The director of West London Shooting School on all things game shooting.
West London Shooting School was established in 1901 by your grandfather - has it been owned and run by the Richmond-Watson family ever since?
Yes, my father and uncle - having worked for my grandfather previously - took on the running of WLSS during the 1930s. When they both returned from the war, my father took over the day-to-day running of the shooting school, along with farming, whilst my uncle mainly pursued other business interests.
Presumably your father was a keen shooting man?
Yes, he never lost his enthusiasm for shooting and continued to shoot until the age of 80, only missing his final season.
How long have you been at the helm at WLSS for?
I became involved in my 20s along with my cousin Colin in the late 1980s when my father started to take more of a back seat.
WLSS will forever be associated with the Percy Stanbury method of shooting - is this still your favoured method, or do your instructors take a more flexible approach?
This method developed by Percy and my grandfather still remains at the core of how we instruct today. To us, it forms the foundation which can logically - and therefore easily - be followed from the novice onwards. All our instructors are expected to learn about all the various methods in use and to understand them completely and where they fit in. We believe that it is important, however, for any pupil to be given the same basic method of tuition from any of our instructors. We do believe that many other sports (particularly ball sports) bear great similarities with shotgun shooting and certainly with the Stanbury method and, consequently, we encourage instructors to keep abreast of the modern methods used in those sports. We also believe that once up and running, pupils should not necessarily be discouraged from developing their own style, based on these core principles.
Who is the most natural/gifted Shot who has learnt to shoot with you at WLSS?
I well remember a young girl of about 8 years old who was brought in by her very keen father, whom we all thought might be too young. She was, however, very determined, showing such talent and enthusiasm that she went on to shoot for her university team!
You must have had some interesting people walk through your doors at WLSS over the years?
Yes, we have learnt to never judge a book by its cover. We've been fortunate to have met folk from all walks of life, and all professions and nationalities Ð from artists, actors, sportsmen and women and business leaders, to shop floor workers, politicians, musicians, farmers, clergy, IT professionals, games developers and lots from the medical world. I think we've ceased to be surprised by who walks through our doors as shooting can - and should - appeal to anyone and everyone.
Where did you grow up?
On our family farm in North Oxfordshire. My father moved there in 1958, a few years before I arrived. It gave me great freedom and I was involved in farming and country sports from an early age. I spent my early 20s falling off point-to-pointers chasing the elusive winner, and have always been a closet twitcher.
Tell us about your introduction to game shooting.
I stood with my father from a very young age, carrying his gun, cartridges or game. I still can't believe that neither he nor I wore earplugs back then! When he joined a local syndicate at Ditchley near where we live, I enthusiastically joined the beating line under the great Starling family (Tom and Harry). There may have been only pheasants there, but they taught me to understand how game reacts (I'd already learnt a bit from herding sheep and cattle on the farm) and I'm always fascinated and impressed by how a beating line works under a good keeper; I still appreciate those skills today. I particularly love to see a moorland keeper turning coveys of grouse from a far hill into the middle of the line of butts which could be nearly a mile distant.
Can you remember your first live quarry?
Yes, it was a starling that I shot with my grandfather's old Webley air rifle; my father had given me strict instructions to keep them out of the grain store.
Where do you do most of your shooting these days?
At home in Oxfordshire where I run a small syndicate (The Gang of Four) with three neighbours, though I always stand on the edges. The rest is mostly wherever I'm lucky enough to be invited; it's a great time to catch up with friends. In this trade, I have been spoilt with some exceptional days by clients, colleagues and suppliers.
Is there a particular shoot or destination on the bucket list?
Anywhere with wild grey partridges in abundance. There aren't many, but there's scope for more following on from some great standard bearers who've led the way.
Do you have a favourite shoot in the UK?
I'm truly lucky to have shot at many great shoots, some known, some not, but I love going to new places and returning to quite a few of them.
What gun and cartridges do you use for game?
Mostly either a 29" side-by-side 12 bore by Boss & Co. for game, and an over-under Perazzi 12 bore for clays. Having said that, I am now increasingly using a 28 bore Beretta over-under when shooting at home as it is easy to carry when organising the day, and surprisingly satisfying to use. In terms of cartridges, I use 30g No. 5s or 6s, loaded as the Apollo for us by Hull.
What, in your opinion, are the key ingredients for a great day's shooting?
A well run day, in good company of enthusiastic folk, when everyone has made an effort, no matter the outcome Ð God loves a trier!
What is your favourite quarry species?
Grouse, teal, snipe, pigeon, wildfowl or anything wild and wary in its own environment...
Have you shot abroad?
Yes, but not extensively. I love seeing how others do it, their traditions and how different species behave and react. I have shot in Europe, Scandinavia, Africa and America.
Do your children shoot?
Two out of three do - my daughter has tried it once, but is far happier on a horse. Her younger brothers, though, are very keen. I didn't want them to start too early, but they are showing some talent and I think I will have difficulty holding them back. The older one has already been successful for his school team.
Do you have any pet hates on a shoot day?
Complacency or idleness. We can all make mistakes, but you can usually tell the difference.
Stop for lunch or shoot through?
Stop for lunch, unless the weather or situation dictates otherwise.
Do you have a lucky hat/pair of breeks/garment?
My wife, who is Irish, is the superstitious one. I've always confronted things head on!
Who is the most impressive game Shot you have ever seen?
I once went on a driven partridge and pheasant day in Wiltshire where the team - which contained several notable Shots of our day including Andrew Russell (our host), Jamie Lee and Steve Smith Ð proceeded to form what I can only describe as a wall for very high partridges. And then they followed it up with a similar result on a pheasant drive later in the day. It was something to behold.
When you see the unhurried Shot fold birds neatly at all angles with grace and style, you know you're seeing one of the many great Shots of our generation. Of those who I've seen shoot on a number of occasions and in different situations, Andy Castle and Jonathan Kennedy stand out as being truly impressive.
Who would be in your dream team on a shoot day?
As we are currently running the Ripon Challenge in aid of the Gunmakers Company Charitable Trust, I'd have to include Lord Ripon (and perhaps Walsingham, too). My grandfather whom I never met would be there, as would my father and my two sons, and, of course, I would have to invite the late, great Percy Stanbury.
Are you religious about cleaning your gun(s) after a shoot day?
Yes, as it must be done - it keeps them in good order and saves unnecessary trips to the gunsmith. Never put them away while they are still damp.
What have been the biggest changes to the shooting industry that you have witnessed over the years?
We are now catering for ever more newcomers to the sport, in addition to those of the next generation. Ladies are increasing in numbers and confidence, too, which is great to see. It is vital that we continue to broaden shooting's appeal to an ever wider audience or we will risk losing all that we have gained.
What do you regard as the biggest threat(s) to game shooting in the UK?
The views of our largely urban population are a major concern - they seem to have lost the connection between living things and the food we eat. It is really important that we show the wider public that game shooting provides high quality, sustainable and healthy food, and that it is the catalyst for a vast amount of habitat conservation that is so vital for a range of species in our countryside.