Clay Shooting

Scot­tish Open Cham­pi­onship

Sasse­nach Gra­ham Stirza­ker swooped in to win a soggy Scot­tish Open Sport­ing Cham­pi­onship, re­ports Mur­ray Thom­son

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The Sasse­nachs swooped in on a soggy Scot­tish sport­ing event, re­ports Mur­ray Thom­son

Eng­land’s Gra­ham Stirza­ker shot a su­perb 93 ex-100 in shock­ingly wet con­di­tions to take over­all High Gun at the Scot­tish Open Sport­ing Cham­pi­onships, held at The Na­tional Shoot­ing Cen­tre Scot­land, near Falkirk. An­other sasse­nach, Eng­land’s Scott Bar­nett, re­cently back from the ICTSF World Sport­ing, shot a 90 to tie with Scot­land’s silent as­sas­sin, Lewis Green­howe, then beat him in the shoot-off to take the run­ner-up spot, with Lewis lift­ing the tro­phy as the over­all Scot­tish Cham­pion. The cen­trally lo­cated NCSC has gone from strength to strength un­der the lead­er­ship of GB and Scot­land in­ter­na­tional Ste­wart Cum­mings, who runs the ground with the Mac­caig fam­ily. They have in­vested heav­ily in their ground to ap­peal to a wide va­ri­ety of shot­gun shoot­ers, and have im­pres­sive cov­ered Olympic Trap lay­outs as well as Skeet ranges, Spor­trap lay­outs and a Sport­ing course that snakes its way from the club­house out to­wards the open moor.

The nor­mal Sport­ing course runs partly along­side the lake to the rear of the re­cently re­fur­bished club house. In an in­ter­est­ing and welcome move, this year the NCSC team and guest course set­ter Gra­ham Clark de­cided to build the en­tire course around the out­skirts of the lake, us­ing its banks as paths be­tween each stop.

Ev­ery stand was shot with your back to the wa­ter, with the open fields and tree­lines be­yond used to pro­vide a mul­ti­tude of tar­gets. One had the feel­ing that plenty of thought had gone into how the birds would ap­pear to the wait­ing gun.

The team had opened up new path­ways through the woods, which meant that those who reg­u­larly at­tend NCSC im­me­di­ately had their bub­ble of fa­mil­iar­ity popped, and had to cope with un­fa­mil­iar shoot­ing po­si­tions. The play­ing field was level – game on!

The weather dom­i­nated ev­ery­one’s mind from the be­gin­ning. Phone bat­ter­ies were flat­tened as those about to take on the course fran­ti­cally searched weather apps and radar images to see when a band of per­sis­tent show­ers and winds would pass. Some squads gam­bled and hit the course at the first op­por­tu­nity. Ini­tially that seemed like a mis­take, but as the af­ter­noon panned out it proved to be the right call.

Just af­ter lunch one gun was heard to say “my radar app shows that’s the rain off for the day” be­fore bound­ing to­wards his car to kit-up. Within min­utes he re­sem­bled an ex­tra from the movie Water­world. The guns dug their wet gear out of the car and cracked on. At least they had an out­stand­ing Sport­ing course to take their minds off the weather.

The open­ing stand was at the club­house, and fol­lowed the rather odd shape of the

lake which formed the back­bone of the course. By the time the squads reached stand 14, they were back at the car park, and could re­treat for the warmth of the club­house to en­joy a steak pie as they waited to see how they had fared.

Around the course, you could gaze across the wa­ter to the com­ing stands. Some spent time try­ing to read the body lan­guage of other guns across the gap, search­ing for any glimpse of com­fort that things might get bet­ter for their score card. It was hard to keep dis­ci­pline and fo­cus on the task in hand – the temp­ta­tion to peek at other stands was some­times just too much.

JCB tele­han­dlers from AM Phillip Agrictech had been used for loft­ing traps, so that a rel­a­tively flat and en­closed bit of ground sud­denly of­fered birds at an un­ex­pected height and pow­ered by in­tel­li­gent lev­els of spring. The course of­fered sev­eral si­mul­ta­ne­ous pairs, and de­spite the strong winds there was still plenty of time to move to the sec­ond with­out it be­ing sucked into a rogue vor­tex.

The pre­sen­ta­tions were var­ied – for in­stance, a tight-in bird fol­lowed by some­thing that a re­quired a lit­tle more courage. Else­where there were clays that looked like lots of muz­zle speed was re­quired, when in fact min­i­mal gun move­ment was the key to the de­sired soot ball. Inevitably, some tar­gets were wind-af­fected, but with the wind re­main­ing con­sis­tent through­out the day, it was the same for ev­ery­one. The course set­ter had taken care to show the full clay face, so there were no edge-on eye tests – a healthy de­ci­sion for a day such as this.

As the squads re­turned, it was soon clear that, al­though the course looked fairly straight­for­ward, many had fallen vic­tim to Gra­ham Clark’s das­tardly plan­ning. Even those who had shot well be­low their nor­mal av­er­age had only them­selves to blame for the lost birds scat­tered across their card. All in all, this was yet an­other demon­stra­tion of how well Scot­land can host such com­pe­ti­tions, and a shin­ing ex­am­ple of the skill, de­ter­mi­na­tion and hard work of those who set up and ran the event. For more about events at the Na­tional Shoot­ing Cen­tre Scot­land see www. or www.face­book/com­na­tion­al­shoot­ing­cen­tre92

“Spirits re­mained high de­spite the chal­leng­ing wet and windy con­di­tions”

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