The Big Bang: The last lesson

It’s official, I love shooting. In fact, I was so excited about having my third lesson that I completely forgot that it was to be the last before my big test – the Canine Partners Charity Shoot.

My nerves jangled not a little when my brilliant instructor Darron Carver of the Apsley Sporting Shooting School, showed an uncharacteristic moment of uncertainty, as I happily announced that it was only a week to go before the shoot.

This soon faded into the deep recesses of my excitable mind though, as we went straight out to the tower to learn to mount the gun, and shoot under pressure. At first this made me crumple a bit, as with my mind racing about the many things that I should and should not be doing I forgot the first rule – bum, belly, beak, bang – or, in other words, keep the gun moving! In my stilted panic I was swinging and stopping before firing, a cardinal sin in the shooting world.

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I might also add that for this lesson I had undergone something of an upgrade, and was shooting with a 20-bore, rather than the 28-bore I started with in my first two lessons. Needless to say this is still a very small shotgun, but it felt bigger to me!


Alice mounting the gun

Anyway once I regained my confidence and was happily loading, mounting, swinging and shooting I managed to hit two in a row – twice! Nothing beats this feeling, especially with my (still delighted) father and instructor jumping around and whooping with excitement behind me. A fair few single clays shattered after this, just to bolster me further.

My arms were now starting to wobble a bit, so big daddy stepped in to have a go – and quickly put me to shame by hitting about eight in a row. That was quite enough of that, especially as his cartridges kept ejecting straight at my head…unintentionally, I assume!


The whole lesson seemed to be over very quickly – although I am told it lasted over an hour. I think I was just enjoying myself far too much. So armed with top tips for the big day ahead, including remember to breathe, take an oven glove to put over my shoulder, to avoid recoil bruises (under my jumper – I’m not having everyone laugh at me), wear a jacket with a large pocket so that I can whip new cartridges in quick-as-a-flash, and last but definitely not least – don’t panic!

I am told that clays fly thick and fast, so the key is to just focus on one and not be distracted. Thankfully, my team-mates (Editor, Mark Hedges; Deputy Editor, Rupert Uloth and father extraordinaire Oliver Cooke) will be standing beside me and shooting at the same time – therefore I am pretty sure that I can employ the art of blag and just claim to have hit lots, without anyone being any the wiser…we will see how successful this master-plan is. Wish me luck!

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