From never seeing a real-life pheasant to now not being able to imagine your life without shooting and country sports.
Unarguably I have always been a townie, raised in a town, with glimmers of the countryside but no understanding of its preservation or importance.
Concrete surroundings and only stepping into the countryside for a quiet walk from time to time.
I had known for a long time that I wanted to source my own food but had no idea where to begin, so I gave up on the idea and it was labelled a hopeless dream.
In 2016 at 25-years-old I decided enough was enough and I’d find a way to make my primal dream a reality. I did a quick Google search of clay pigeon tuition, which seemed like a logical first step, having never seen or held a shotgun in my life. I was fortunate enough to stumble across Bill Telford of High Bird Shooting Ltd.
I booked my first lesson situated in the beautiful grounds of Willington Hall, Cheshire. Bill was a gentleman from the very start and asked me if I’d had any experience in this field. When I explained I was an utter novice, but eager to learn, his eyes lit up. I wanted more than just clay pigeon practice; I was powered by my goal of eventually shooting game.
That day I shot with a 410 and was instantly hooked. From the smell of cartridges to the thrill of watching a clay turn to dust, I instantly knew there was no looking back from here.
The following months I booked 1-2-1 tuition with Bill as often as I could afford it and progressed to a 20 bore. His knowledge and support were worth every penny. During one lesson some months later his wife, Tracey, came to watch and said there was a peg available on a ladies day she was organising for that coming season. This was it, the moment was finally here.
I booked my peg and eagerly awaited the day to come, fitting in as much practice and time with Bill as I physically could to make sure I was ready. I applied for my SGC and then had the joy of going to buy my very first shotgun, where I stepped up to a 12 bore, the gun that would now provide me with every meal that sits on my table.
The day arrived.
With butterflies in my stomach, I got ready, packed my car and drove to the ladies day at Penkridge. On arrival, I was greeted with a warm welcome and open arms by Tracey, Bill and the other female shooters.
To say I was sick with excitement and nerves was an understatement, a concept probably unusual to those who have only ever known this way of life but this was my dream and it was soon to be a reality.
The first drive arrived with Bill by my side to guide and load for me, composing myself, I was ready.
I don’t think I can physically put into words how that felt, nor can I liken it to anything else I’ve ever experienced. The only word I can really suggest that comes comparably close to the feeling is, phenomenal.
I shot five drives that day, totalling fourteen pheasants in the bag, spending who knows how many cartridges, but I was proud, and I like to think Bill was too.
I had finally reached the goal I’d always wanted and couldn’t wait to do it again, so I did, I booked another peg for later in the season.
That night I went home and prepared my first ever meal that had come from field to fork and from then on I knew this was the way to live.
I have continued to explore the world of country sports since that day, going from not knowing the difference of a pheasant or partridge, to having them for dinner at least once a week.
I’ve shot clays, game and even helped with pest control. There isn’t an inch of this country world that I do not want to explore and I can’t imagine my life without it anymore. I even managed to get my 66-year-old Mum behind a 410 for a clay pigeon lesson, again thanks to Bill.
My entire outlook on life has changed from how we source food to how integral it is to maintain the balance in our countryside. I honestly believe the main reasoning for this is how utterly wonderful the country community is.
Over the past two years, I’ve met the most incredible people, friends that I will have for the rest of my life, real people with real life experiences that I never would have had the opportunity to meet if I’d never had that clay pigeon lesson two years ago.
To anyone who may be thinking “I’d like to give it a go” but have their doubts for whatever reason, Just do it. You will find the most gracious and proud community that will support you through every step of your journey. Support from people who’ve done this their whole lives and beginners like me that know and understand your initial reservation. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
I can’t wait to see how my journey goes from here, especially after looking back and reliving how wonderful the past two years have been, I can only imagine when the next few years will hold.