The number of young people getting involved in shooting could be adversely affected by coronavirus restrictions. But even before the pandemic hit, young shots were also at risk of losing some of the joy from the sport. Young Shots Journalist Edward Lyon thinks it could be because children are put under pressure by pushy parents.
What is shooting?
Shooting has a very large community, comprising people from all over the world and of all ages. There are lots of different sides to shooting too, from game shooting to target shooting. Different aspects of shooting have different age restrictions. For example, you can shoot an air rifle on your own from 14 years old. To use a shotgun on your own, you must be 15.
Airguns are often used as a gateway into shooting due to their lower powered options. Their use encourages gun safety which is applicable to all firearms. Also, using an air rifle can help with accuracy which is always good when shooting game or targets. Beating is also a great way of teaching the next generation about shooting. Not only do they learn how game shoots work and what is safe, but they also help the day run smoothly. However, once young shooters move on to clay shooting and competing, some might be put under pressure to win…
Feeling under pressure
From my personal experience, I have found getting into clay shooting quite expensive. My parents are not shooters, so I had to start from scratch. I started with my grandad’s old 20 bore side-by-side at a Young Farmers’ Club clay shoot. That was where I qualified for a national competition. Straight away I caught the bug and joined my local clay club. Luckily, the clay club had a junior price for me. This made 40 clays cheaper than the cartridges I would use. I found myself part of a community from my first day. Many people offered advice on stands, which helped me improve. By keeping my score cards I could see improvement each week. No expensive equipment necessary, just a pair of ear defenders and a second-hand cartridge bag from eBay.
I went down to the Young Farmers’ Club national clay competition and was shocked to see I was the only one with a side-by-side. People were changing chokes on different stands and even using different cartridges. There was an array of different shotguns all with expensive extras. Some contestants even had their own personal coaches…Surely that put a lot of young shooters under pressure.
The fun vs being under pressure to win
When it was my turn my mother said: “Enjoy yourself,” and went off to have a cup of tea, whereas most parents followed on behind.
I gave it a good effort and finished 11th – so just a whisker out of the top ten – with a smile on my face, which is more important in my mind than a high placing.
It’s interesting to wonder whether pushy parents who have invested such a lot of time and money into their children ruin the basic pleasure of the sport? The short answer is yes, children are often put under pressure by their parents. Looking back, the old side-by-side was the best introduction to clay shooting I could have had. If my parents had bought me an expensive gun I would have felt under pressure to get good results. As it was, I could relax and enjoy learning how to shoot at my own pace. I didn’t feel under pressure to perform well just to justify the cost of more expensive equipment.
You can see how more expensive equipment can improve score cards. That is why I have bought a Browning B525 to try and improve my results. I bought it with my own money from selling lambs and saving up. When I take my Browning out shooting, I do not feel under pressure to do well as I bought it myself and I feel like I have earnt it.
One big family
With the coronavirus this year stopping lots of shooting events and competitions going ahead it makes me wonder if there will be a knock-on effect on young people taking up shooting. There haven’t been the opportunities like last year to discover a different side of shooting, like at a game fair. What I really enjoy about shooting is the community that comes with it. Sitting down at lunch on a game shoot and talking to new people is something that simply won’t happen the same with new restrictions. Someone starting out will not be able to stand behind someone with experience and watch what they do or vice versa. This could affect a young shots sticking with shooting if they do not get the same experience and support as in previous years.
I think there are many positive ways the shooting community is encouraging the future generation, for example BASC Young Shots events. And as long as gun safety and etiquette is always taught to new guns, the future of shooting will be fine.