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Shooting Clays
By Henry Giles

It's a strange thing but I had never got round to shooting clays despite several opportunities to do so, not least at game fairs and country events, during a six-year period working on a fishing magazine when such outdoor events were an annual highlight. But that's not to say I'm not interested in the shooting scene and owning a .22 air gun and having shot in ranges with 22 and 303 I was always up for target practice. 

But the chance to shoot clays at Sporting Targets in Riseley, Bedfordshire came as a real opportunity and we turned up at a civilised late hour of 5pm on a Saturday evening when mid-May sunshine was bathing a very green looking landscape into bucolic magnificence.

I was immediately struck by the comfortable clubhouse and in fact a 'clubbable' feeling was evident from the start but as soon as we met our instructor, John, we were in the hands of a top professional who looked after us without stinting. When I say us I include my wife Chloe but also eight-year-old Pippa and the great news was she was just old enough to participate and that meant shooting with a 410 shotgun. 

I meanwhile got to grips with my 525 browning over and under shotgun and it was a functional and reassuringly weighty piece of equipment. 

John first gave us a mini tour of the premises and there are 45 acres to look over with three main areas including archery, air gun ranges and up to 56 shooting positions. Two full time instructors, John and Steve are always on hand but a pool of professionals stand by to help with anything from private events like stag parties to corporate days to team-building events (Sporting Targets is situated nine miles north of Bedford off the A6, with easy access from the A1, M1 and the A14.

So after fitting us out with ear- and eye-protectors in a fetching shade of yellow (yes Pippa looked cute!), we were taken across the complex, which opened in 1989. Enclosed areas and high towers to 120ft (they emulate game shooting challenges like high-flying pheasants and host the Summer High Tower Challenge events that take place in the months of June and July).

Safety procedure was clear but speedy and we were ready with only time constraints meaning John just popped the one cartridge in at a time. The clays shot over and it was a joy to hit, well most of them. If you can call 60 per cent most. Which you can. So that's okay then!

Pippa? She was a star and really did well and was brave. She had a few goes and how can I say this, everything was perfect but if she did hit one it was too far a way to see the little chip in the side! Next time, and the same applies for me.

Prices for clay shooting are anything from £60 for half an hour to £100 for an hour and in this interesting sporting environment with great backup facilities (cafe, bar and fully stocked gun shop) you can't go wrong. It would be great to return. And makes a great gift experience!

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Reception: tel 01234 708893
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