This year I went on my first Simulated Game day organised by Mark Lawson at Hazelbank Shooting Ground in Knaresborough. The shoot was held at Birdsall Estate near Malton, East Yorkshire.
I hadn't been on a simulated game day before so wasn't entirely sure what to expect. What kit did I need, what was the etiquette, how did it work? All questions I pondered over before the day. But in reality, it was such a relaxed great day out with nothing to worry about!
There were about 11 of us in total on the day all travelling from the Tadcaster area. We met early morning, grouped up and formed a small convoy to drive over to the Birdsall Estate. No one was in Tweed or wearing ties, it was very relaxed and informal. I was in Jeans and a casual short sleeve shirt (it was a very hot day). Everyone else was in Jeans, t-shirts and shirts etc. We made our way to the Birdsall Estate and regrouped at a nearby pub where Mark Lawson was waiting along with a selection of very hearty bacon sandwiches, coffee and a box of goodies including Hazel Bank Shooting baseball caps for us to wear.
We all sat down and enjoyed a nice breakfast whilst Mark explained the format of the day and went through some H&S guidelines. This gave us chance to get to know other members of the group, have a chat so we all had made introductions prior to getting the shoot going. Following breakfast we made our way in convoy again, 10 minutes down the road turning off the main road on to a farm track. We continued until we reached a picturesque remote sport.
Here we got our kit out of the car and loaded it on to Marks ATV who was then to run it down to our first drive for us. The lads from Hazel Bank Shooting Ground had clearly been setting up since the early hours and we were told there were traps hidden about all ready for us with some of the guys on stand by for any errors. But for us, we didn't see behind the scenes and this made for a much more 'real' feel.
It turns out that we had a number of new shooters with us and some that hadn't brought guns with them so we all chipped in to ensure everybody was teamed up with a gun so everybody could get in on the action. I was surprised at this, I was worried about what kit to bring etc. but some of the guys had no guns, hearing protection, cartridges etc. But all was kindly provided for by Mark and the rest of the team.
We took a short 5 minute walk down to the first spot and got in to pairs over 5 stands and Mark again explained what to expect. When the birds started to fly, I was taken back by how many clays were in the sky at once. It was like Mark had put on some great firework show and it took some effort to keep up. As with a game day, I had a loader by my side to ensure I could get my gun straight back in to the air and on target. But after a short 5 minute drive that felt like half an hour I went through more cartridges than I normally do on a full day at the club. The sound of an air horn marked the end of the shoot and suddenly there was silence again and the sky was clear. There was a break and time for swapping over of guns and it all started again allowing for the next shooters in the pair.
Over the course of the morning we had multiple drives at a few different locations and stopped for a morning Gin and Tonic (or glass of fizz) served from the back of Marks ATV. At lunch time we made our way back to the pub where we had met in the morning and were greeted by a lovely ploughmans lunch and a couple of pints of bitter. There was plenty of chatter about the best and worst shots of the morning.
The afternoon followed a very similar format at some new locations and Mark ensured that snacks and drinks were on a constant flow for all. It was great to load for other people as well, you could enjoy watching the shooting and it provided plenty of banter on the peg for some of those more interesting shots.
The day ended with a meandering pub crawl from Malton back through to Tadcaster in which we all had a great laugh and ended up slightly worse for wear.
All in all it is a nice informal and very sociable day out with more shots fired in day than you are probably used too. I think I personally went through maybe 500-600 cartridges! I didn't need to worry about bringing cartridges with me however, as Mark again had everything in hand and plenty of cartridges in the back of his pick up.
If you get chance to go and give a simulated game day a go do not turn the opportunity down. They do what they say on the tin. It is a days game shooting in pretty much every way bar the winged targets and traditional tweed attire. For someone who has never been on a proper game shoot before, it was a great insight in to what to expect, good practise and a hell of a lot of fun.