Clay Days

As the popularity of Clay shooting surges, how does it stack up to the real thing?

Over the past few decades, simulated game days have grown in popularity, something not so long ago would have been unheard of. They can now be enjoyed the length and breadth of the country. With the shortage of game birds leaving the shooter’s diary with gaps to fill, a day under the clays is looking increasingly appealing. Companies supplying traps and flush trailers are having a record number of enquiries even stretching into the winter months as opposed to the traditional mid-March to September season. Because of avian flu, getting hold of partridges this year is looking to be limited, possibly reducing shoot days by half for some. ‘Sim days’ have also softened the financial blow of raising feed fertiliser and fuel costs.

“I’ve always seen them as a way to make use of the shoot room and other facilities that otherwise sit empty. It’s another string to our bow and a good way to advertise the pheasant shoot” – David Dale – Bagots park, Staffordshire

Simulation days are set out to replicate the real thing, with guests pairing up and taking it in turns to shoot, anywhere between 3,000 to over 5,000 clays across three to five drives. A relaxed dress code is set but some still opt for tweed and breeks. They can serve as a good stepping stone for those with less live quarry experience, to get used to handling a gun under closer supervision. However, clays can’t teach things such as respect for quarry and fieldcraft. They are also a good way for more experienced shooters to ‘blow away the cobwebs’ between January and September. Plus, it’s a great way to break up the close season and keep in touch with familiar faces.

One of the most heavily weighing positives of simulated game shooting is its relative affordability, hovering around the £300 a day mark. Also, unlike the real thing, there are no worries over foxes raiding release pens or disease.

On the other hand, there are a few boxes that sim days leave unticked. Firstly, they don’t provide incentive for landowners to manage habitats that benefit wildlife, nor do they bring as many people together i.e. beaters, loaders, cart drivers etc. Of course, there is also no end-product. Some of the best free-range meat comes out of live shoot days which cannot be replicated by a day of clays.

Although both are to be treated as very separate activities, clay shoot days are worth acknowledging not only as a medium for practice but also a way to keep your shooting passion alive during the off months.