The Royal Berkshire Shooting School’s new simulated game competition promises to challenge and delight even the most die-hard of game shooters, writes Emily Damment
While many die-hard game shooters will take the odd tentative trip to the clay club to keep their eye in, it is an altogether rarer sight to see them shooting competitively – disregarding the unspoken race to fill the bag, which must be conducted with plenty of smiles and cries of “good shot, sir!” and never directly acknowledged.
Legitimate clay competitions, it would seem, do not overly interest them, which in some ways is a shame as it would be a fun and beneficial way to spend non-game-shooting weekends and the summer months.
Anyway, that attitude might be about to change, because the Royal Berkshire Shooting School (RBSS) has launched a simulated game shooting competition which is as close to the real thing as you could ever hope to get, with some exceedingly ‘gamey’ prizes up for grabs.
The aptly named ‘Royal Flush’ competition is being hailed as the new king of simulated game. A glittering line-up of sponsors have come on board, and the prize fund takes the form of five exceptional shooting holidays worth up to £30,000 which the winner can attend with seven of their best shooting buddies. But, there is a catch – even if you win the competition, only a score of 92 or higher will warrant dragging the suitcase out of the closet and dusting off the plus fours. The highest scorer on each stand does, however, get to pocket £1,000 cash, regardless of the score.
The holidays on offer are: a day’s grouse shooting at Bransdale in Yorkshire; a day’s driven pheasant at Lyneham in Devon; a Spanish partridge day in Madrid or Mallorca; a driven partridge day at Prescombe in Wiltshire; and a week’s mixed sport at Novar in Inverness-shire – all including accommodation. Now, if that isn’t enough to get even the most clay-sceptic shooter’s pulse racing, then a defibrillator might be the next best bet.
Unlike your average Sporting clay competition, where you would expect upwards of 12 stands, there are just five to conquer at the Royal Flush, each with 20 birds, giving a possible total of 100. And trust us, conquering these imaginative creations takes some doing.
Named to emulate the five prizes and sponsors, the stands include the Purdey Grouse, the Sunseeker Tower, the Chase Distillery Partridge,
the Boodles La Mancha and the AON Walk Up. I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch of the Royal Flush competition, where I got to have a crack at the stands alongside 50 others from the shooting community and press.
If you’ve never visited the RBSS, let me first say that the ground itself is spectacular, with varied topography stretching to the furthest tree on the horizon, an immaculate clubhouse manned by friendly faces, and impeccably maintained stands and walkways. It was mentioned in the introductory speeches that the sun always seems to shine there, and though I’m sure those working the grounds throughout the winter months raised their eyebrows, the statement certainly rang true for the launch.
Each stand was more than a little bit special, but the most innovative and exciting to my mind was the AON Walk Up. As the name suggests, this calls on the shooter to walk down a narrow track in the woods, along which wooden sleepers are placed at various intervals. As you reach each sleeper, traps are activated and clays spring out from all directions – you really needed to keep your wits about you for this one! It was brilliant fun and took some real skills to master. Heads up rough shooters – this is the stand to try!
The Sunseeker Tower presented some screamingly high ‘pheasants’ in well-thought-out sequences, which I must admit were beyond my limited capabilities, but they certainly seemed to be giving the more able shots among us something to get their teeth into.
Spanish partridge on the Boodles La Mancha and English partridge on the Chase Distillery stand really got the pulse racing, with some seriously speedy targets that required total concentration to see, let alone shoot, and a covey which required some trick-shooter skills to fully obliterate.
Once again, while my own wayward attempts failed to connect, the more experienced (and/or practised) shots among us were having a whale of a time trying to get on top of these tough targets. They struck what seemed to be the perfect balance of presenting a real challenge, even to the best shots, without being so tough as to be labelled unshootable and sulked over.
Grouse were well catered for on the Purdey Grouse stand, with a fast-paced and exciting sequence coming at you as you waited in the butt; a four-bird covey to finish was the cherry on this particular cake, and the one person I saw magically connect with all four got a welldeserved cheer from those watching. Which brings me onto another point – I found the Royal Flush stands almost as exciting to watch as they were to shoot, and from the whoops and cheers that could be heard as we made our way around the ground, I wasn’t the only one.
Be it the latest night-shooting gadget or a new superfood diet, it’s not very often that the hype about the latest ‘thing’ is actually justified – this competition, these stands, are the exception. I can’t rate the Royal Flush highly enough; it is superb in every way. Go and try it for yourself… if you think you’re up to the challenge! The general consensus among us mere mortals was that if
anyone scores a 92 on these stands, they deserve to go on the holiday of a lifetime!
‘The partridge really got the pulse racing, with some seriously speedy targets that required total concentration to see, let alone shoot’
The high ‘pheasants’ really were high
The grounds at RBSS are a great setting for this new competition
The AON Walk Up was innovative and exciting
A champagne reception after the shooting always goes down a treat