Activity Sports - Shooting

Feat of Clay

Mark Robertson is pleasantly surprised by the transcendental experience of clay shooting

The sensation you feel just before picking up a 12-bore shotgun is akin to the feeling you get before you sit behind the wheel of a car for the first time. There is a fear that you won’t be in control and it’ll explode in front of you or you’ll career off into a wall as you put the keys in the ignition. A gun, like a car, is a tool, which, when used properly, can do a job, but which has the potential to hurt.

Going shooting is a surprising experience. The weight and beauty of a gun is as big a surprise as anything. A smooth, finely crafted object, it feels antiquated - given its pure mechanics - but foreboding. It commands respect.

Shooting is perceived to be the domain of the country dweller, in quilted coat and deerstalker, shotgun over the arm. But it is in fact a hugely popular pastime with a million people in Britain regularly shooting, be it clays or pheasants, according to the British Shooting Sports Council. The focus is very much on sport rather than blood. In recent years it has also become popular among stag parties and with groups of friends looking to get outdoors and try a sport that is a bit different.

My instructor leads me into a quiet wooded area in the wilds of Fife. Tucked into various corners of the woods, high up in tree tops, in bushes and tucked behind rocks are little hides which house the clay launchers. Activated by remote control on my call - the opportunity to holler ‘PULL!’ is one that should be seized as often as possible - the clays hurtle above my head with lighting swiftness. No amount of warning prepares you for the rate they move but it doesn’t take too long to get into the groove of following them across the sky.

The recoil of the gun is sharp but brief, the rifle jerks back in my arms but never out of control. It is almost transcendental, the feeling of centralising all your energy on one task, an action which is actually strangely calming. The world is blotted out, with only a small luminous orange disc hurtling through the air to focus your attention on.

Out of the 25 shots I fired I hit ten clays. Beginner’s luck perhaps but I was assured that was a very respectable score for a pure novice like me. I left satisfied, a little stiff round the shoulders (another hazard when starting out), and with my appetite whetted for a sport which is enjoyably different.

Cluny Clays (, 01592 720374), by Kirkcaldy, Fife, offers taster sessions from £22.

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