A case could be made that most clay target shooters (and hunters) are introduced through family connections. From a young age the shoot ground is a familiar place and the natural thing is to eventually pick up a shotgun and use it to good effect.
In order to grow the sport, and membership, it is recognised that we need to cater for people without a connection or even a history of firearm ownership.
Australian Simulated Field has great appeal as a sport: the ability to compete equally, constantly testing your skills and improving, the social aspect and the outdoor environment where competitions occur.
The Come and Try Day is the perfect entry point.
Bendigo Field & Game’s 2019 Come and Try Day was one of many now being held by branches and a first step for people to experience clay target shooting in a safe and supportive environment.
As participants became comfortable the smiles broadened but never more so than when they broke their first clay target.
Bendigo welcomed the uninitiated but also novice members wanting to learn more about the sport and shooting technique from the experienced volunteer coaches.
Come & Try days also help to demystify the use of firearms and opening the doors and inviting the local community in helps to break down barriers.
“These days expose people to the sport,” Bendigo treasurer Danny Ryan said.
The day was a joint effort between Danny and branch secretary Greg Shelton in response to numerous questions and emails from interested people.
“It’s a confidence thing for the community,” Danny said.
“Something that they can come and try out for zero cost and they can see how much fun it is and how safe it is.”
“It’s a great place for younger kids and ladies to come along and give it a go in a calmer environment, outside the intimidation of a big club shoot,” Greg said.
Twins Thomas and Terry Marthick were among the curious. Thomas attracted by an interest in clay target shooting and Terry looking for practice before a hunting trip with his dad.
Both boys had never shot before but had shown an interest and came along after a quick Google search by mum Leanne Turner.
“It was good fun,” Thomas said, grinning after hitting his first few targets.
“I’ll definitely be back for more.”
Danny’s prediction was right: everyone that gave it a go had a great time.
Shooting is one of the most inclusive sports: it doesn’t discriminate on age, gender, size or physical ability. Granddaughters can shoot in the same squad as their grandfathers, mothers can shoot with their sons.
While hiding from the rain I met Andrew Mills, his sons Lachlan and Connor and their dog Ammo.
Andrew has a familiar story, growing up doing a bit of fox hunting with his grandfather before trying his hand at clay target shooting.
After being a member for longer than he can remember Andrew decided to introduce his sons to clay target shooting, let them have a go, and let them decide.
“If they are interested, we can sign them up and get them licensed and go from there,” he said.
“It’s good to be a part of Field & Game.”