification in 2019 led to training at Holland & Holland and she is now a freelance instructor at Purdey at the Royal Berkshire, Bisley shooting ground in Surrey and Goodwood Estate shooting ground in Hampshire. Georgie’s satisfaction comes from Guns being safe, enjoying themselves and coming away from a day, in all weathers, with a sense of achievement when they have shot their first high clay or consistently connected and got things right. A particular interest is bringing on the next generation of young shots and encouraging women into the sport.
With the summer term gone, this can only mean that the long-anticipated school holidays are here. If, however, your child is anything like I was, it’s not the summer holidays they’ll have their eyes on - it’s the start of the autumn term, which means the beginning of the shooting season.
There are three things that you can do to ensure that your child enjoys their first day on peg.
The right gun
He or she will almost certainly not be the same height as the previous season and you may need to make some adjustments to the gun. Using a stock extension or a comb raise can help significantly, until the time comes when a gun can be bought to be used for many years after the growing pains have stopped. But in the meantime, they can continue using a gun with which they feel happy and confident. Your local gun shop or shooting ground could help with this.
I think it’s essential that young shots put in the practice before they move onto game days. Young Gun days are available at most clay grounds, usually during half term and holidays. These are a fantastic way for young Guns to keep shooting throughout the year and gain confidence and experience before the season starts. They may also make friends; many of my oldest friends were made in the beating line, and now we are out in the gun line together years later.
By using one shooting ground you may find an instructor who your child really likes and with whom they can build a relationship to support them on their shooting journey, for example by having their instructor join them on peg. While it’s lovely to have a parent standing on with their child, it can sometimes lead to some disagreements. Obviously not from my own experience would I know this…
No child will shoot well if they are cold and wet (miserable tends to follow shortly thereafter) and, sadly sometimes you might be faced with all three on one day. During the holidays is when we would start getting ready for the season ahead, checking that boots and coats fit, did we have ear defenders (or did we lose another pair last season?) cleaning gun slips and cartridge bags and finding boots socks. There were three of us so clothing was always handed down.
A shooting instructor once pointed out to my father that I was struggling to mount the gun properly because my coat was too small. I still remember the fun of choosing a new one. All this preparation is to avoid the pre-shoot scramble and falling out; my mother always said we had to leave the house as friends – not always achieved in our household!
Something my father would do before a shoot day (especially if we didn’t make it out the house as friends) was pop to the shop on the way to the shoot so we could choose a chocolate bar to keep in our pocket as rations – very important!
Another thing is to take a second pair of socks to change into at lunch time. Warm feet can do anything.
I am a freelance instructor at a number of top grounds in the South East and during the season I can be found coaching and loading on peg, beating, picking up or, if I’m lucky enough, being out with a gun myself. I am very lucky and feel well-equipped for any role I play on a shoot day because of the way I was taught.
My father was my first instructor, on and off the peg, and introduced me to a sport that I love. Time was spent talking, a lot of talking, encouraging myself and my siblings to ask questions. ‘What’s a keeper?’, ‘Why can’t we shoot pheasant all year?’, ‘What does a stop do?’. Having this vessel of knowledge at home was a huge advantage for me – and I still ask questions!
If you’ve equipped your child with a gun that fits, given them some good practice and made sure they are warm and comfortable, then you have the foundations to ensure they enjoy their first day in the field this season. But more important than anything else, is for them to know how valuable it is to be remembered as a good guest, and not just a good shot.