The lady gun's 10 game shooting commandments
Victoria Knowles-Lacks, founder of The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club, lists 10 things that all women entering the shooting field should know and adhere to.
1. Thou shalt take safety to holy levels
Safety above all else, all of the time. Swing through the line, point your gun at anyone, discharge near the beaters and you'll be frog-marched off the property. Better to be a mediocre Shot but a safe one, than the idiot that's showing off (see 'thou shalt not steal'). Keep it safe and keep it sassy. Blue sky behind your birds, open and empty and the job's a good 'un.
2. Thou shalt not covet
So what if one of the girls has inherited a stunning matched pair of 1880 side-by-side Purdeys that cost more than your house? Like most things, it's not what you've got, it's what you do with it (and we all know that's true). Nobody cares how much your gun is worth or what brands you're wearing, and you shouldn't either. Love your gun, get to know it inside out, pattern your cartridges, get it fitted and it'll never let you down. Whether your gun cost £500 or £50,000, they all do the same thing.
3. Thou shalt not steal
Your neighbours' birds, or indeed anything for that matter. Unless of course you're on a simulated game day, in which case it's totally fine (as long as you're safe and the team are in agreement). It's okay to show that competitive streak sometimes and demonstrate to your fellow lady Guns, or indeed the boys, what you're made of!
4. Honour your fellow lady Guns
Old, young, tall, short, rich or poor - every lady Shot is worthy of praise. We're an ever-expanding army of steely and confident women that should stick together. We all have a story to tell, we all come from different backgrounds, and we're all valid and unique. Give credit where it's due. Laugh with your company, compliment them and above all else, never leave a bird behind.
5. Honour your sport
Whether it's rocketing partridges, sky-high pheasants, or a recreational round with your gang at the local clay ground, be gracious and be sporting. Also honour those who have formed part of the day. Keep your manners on point - a simple 'morning'/'afternoon' and 'thank-you' to the beaters, pickers-up and shoot staff goes such a long way. Equally, no one likes to see silly shots being taken, or their neighbour getting their knickers in a twist. If you're shooting like a numpty, stop, take a breath, quash your inner diva and get it together. You've got this.
6. Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbour
It was clearly your bird, you know it was, but did she? You've been on fine form all day, keeping the pickers-up busy on every drive. The lady to your left is new, you're three drives in and she's not doing so well. She takes a shot at the same bird as you, you see her reaction, she thinks it's hers and you know it's your prowess that brought it down. Let her have it. It's made her day, she's ecstatic, and that's what it's about.
7. Thou shalt not take the sport's name in vain
We've all got a job to do to promote and preserve our sport for future generations. Social media slatings against fellow shooters, shoots, shooting grounds, shoot supporters or whoever, is never good. If you've had a run-in with someone, or someone has really upset you, whatever you do, please keep it off the internet. These days things can be retweeted, screengrabbed and shared in minutes Ð damaging material can easily get into the wrong hands. Let's not give the antis any more ammo, so to speak.
8. Thou shalt have idols
Draw inspiration from those around you. If you're witness to a mega lady Gun who you think just 'has it', take note of what it is that makes her so goddamn good! Watch how she stands... how early does she get on the target? Make a mental note of things to work on, and practice. Don't try and be her, though... Remember, comparison kills and you are you. Be inspired, but don't imitate. Continue with your strengths and turn your weaknesses around.
9. Remember the Sabbath
So ladies, we all know that we can't shoot game on a Sunday, so take the time to reflect on what you've done. Are you absolutely smashing it? What is it you're doing that's making you shoot like a dream? Whatever it is keep at it and don't lose sight. If you're a bit below par in technique, have a think - what can you do differently? Is it something you can fix on your own, or is time for a few sharpener lessons? Sunday is also a great day to strip down your gun, get out your oily rag, rod and old toothbrush and give your gun a good going over whilst you're recovering from that hefty roast.
10. Thou shalt own it
You are you, in all of your beautiful, authentic and wonderful wholesomeness. You've got it and thou shalt own it! If you feel like a sack of potatoes in your shooting attire (we've all been there, believe me...), then the best thing to do is just style it out. So what if your breeks make your bottom look larger than you care to accept and your shirt is bulging at the buttons. You're a heavenly woman, so just appreciate and shake what the Good Lord gave you! Besides, it's all about the sport, leave the fashion shows for the designers.
Victoria Knowles-Lacks is the founder of The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club - the UK's largest ladies-only shooting club. She lives in rural Herefordshire with her good natured husband and bad tempered terrier.