Clay pigeon shooting at Foymore Lodge
By ELEANOR MCGILLIE 17 October, 2018
A few weeks ago we attended a Ladies Day at Foymore Lodge in County Armagh where clay pigeon shooter Louise Smylie helped the Foymore team put novice shooters through their paces. After a few successful shots Eleanor McGillie spoke to Louise about clay pigeon shooting and why more women should take up the sport
Many people will have tried clay pigeon shooting before. I, on many occasions, have raised the shotgun and smashed a few clays. I’m not great but I do manage to hit the targets – or at least some of them.
But, it is something I have always wanted to do more of.
It’s one of those sports where you just head out into the countryside and enjoy the adrenalin when you shout ‘pull’ and the excitement when you smash the clays into smithereens.
But, seemingly there are not a lot of women who take up the sport so I went along to Foymore Lodge on the outskirts of Portadown to find out why.
Foymore Lodge is a Live It Experience It member so when owner Derek Lutton invited myself, and photographer Rebecca Nicholson, along to a Ladies Day, we were thrilled.
Among the 30 women, who snapped up their places really quickly, was Louise Smylie who shoots for the Northern Ireland Skeet Team who came along to explain why she took up clay pigeon shooting.
Louise, 41, said: “I have been shooting at Foymore Lodge for years. I shoot at my local club in Parkgate and I am a member of the Ulster Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (UCPSA). Foymore Lodge boasts a very impressive and challenging sporting layout and the instructors are fantastic the way they check for eye dominance and their instructions are clear and easy to follow for novices.
“I started shooting about six or seven years ago and a lot of people believe that you have to invest a lot of money in the sport but you don’t. I have always been the type of person who doesn’t just want to do the norm. I like challenging myself to get outdoors and try something a little bit different. I considered taking up horseriding but horses scare the life out of me. A friend invited me to go shooting with him so I did. My late father enjoyed shooting and hunting and I thought it would be a great opportunity to try something different which I know he enjoyed greatly.
“After his death I had inherited by father’s rifle and his double barrel shotgun so I decided to continue with this family tradition. It’s a fantastic hobby for everyone because it’s good fun, it gives you time out to yourself, you meet new people, you get help and mentoring and the craic is good. Because it is so male orientated you sometimes have to have a thick skin but it’s all fun and banter. There are a lot of people out there with a natural talent for it but you don’t realise until you give it a go.
“As a female shooter I will always encourage more women to get involved. There’s nothing like throwing a jacket and a pair of boots on and heading out into the countryside after a stressful week in the office. As a novice you don’t need to buy specialist clothing or equipment. At events like the Ladies Day at Foymore you can just book, turn up and have a great time. And, the thing is, there are so many people, of all ages, who clay pigeon shoot.”
Louise, who is a member of Parkgate Clay Pigeon Club, says clay pigeon shooting is a great way to socialise.
She said: “In our club we have car mechanics, doctors, butchers, entrepreneurs,young and old – all people who just want to enjoy an activity which is so open to everyone.”
Louise shoots for the Northern Ireland Skeet team. Skeet was developed in the 1900s and it’s a principle which she describes as ‘the daddy of all principles’. It is a recreational and competitive activity where shooters, using shotguns, compete to break clay targets which are mechanically flung into the air from fixed stations, at high speeds, and from a variety of angles. It’s one of three major disciplines of competitive clay pigeon shooting.
Louise said: “This year, the 38th National Skeet Home Countries International Tournament took place at Doveridge Clay Sports Centre. There were 22 shooters representing Northern Ireland. Last year they were held in Dungannon and next year they’ll be held in Mulroy.
“The Home Internationals take place every August and this includes competitors from Northern Ireland, South of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Jersey and the Isle of Man. There are three women places, three juniors, 10 men’s seniors (aged 16-55), three veteran places (aged 55-65) and then the supervets (aged 65+).”
“We have just finished the last season in August,” Louise said. “There are 100 bird registered shoots most weekends between October and July with your six highest scores being used to determine your Northern Ireland team place for the competition held at the end of August.
“It is competitive but it’s the camaraderie which matters and I would encourage other women to get involved because it’s a sport which is massively under represented by women. So, it’s great the team of instructors at Foymore Lodge are doing their best to encourage women.
“As for women, it’s a fantastic activity which gets you out of the house, gives you time to meet new people in a sporting environment, you are out and about enjoying the freshness of the country air and you do then enjoy the friendly rivalry. It’s so accessible and there are no barriers – certainly not from the shooting fraternity. Ladies Days are a great way to go along and experience it for yourself and you will see how much fun it is.”
Derek Lutton, who also runs the annual NI Countrysports Fair at Scarvagh House in County Armagh every May, said the feedback from women who try the sport is brilliant.
He said: “After 30 women turning up at the last day we have had to put on two more dates – Saturday, November 3 and Saturday, November 24 at 1pm on both days. The colder weather is creeping in on us so we will keep the groups small to six per day. We will be doing a few targets similar to the last time and will introduce a crossing target that we have to apply lead to. This is really shooting to where the target is going instead of where it is at. Our instructors will explain the proper technique for this and teach our participants how to apply it on the day.”
So after an afternoon of shooting clays, I certainly have got the bug and I can’t wait to go back. Speaking to Louise on the day really showed me that it is so accessible. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as did all of the other women. I wasn’t the best of the bunch but I’ll definitely be going back to perfect my aim.
The cost is £20 per person for these special introductory days so to book a place ring 07730678701.
A standard Individual Novice Clay package costs £35.
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