Clay pigeon shooting: be mean and green

Clay pigeons offer several advantages over their feathered counterparts: they don't terrorise tourists in Trafalgar Square, they don't annoy anyone with their incessant coo-ing and clay pigeons have never yet been known to leave messy deposits on your shoulder as they fly past. Of course, clay pigeons don't have it all their own way: they taste rubbish and if you've ever tried strapping a message to a clay pigeon's leg before sending it on a vital wartime mission you'll know how disappointing it can be when, after launching with much promise, they come down to earth in the next field.

Still, let's assume you're not planning on any wartime espionage, and that your particular form of pigeon-ular entertainment doesn't involve it being slow cooked in a red wine reduction. Let’s assume that when it comes to pigeons you have just one form of entertainment in mind: shooting them. That’s where clay shooting comes to the fore as the socially acceptable way of blasting pigeons out of the air.

Consider the problems associated with shooting real pigeons: they’re unpredictable – they’re as likely to perch in the nearest tree and stay there as they are to fly across your line of aim. As a result it can take forever if your feathered targets are being particularly uncooperative that day. Shoot real pigeons and you’re likely at some point to engage the wrath of some hippy, beardy tree-huggers who’ll try and stop you. One of them may be dressed as a pigeon. Under no circumstances should you shoot at them.

Finally, of course, we come to the chief reason why clay pigeon shooting in your locality is infinitely preferable to shooting the real thing: people will hate you. Pigeons will really hate you. Hell, you’ll probably hate yourself.

So welcome to the socially acceptable way of shooting things in public. No living thing will die. You will remain a pillar of your community. Nobody will assume you are Sarah Palin in disguise. Welcome to "clay pigeon shooting".

Clay shooting shock: ‘Inanimate Bird Shooting’ proves not to be the crowd-pleasing, snappy title they were looking for…

Clay pigeons go by many names. ‘Clay targets’ and ‘skeets’ are terms also frequently used, presumably by people who get all twitchy about the prospect of shooting something called a pigeon.

The sport was originally termed Inanimate Bird Shooting and was, we must suppose, changed because that’s a really bad name and conjures up visions of blowing away the contents of Tesco’s frozen turkey aisle.

Much of the other terminology associated with a clay pigeon shoot, though, is just as archaic and has remained. The terms reflect the fact that the pigeons (and other targets) weren’t always clay. So clay pigeons are often referred to as ‘birds’, a hit is described a ‘kill’ and a miss is known as a ‘bird away’. The machine which launches the clay pigeons is called a ‘trap’. There’s even a particular type of target which is launched along the ground at speed named a ‘rabbit’. It looks about as much like a rabbit as a clay pigeon looks like a pigeon.

Those keen to give clay shooting a try have a wealth of options to choose from. You can enjoy a clay pigeon shoot in almost every county in the UK and with the thick end of 450 clubs to choose from countrywide you shouldn’t have to travel too far to find a suitable venue. All countries of Great Britain are well serviced so whether you’re clay pigeon shooting in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales you should have plenty of choice.

Your entry into the world of clay shooting could be by many means. Many a work’s teambuilding day has found itself enjoying the challenge of clay pigeon shooting and it’s not uncommon to find that many people who take up target shooting in a serious way had their first introduction to the sport trying to beat the boss’ tally whilst impressing Sarah from accounts. Many more fans of the sport find their way to it via hen weekends and stag weekends.

Once the fog of an alcohol-fuelled stag party has passed it’s rare not to find some of the hens or stags returning for another try over the following weeks. And then there are those who just fancy a go. A friend of a friend who knows someone who shoots. Whatever your clay pigeon shooting ‘in’, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome at your local club.

You’re also guaranteed to have a great time – and you won’t be alone. People of all ages (the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association’s youngest member is 9 and its oldest is 90) and both sexes are clay shooting in their droves every week. As the CPSA itself notes: “Clay pigeon shooting is a strongly supported sport, with an active CPSA membership of approximately 25,000 participating at all shooting levels from farm and syndicate shoots through to national, registered and International competitions.” *

You don’t need a gun license to take part in a clay pigeon shoot, although should you start shooting regularly you will need to apply. There’s no special clothing in which you need to invest. Ear protectors are available at most venues and should you wish to take up clay shooting more regularly then you might wish to invest in a set of your own.

Shooting clay pigeons is an all-weather sport (so dress appropriately) and minimum age restrictions do vary from club to club so check in advance.

There are some sports that just aren’t for everyone. Some sports need outlandish kit, exorbitant expenditure or particular locations. Diving is, it turns out, not that great without breathing apparatus. Rally driving is considerably better in a car than on foot, and skiing is really poor in Margate. Unless you can afford the kit and the ticket to the location where your desired activity takes place then many sports are just off limits.

If you’re about to take up clay pigeon shooting in a serious you will need a license, and a gun will definitely help. We’ve tried throwing things at the targets but it’s just not as effective. But those two items don’t amount to a small fortune, and you don’t even need your own gun or license to take part in a clay pigeon shoot. You can give it a go by just paying your fee and turning up at a club, by taking part in a corporate event, or by making clay pigeon shooting a great way of spending a part of your hen or stag weekend.

There’s a clay shooting venue near you. Isn’t it time you gave it a go?

Clay Pigeon Shooting
is available at our following resorts.

Whitley Bay