Country Mouse – Mark Hedges

Simulated game shooting has been around for about a decade. I can remember going on one of the first when I was editing Shooting Times. Its success has neatly coincided with the huge rise in popularity of shooting. Clays are fired from behind copses to give the impression of a real pheasant drive. It’s exciting, and a great way to keep your eye in during the off-season.

The master of this newish art is Dylan Williams and his team at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School. Last week, I was shooting with the Purdey team at Highclere for the Strutt and Parker City Championships. The setting, which makes such a difference to these days, was perfect. The rolling chalk hills were capped with woods filled with sprays of elderflower and polka-dotted with dog roses.

Normally, I shoot with a 20-bore that would struggle to fetch £450 if I sold it, but Richard Purdey lent me the prototype for the company’s new gun, the Purdey Sporter, which will cost about £25,000. It is a thing of beauty and comes alive in your hands. Sadly, however, despite the gun, I was still just as capable of missing the clays as they swung across the Berkshire sunshine. Money can’t buy a hit, but it can buy a miss with style.