Top ten hens – Part 2
In Part 2 of our Top 10 Hens, the country's leading female Shots share advice for ladies who are keen to take up shooting and discuss how they would make the sport more appealing to them.
I meet lots of ladies who are eager to try shooting but are tentative about noise and recoil, usually because some well-meaning person has proffered advice based upon personal experiences. My advice would be to seek out a professional, full-time shooting school, you will be properly kitted-out with a fitted gun, sympathetic targets, sweet shooting cartridges and delivered with great bedside manner!
Emma Pegler of Ladies on Pegs and Victoria Knowles-Lacks of the Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club have both proven very positive in advertising the sport to women. Perhaps we should furnish every beauty salon up and down the country with copies of Fieldsports.
Take plenty of shooting lessons from professional instructors to build your confidence. And make sure you do this by yourself and never with a boyfriend or partner watching and giving their opinion. Also, don't borrow a gun – get your own and get it fitted to suit your size and requirements. Do it for your own enjoyment and not for anyone else.
Shooting is an equal opportunities sport and women can compete on the same terms as men, so there's nothing to stop women taking part except old fashioned attitudes and women's lack of confidence. It doesn't need to be made more appealing, it already is!
Have proper tuition. It may cost a few quid but in the long run it will be worthwhile. I'm sure there are lots of husbands who have given the wife the gun for a couple of shots, it's kicked like a mule and put them off forever. It really doesn't need to be like that. (Or is it so that hubby doesn't have double the expense?!)
Encourage all interested ladies to have a go. There are several lady instructors (including myself) and it is quite common for ladies to feel more at ease with a female instructor. My most common one liner is “tit's out, bum out,” to illustrate the correct stance. Men can't really get away with saying such things!
If you're thinking about taking up shooting, just go for it! It is a fantastic sport and social pastime. Find a good coach to get you started and get your gun fitted properly. There are so many people out there who shoot with guns that don't fit them or knock them around. Don't listen to those who tell you where you are going wrong, listen to an instructor. Join a club like the Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club and come to some of the ladies' conferences and academy days that are advertised. There you will find out from the professionals what you need to know.
All Shots must ensure that newcomers are made to feel welcome. A welcoming friendly attitude is important, but good, sound advice is crucial. I am putting some training days together with Victoria Knowles-Lacks of the Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club covering gunfit, cartridges, chokes etc. and then there will be plenty of shooting all thrown in with instruction from me, and we have lots of other exciting things in the pipeline.
Ask if you can bring a loader/instructor for the day when you are starting off as there is no shame in it and your host will be relieved to have a guest who's making an effort to improve their shooting and focus on safety. You will enjoy the day so much more and it will give you more confidence.
I am certain that if shooting wasn't perceived to be such a male-dominated sport, then more women would want to join in. The key to encouraging women to shoot is to start them young, because women who've been exposed to shooting and encouraged from a young age, are far more likely to have the confidence to shoot as adults. The tradition where only sons are allowed to shoot, and daughters are sent off with the beaters or to help with the lunch, is so discriminatory in the 21st century. I am told that HRH The Duchess of Cambridge has taken up shooting, so if she's brave enough, maybe she can be the pioneer we need to champion the sport for women.
When in the field, don't expect to be treated differently to anybody else and don't expect for the day to be any different because of you. Get involved, get stuck in and get on with it.
One of the best compliments I have ever received came from a fellow Gun on a driven pheasant day who, after someone apologised to me for swearing, said: “Oh, don't worry about Pru, she's one of the boys.” People may offer to carry things for you, but don't expect it. You don't want people to be thinking: ‘Oh no, not a bloody woman!'
In regards to making the sport more appealing, shooting is what it is, so if ladies want to change it, you're not always going to be hugely welcome. It really is best to just get stuck in and enjoy it. Starting at a young age is certainly an advantage for enjoying shooting in your adult years.
Oh... one thing that could appeal to ladies: a portable bush that you can position near your grouse butt in case nature calls!
Most importantly, get a gun that fits properly, right from the start. Don't try and make do with your boyfriend's gun. Attend some ladies' days and learn to shoot on your own, away from the male bravado and the competitive side that often accompanies shooting. It's important to relax.
I think the opportunities for women are now incredible, so as long as it continues the way that it is going, I don't think you need to change anything to attract more women. The clothing and shooting accessories brands are also making the shooting scene more attractive and women now feel much more welcome on shoots.
Go for it, but be keen on all aspects of the sport, not just the firing of the gun. There's nothing worse than a girl who cannot finish off a bird without reaching for gloves.
I don't think we need to add anything nowadays, the barriers have all but been removed. As many young girls are taking up shooting as boys and are just as good; it is only when other interests take over that girls possibly lose interest. But better to be whole-hearted about shooting, not feel you need to pursue it for the wrong reasons. Like all sports, everyone admires an enthusiastic and safe Shot, you don't have to be the best, you just need to enjoy it.
If you're thinking about getting involved in shooting, just go for it! Find a good reputable game coach and practise driven clays off a tower first, getting the feel for handling a gun comfortably and safely. For those who may not want to shoot but would still like to enjoy the thrill of the shoot day, try beating or loading – both are great ways to get involved.
I also think good female Shots deserve more recognition. The Top 10 Hens list proves that ladies can be just as proficient with a gun in their hands. Ladies love a challenge and many will be inspired by the talented female game Shots out there.
My number one piece of advice would be not to let your husband or boyfriend teach you. Get proper lessons and instruction from a professional instructor. The benefits are immeasurable.
It's important that we encourage our younger generation, both daughters and sons, to get stuck in, because that's where our future of shooting lies.