Clay pigeon shooting lessons in Sutton Bridge from one of the world's finest
Clay pigeon shooting has long been on my list of things to do, but sadly I’ve just never had the time to give it a go.
However, spurred on by an impending big birthday I’ve been trying out all sorts of new activities lately and decided it was time to bite the bullet and finally have a go at shooting too.
Having barely held, let alone fired, a gun before I thought it would probably be best if I had a professional lesson first and fortunately for me we have the current world number one Olympic trap shooter right here in South Holland – four times Commonwealth Games medallist Aaron Heading, who owns The Priory Clay Target Centre, at Sutton Bridge.
Aaron, who most recently won bronze with the mixed team at the World Championships, in Korea, and then silver at the British Shooting Grand Final, in Wales, is passionate about coaching and helps up-and-coming youngsters as well as offering private lessons and very kindly agreed to show me the basics.
Before we started I warned him my expectations were low, although I was secretly hoping I might hit just one clay - even if by fluke - but he quickly reassured me I wouldn’t go home disappointed.
Safety is a priority and I was given ear defenders and eye protection to wear and handed a smaller gun, more suited to woman’s frame, before I stepped onto the range.
Because I hadn’t shot before Aaron started with a couple of quick tests to determine my dominant eye. Surprisingly it was my left, which meant I would be mounting the gun on my left shoulder.
Next he showed me how to face the trap with my weight bearing forward, how to position the gun stock close to my cheek and where to put my hands so I could line up the barrel markers.
After a quick demonstration – where he made it all look so easy - I took a few practice swings and then it was my turn.
The sound rather than the action startled me the most and unfortunately – although not surprisingly - I missed the first three clays because I was firing too soon.
Aaron advised me to wait for the clay to take more flight and thanks to his wise words I scored a hit on my fifth attempt.
Reeling from my success, I quickly reverted to form and missed another three before hitting a second, although I did miss the final bird.
Nevertheless I was ecstatic with my two out of ten score and finished the lesson buzzing.
I don’t think Aaron’s got anything to worry about, but thanks to his patience and expert advice he might make a hot shot of me yet – and I’ll definitely be returning to the Priory for another round.
* For more information about The Priory Clay Target Centre, Sutton Bridge, and to keep up to date on Aaron’s progress visit www.theprioryctc.co.uk
From carrying dad's bag to wearing gold medals
Aaron (31), of Long Sutton, started shooting when he was just nine years old, inspired by his dad John and brother Martin, who are also keen shots.
“I was always the kid carrying their bags and cartridges. Then, one day Dad asked me if I’d like to have a go and I jumped at the chance,” he recalls.
“From that moment on I was completely hooked; I never looked back – it was just absolutely brilliant and then I qualified for Team GB when I was 12.
“Shooting is very technical and mostly mental, but it’s also an endurance sport – made up of little sprints, with qualification spread over two days before the competition final.”
Aaron, who is now focussing on securing a place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, took over The Priory Clay Target Centre in 2015 which he runs with wife Natasha, in between competing and training.
They have overhauled the facilities which include three down-the-line and three skeet ranges, two automatic ball trap ranges and a clubhouse serving refreshments.
“I love coaching – especially helping juniors develop and generally getting more people involved,” adds Aaron.
“Having the range means I get to combine everything I love; but it’s not just for me, we have GB athletes train here and it’s a place for the community too.
“And although it’s my workplace, it’s also my retreat and provides a bit of normality.”