As a young Guns day at White­hill stirs up fond mem­o­ries of his own first shoot day, Jack Knott urges other syn­di­cates to think about what they could do to en­cour­age the next gen­er­a­tion

Sporting Shooter - - Contents - WITH JACK KNOTT

Can you re­mem­ber shoot­ing your first driven game­bird? That very first day stand­ing on a peg along­side your men­tor, usu­ally a fam­ily mem­ber of sorts, ex­cit­edly wait­ing for that first bird to flush and break in your di­rec­tion? Do you re­mem­ber at the end of the drive go­ing over to col­lect the birds that you had suc­cess­fully brought down? It doesn’t mat­ter what age it hap­pens – the emo­tions, the nerves and the en­joy­ment of the day are all com­pa­ra­ble.

I re­mem­ber my first day out shoot­ing with fond mem­o­ries. I was on the lo­cal syn­di­cate shoot where my fa­ther had a peg, and it was the drive af­ter lunch when he fi­nally al­lowed me to un­sheathe my .410 and have a go. I re­mem­ber the drive and I also re­mem­ber the one cock pheas­ant that I suc­cess­fully con­nected with (the pic­ture of me hold­ing the pheas­ant is still hang­ing up in my par­ents’ home). These ear­li­est shoot­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties were an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion and ex­cite­ment, set­ting me up per­fectly for a fu­ture of shoot­ing in the many dif­fer­ent forms and dis­ci­plines it takes.

It was re­fresh­ing to re­visit these ear­li­est shoot­ing mem­o­ries back in Oc­to­ber, when the Coun­try­side Al­liance were in­vited to at­tend a highly im­pres­sive young Guns day with the White­hill shoot syn­di­cate near Can­ter­bury in Kent.

The in­vi­ta­tion to help pro­mote and ob­serve the young Guns day came af­ter the Al­liance had helped the White­hill shoot re­cover from an un­prece­dented at­tack by a group of an­tis ear­lier in the sum­mer. The group de­stroyed a num­ber of pheas­ant pens and in­fra­struc­ture, al­low­ing hun­dreds of poults to escape.

As the lead­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion on deal­ing with an­tis, the Coun­try­side Al­liance used the White­hill shoot ex­am­ple in an aware­ness cam­paign, mak­ing sure that other shoot own­ers and game­keep­ers re­mained vig­i­lant in the lo­cal area and around the coun­try.

The young Guns day in­volved 10 chil­dren, with guns rang­ing from .410 to 12-bore, with vary­ing de­grees of ex­pe­ri­ence, all ac­com­pa­nied by their men­tors and en­joy­ing a full day of shoot­ing in the glo­ri­ous Kent coun­try­side.

Through­out the six drives, the men­tors had an abun­dance of time to talk through shoot­ing’s more in­tri­cate de­tails, teach­ing the new­com­ers to the sport how the birds will be pre­sent­ing them­selves and why, and, most im­por­tantly, safe and un­safe prac­tices. There was no im­me­di­ate rush as the young­sters had all day to hone their skills, and the birds were be­ing pre­sented bril­liantly by the syn­di­cate mem­bers, fam­ily and friends, both young and old. The men­tors were pro­fes­sional and pa­tient, and I en­joyed rem­i­nisc­ing back to the time my fa­ther was rather more force­ful with his own style of teach­ing.

It was an ab­so­lute joy to see the Guns grow in con­fi­dence through­out the day, with the men­tors tak­ing a back­wards step, lead­ing to the last drive where the mid­dle of the shoot­ing line were connecting with the birds im­pres­sively well. Con­grat­u­la­tory cheers rose from up and down the line, as well as from the beat­ers within the thick cov­ers in front of the Guns. Beam­ing smiles and tired eyes from ev­ery child showed that the day had been per­fect; by al­low­ing these 10 chil­dren a full day’s shoot­ing they had gained more ex­pe­ri­ence and skills than could ever have been com­pleted on a clay pi­geon ground. Along with some in­cred­i­ble mem­o­ries and a brace of pheas­ants, they headed home know­ing that the first step to­wards a healthy shoot­ing ca­reer had just be­gun.

The White­hill shoot syn­di­cate is a shin­ing ex­am­ple of the shoot­ing com­mu­nity giv­ing some­thing back to the sport, en­sur­ing that the fu­ture of our sport con­tin­ues to shine strongly. The day meant a great deal to the 70-plus peo­ple that at­tended the event, and we are al­ready look­ing for­ward to help­ing again next year. It was a priv­i­lege for the Coun­try­side Al­liance to be a part of the day, and it would be truly won­der­ful to have the day repli­cated by many more shoots around the coun­try.

The young Guns had plenty of op­por­tu­nity to hone their skills

A great day was had by all

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