IT'S THE WEEKEND: Clay pigeon shooting in the great outdoors
2:20pm Sunday 29th September 2013 in News
IT is game season, or at least, that is what they tell me. When it comes to clay pigeon shooting, it is fair to say that the majority of us cannot claim to be experts. But that is what makes it fun – all kinds of different people can take part.
Game season, so I am told, runs from August 12 until February 1 every year. But the interesting thing about clay shooting is that it can be enjoyed by all kinds of people.
To put it simply, clay pigeon shooting is the art of shooting a firearm at special flying targets, known as clay pigeons or clay targets.
Providing they have enough space to ensure that the shot and clay pigeons stay within their boundaries, people are entitled to shoot clays on their own land.
They also have to ensure that the noise from the shooting does not cause a nuisance because it can be a rather loud hobby.
But there are some establishments in Gwent where clay shooting is the norm and is being provided for people on a day to day basis.
Andrew Groombridge, from Newport, works at Treetops in Coedkernew, which opened in 1989.
There are several defined shooting areas at Treetops which offer a range of targets mimicking a variety of different games, or forms of clay shooting.
Mr Groombridge said: “I’ve been here for 24 years, and have part-owned it for the last three years.
“I first got into game shooting after my uncle once told me ‘I’ll make a man out of you’.
“It’s just great satisfaction when you see your shot hitting the target – you can’t describe it until you’ve tried it.”
Clay pigeon shooting is appealing for all kinds of people. Treetops caters for crowds of people on hen dos and stag dos, birthday parties, corporate team building events, and welcomes the experienced as well as the inexperienced. One person who can certainly place himself safely in the category of experienced shooters is Paul Clifford.
Mr Clifford has been clay shooting for more than 30 years and has represented Wales at various international championships.
He said: “I followed in my father’s footsteps with it really. Once you’ve got that bug, you don’t want to stop.
“You’ve got to have good hand-eye co-ordination to do it well. But you get groups coming here for a bit of banter with each other, and it’s quite competitive as well.”
The development of clay shooting into a sport has not been without controversy.
Live-pigeon competitions were made illegal in 1921, but the terminologies commonly used by clay shooters are often related to the days before the ban.
For example, a target may still be called a ‘bird’, a hit may be referred to as a ‘kill’, and a missed target as a ‘bird away’, while the machine which projects the targets is still known as a ‘trap’.
The first clay target, a flat disc, appeared between 1883 and 1887, and as a result, the clay pigeon was introduced, marking the birth and development of sporting clays.
The early 1980s saw the development of automatic traps that could be powered by 12 volt batteries enabling shooting ground owners the ability to position traps in more realistic positions.
Back at Treetops, staff members from the Newport and Bristol branches of international company Deloitte were enjoying a nice day out.
Matt Francis, 39, said: “When you spend 50 hours a week at your desk, you just can’t wait to get outside. This is something a little bit different.”
David Kilby, 27, is the son of Treetops owner, Stephen Kilby. David insisted that Treetops welcomes people from all over the country, regardless of their wealth or background.
He said: “We are very laid back here. We’re not going to look at anyone any different if they come in driving a Land Rover or not such a nice car.
“We get a wide variety of people coming here, from right across the Valleys to really far away, which is a really good thing.”
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