Join a shoot­ing club to change your life, says Ed­die Jones

Ed­die Jones tells us why be­ing a mem­ber of a good shoot­ing club could change your life

Air Gunner - - Contents -

T his month I have taken a break on writ­ing about my hunt­ing ex­ploits in the field. In­stead, I am go­ing to re­veal how I first started out into the air ri­fle scene and then pro­gressed to hunt­ing. When I first started shoot­ing I would prac­tise alone, shoot­ing tin cans and any other tar­gets I could find, for hours so that I could get good enough to get out in the field. Af­ter a while, I got talk­ing to a friend who was shoot­ing FT ( field tar­get) at the time, and he in­vited me to his club. He ex­plained that the dif­fer­ent tar­gets they shot would help to im­prove my chances of learn­ing how a pel­let be­haved at dif­fer­ent dis­tances and an­gles. I was still pretty green, as they, say so I ac­cepted his of­fer.

It was a cold and frosty Sun­day morn­ing when we ar­rived at his lo­cal meet. He was shoot­ing a shiny PCP, and I had a bat­tered Sharp Inova. I was in­formed that I had to have my ri­fle tested over a chrono­graph be­fore I was al­lowed on the course be­cause FAC ri­fles were not per­mit­ted. I had no clue what my ri­fle’s power was. I didn’t have a lux­ury of a chrono­graph and, to be hon­est, I was just happy to have a ri­fle that shot straight with a nice 4x20 Smar­tie- tube scope. Well, to cut a long story short, for the test, I de­cided to put in one less pump of air than nor­mal, just to make sure I didn’t get banned be­fore I had even taken a shot.

GIRLY FEATH­ERS

While I was waiting for my mate to stop mess­ing on the prac­tice range, I de­cided to go and take a look at all the ri­fles be­ing charged up by the club mem­bers. I had never seen ri­fles like the ones they were shoot­ing. At the time, they were ‘space age’ com­pared to mine; they had mas­sive scopes, shiny bar­rels and tubes – they also had girly feath­ers hang­ing off them, as I recall say­ing to my mate. He just laughed and set us off around the course. I re­mem­ber how hard it was, try­ing to hit tar­gets from five out to 45 yards. I had no clue about hold un­der or hold over be­cause I had just shot at tar­gets at around 25 yards. Any­way, I was get­ting frus­trated on the first run be­cause I was only hit­ting the odd tar­get. I was also get­ting the mickey taken out of me from the regulars who were shoot­ing the lat­est shiny, feather- laden ri­fles. I recall never be­ing of­fered any con­struc­tive ad­vice from any of them.

This went on for a few months. I was be­com­ing a lot bet­ter, but it was get­ting me down – just be­cause I was shoot­ing an older ri­fle I was an id­iot, and it was a waste of time me be­ing there, I recall be­ing said. This put me off go­ing. They could have taught me a lot about ri­fles and tra­jec­tory if they hadn’t been so stuck up. I stopped go­ing in the end, and made my own course up in a lo­cal wood. It might have taken me longer to get to the point where I was good enough to go hunt­ing, but I had done it mostly by my­self and some help from a friend. It was a shame that there had been so much neg­a­tiv­ity from the top shots, and I never went to a club again. I have spo­ken to guys of the same age who also had the same wel­come as me, and they de­cided enough was enough pretty quickly. Thank­fully, these guys stuck to the task and are pretty ac­com­plished hunters in their own right.

GUN TART

Whilst work­ing one night at my new job, I met some­body who is now my new manager. We got talk­ing about our hob­bies and strangely, he had been shoot­ing for the last cou­ple of years at a club. I ex­plained what kind of shoot­ing I was do­ing, and how my past ex­pe­ri­ences could have turned me away from the sport. Luck­ily, he had not en­coun­tered any neg­a­tiv­ity and through shoot­ing at the club he has now got into hunt­ing with other mem­bers. Af­ter hear­ing his story and what had hap­pened since he joined, I wanted to share his ex­pe­ri­ences and give the new shoot­ers to our sport a

way into get­ting the help you need to be­come a bet­ter, safer shot.

Andy had joined a club, the Kib­worth Shoot­ing Ground and was us­ing a spring ri­fle at the time at a cost of around £ 80. When he first walked on to the range, he was wel­comed from the very first minute by the reg­u­lar shoot­ers. He shot the spring ri­fle for around eight months and hadn’t felt in­fe­rior to any of the other shoot­ers with far more ex­pen­sive ri­fles. They helped him with his tech­nique with the gun that he had. As time went on, and af­ter try­ing the many ri­fles on of­fer to him through the other mem­bers, he pro­gressed to a more ex­pen­sive HW97K with a lam­i­nate stock. He was now a gun- tart, ‘one of the crew’ in his eyes. His bond with the other mem­bers also grew and he was get­ting very good with the ri­fle, all be­cause he was get­ting help ev­ery time he needed it.

GAIN­ING CON­FI­DENCE

Two years on and he is now part of a gang called the Hole Punch­ers. These guys all helped Andy to be­come the shooter he is to­day. It is not just the shoot­ing that he en­joys. The ban­ter and meet- ups away from the ground make him feel like he is part of some­thing spe­cial. The group con­sists of mem­bers rang­ing from 20 to 80 years old; a good mix of ages that only goes to sup­port the chem­istry amongst the guys try­ing to help each other be­come the best they can be. They also make their own tar­gets that they use at the club, and there is cer­tainly a more se­ri­ous side to the shoot­ing when an­other mem­ber beats the one who made the tar­gets, and Andy is a reg­u­lar win­ner, so he says.

I asked Andy if he would have been hunt­ing now had he not had the sup­port from his new friends. He cat­e­gor­i­cally said that he wouldn’t.

“We set tar­gets out from 10- 50 yards so we can learn hold un­der and hold over,” he told me. “We then try to learn what the wind does to the pel­let at dif­fer­ent speeds and ranges. You need this knowl­edge to gain enough con­fi­dence to know that you can kill the an­i­mal cleanly and with­out suf­fer­ing. I also go out with some of the guys in our group, and with­out them I wouldn’t be hunt­ing as much as I would if I were alone.”

SEN­TI­MEN­TAL

You can clearly see that Andy was a lot luck­ier than me when he started, out and it shows how times have changed. I’ve no­ticed this kind of at­mos­phere when I’ve gone along to clubs just to have a chat with mem­bers to see how they pro­gressed with the help of oth­ers. It is nice to see, and any young­ster, or some­one that is try­ing for the first time, can re­ally en­joy the sport if we care enough to give them sup­port and the knowl­edge we have learned over the years. It is not all se­ri­ous when it comes to club shoot­ing, as you will see from some of the pic­tures I was given by Andy. Andy was get­ting a bit sen­ti­men­tal when it came to his friends and he wanted to thank them in this fea­ture for all the sup­port and friend­ship he has re­ceived since join­ing the club. I nearly got a tis­sue out for him in the end.

Well, that’s it from me, but next month I will be out re­port­ing in the field again; au­tumn is a great time to hit squir­rels feed­ing, pi­geons should start to get into big­ger groups, and rab­bits will soon be on the lamp. I can­not wait!

“When he first walked on to the range, he was wel­comed from the very first minute”

ABOVE: Never a dull mo­ment with the gang OP­PO­SITE PAGE: As the tar­get gets longer, find­ing sup­port to steady your shot be­comes more im­por­tant

ABOVE: Andy likes to test him­self against tar­gets at all sorts of ranges

BE­LOW: Andy’s lat­est love!

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