Lady’s Wood manager and shooting instructor Chris Hanks recently wrote the following article for the June 2018 issue of the Shooting Gazette. He discusses the benefits of sim days and gives some pointers on how to get the best out of the day. Lady’s Wood have limited availability left for this year’s sim days, click here to find out more. The original article can be viewed in full by clicking here.
All things are ready, if our minds be so…
When it comes to pre-season preparation, simulated game days are an excellent option – but don’t forget the little lessons that can go a long way.
Over the last decade or so, simulated game shooting has become more and more popular. Shooting schools, game shoots, sporting agents and savvy land owners are all offering a form of simulated game shooting, which means there are now days available to meet all budgets.
This is a good thing, as no matter what your shooting budget is, you can afford a simulated day or two, outside August 12 – February 1. What I don’t think many people do, (but should) is use these days as preparation and practice for the forthcoming game season. Too many people go out to shoot as many cartridges as they can and end up with bruised shoulders, arms and cheeks! Yes it’s great fun and I have no problem with it – I enjoy simulated days myself. But, while you are shooting all of these cartridges, at lots of different angles, distances and heights – why not use it to practice and improve your shooting technique?
With that thought in mind, you might want to read through and try some of the following tips and hints when you and your friends are enjoying your next simulated game day together.
Safety in all things
As with all forms of shooting, safety is the most important thing to take into consideration. When shooting in quite often close proximity of other guns, hosts, loaders and trappers, you need to be aware of your surroundings.
“I have seen the calmest game shots shoot at every clay in the sky during a simulated day – needless to say the hit ratio was not great.”
As with game shooting (except maybe the odd shot at grouse) you must ensure you have sky all around the bird you have selected, and you need to imagine that just over the brow of that hill, or within that steep wood in front of you, there could be beaters or trappers. Ensure you keep to your safe arc of fire – 45 degrees either side of your peg is a good guide. Don’t shoot falling clays behind. Take a look around you when you get to your peg to make yourself aware of your fellow guns and host, imagining where the pickers-up would be. If you wouldn’t do it on a live game day, don’t do it on a simulated day!
Why not take an instructor with you?
For the cost of a few pheasants or brace of grouse, you can book yourself a qualified and reputable instructor to join you on your peg. This is a fantastic opportunity to get advice and coaching on your shooting style and technique from a professional before your more expensive game days come around. You are likely to get multiple opportunities to practice your “bogey bird”, higher or longer birds, and having a trained eye with you will prove invaluable. Don’t take someone that just tells you where you are missing – a miss can be due to much more than just the wrong amount of lead.
Take your time on technique
Use the opportunity to hone your technique. Work on perfecting your gun mount, don’t rush your shot. Just because you have a number of birds to choose from, you don’t have to shoot at them all! Most bruises are caused by a rushed shot and/or poor mount.
Keep your weight forward, too. A little extra weight on the front foot and keeping your back straight will reduce fatigue and help your sense of balance.
When it comes to footwork, stepping in the shot is really important when shooting game or game-style targets. Particularly when shooting crossing targets, the higher the bird, the more important the step becomes.
And pick your bird. When you see a covey or flush of clays coming at you don’t panic. Pick the bird you want to shoot early on and focus on it. Try one of the different shooting techniques – if you shoot swing-through, try pull-away.
You never know, it might end up suiting you better. Also, practice the timing of your mount, swing and shot. You will be surprised how many more second shots you will get off if you take the first shot a little sooner.
A simulated day is a great way to test your range and ability. Don’t just stand there shooting all of the lower birds, use the opportunity to shoot a slightly longer crosser or higher driven bird. There is no risk to wounding a clay and you may well appreciate the practice come the game season.
Don’t get carried away
Adrenaline is a funny thing – the red mist can very quickly descend into the heads of even the most composed of characters. I have seen the calmest and most selective of game shots shoot at every clay in the sky during a simulated day – needless to say the hit ratio was not great. This behaviour results
in rushed shots, a bad mount and lots of bruises. Try to keep your composure, you can still have a great day and fire a lot of cartridges by remaining calm on the peg.
Above all, enjoy it
Apart from safety, the next most important thing about shooting is enjoying it. Get out with friends, family, syndicate members, beaters, pickers-up and clay shooters. Enjoy the countryside and prepare yourself for the season ahead.