HFT BENELUX OPEN
Gary Chillingworth heads to Europe to report on this recent international HFT event
Gary Chillingworth reports on the news and winners from the international BeNeLux Open in Grupon, Belgium
Year on year, the world of Hunter Field Target ( HFT) has become bigger and bigger. It can now certainly be classed as a truly international sport and is quickly developing its own set of international rules. HFT has spread to countries like the US, South Africa and even Iran, but it’s mainland Europe that is becoming a hotbed of all things HFT and this is what I want to speak about today.
For us in the UK, the HFT clubs and events in mainland Europe are the most intriguing and accessible, and luckily for me, in 2018 I was able to visit two superb international events – the Air Arms International at Ft Schalkhaar in Holland, and the BeNeLux open, held at La Ferme du
Chateau, in Grupont, Belgium.
Now, before I get into detail about this event, I just want to give you a quick guide to getting to these events by road. I chose to use EuroTunnel, booked my train and emailed them immediately to inform them that I was carrying a sub-12 ft.lbs. firearm. I was told that I needed to arrive an hour early to check in at a manned booth and declare that I was carrying a rifle. When I did this, they give me a blue sticker to place on the hanger that you attach to the rear view mirror and was sent to a security checkpoint.
It’s good practice to have a letter of invitation from the competition that you are attending, and also to take your rifle to a RFD, have it chronographed and get a letter stating that it is sub-12 ft.lbs. It is my understanding that these two items are not 100% necessary, but they are recommended because without them you could be delayed or possibly refused travel. After chatting to the security team, I was wished good luck and sent on my way – in total it took about ten minutes.
The ferries across have a similar set of criteria; you might need to fill out a form before travel, and possibly surrender your ammunition to the ship’s security for travel, but the ferry company will advise you on their
rules. Basically, travelling to Europe with a sub-12 ft.lbs. rifle is easy, and because you do not require an EFC (European Firearms Certificate) to do so, the checks are minimal and not massively time consuming.
The drive from Calais to Grupont was nice and easy – it was mostly motorways, and fuel and coffee was available along the way. In Belgium, just remember that if your rifle has a silencer, it must be non-removable, so use some Locktite to secure it, and always keep a HiViz in the cabin of the car, otherwise you could get a big fine.
It took me about three and half hours to make the drive, and on arrival at the shoot I pulled into the car park of the wonderful chateau to see a drone flying around, filming the event, and people standing around drinking coffee, just like a UK shoot. The grounds are stunning and within minutes I was able to catch up with friends who I have met over the years.
The BeNeLux Open was split into two competitions; there was one for the FT competitors and one for the HFT shooters. Sometimes, when you travel to different countries there can be different rules, but luckily though, most of the top European events are now adopting the new international rules and if you are used to shooting UKAHFT spec’ courses, these will seem very familiar.
The event itself was held over two days and after the compulsory safety brief, we headed out on to the course, and I have to say, I was very impressed. The course was 40 shots – 20 in the woodlands and 20 in the open field. We started in the woods and I have to admit, I had a small amount of trepidation. I had heard rumours of other European events where targets weren’t painted, or were of poor quality and badly placed, targets that would not fall over, even if they were shot in the kill zone, but would fell over when shot high up the plate. However, I am glad to say that all the targets were painted and of high quality – a mixture of Flopover and Knockover, I think. The marshals were well briefed and well equipped and the target placement was top notch. In fact, after day one, I had been smashed to pieces by a truly excellent course.
The woodland was stunning and listening to a wild boar hunt going on in the neighbouring woodland was a real treat. When we got into the field section, it was clear to see that Patrick van Herten and his BeNeLux team had spent a huge amount of time planning the course, and with targets hidden inside cabins and jutting out from trees, this open field was a real challenge to shoot.
After day one, I was two points off the top springer score, and heading in to day two, I was paired with the leader from day one’s Rens Gaarenstroom. Rens is a lovely chap, a real joy to shoot with and we had
a good natter all the way round. After half the course, I had managed to pull level, and for the next ten targets it went back and forth, but luckily for me, with five targets to go, I grabbed a one point lead and managed to hold on for the win.
Other winners were: Tom Van Dokkum beating Richard Woods in the Open HFT, Adam Benke winning the Open FT, me winning the Springer HFT, Thorston Ro who was top FT springer, and Jera Ruijters who was the Junior champion.
The BeNeLux team and the Dutch Field Target Assosiation ( DFTA) are keen to promote international shooting, and in 2019 there are going to be two more brilliant chances to take part in international events over there; these are the European Championships at Grupont in Belgium, and the Air Arms International at FT Schalkhaar, in Holland – and for those readers in Europe, we have the World Championships in September at the Midland Game Fair, and of course, the Nationals where you will be more then welcome.
We also have a fun ‘Three Nations Challenge’ which is for the top score from the Euro’s, Air Arms and the BeNeLux challenge, held at Maldon in January. Luckily, we had plenty of Dutch and Belgian shooters come over for the fun and frivolity and I am pleased to say that Ingrid Van Gemert even walked away with some silverware as the top lady shooter of the day.
Basically, what I am trying to say is this – come and give the BeNeLux, Europeans, or the Air Arms International a try. The people are warm and welcoming, the courses are tough and enjoyable and if you can get to Dover, it’s only a threehour driver – and you can even pick up some wine on the way home.
I have shot many competitions over the years, but the Air Arms International and the BeNeLux will live with me for a long time, and I am proud to say that I have made some great European friends. It has proved a point that I have believed for years; shooting people are good people, no matter which country they come from.
“the Air Arms International and the BeNeLux will live with me for a long time”
La Ferme du Chateau – a lovely place to shoot
RIGHT: The Field of Terror, it took no prisoners
ABOVE: The BeNeLux Open and European Championships will become popular events for Brits.
Miriam Stark has been a popular Dutch figure shooting in the UK
Rens Gaarenstroom is one of the top European springer shooters
Ingrid Van Gemert was the Ladies winner of the Maldon round of the BeNeLux challenge
Me and Rens, we both had a great time
Manuel Derose shows that springers abroad are as popular as they are in the UK
Jay Mode won a free entry to the Europeans – lets hope he can make it.
The BeNeLux Open was for both FT and HFT
Richard wasn’t happy losing to Tom