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The Roving Sportsman… A Visit to Jolly Olde England

In the early 2000s, during the last several years of my career as a commercial pilot, I enjoyed flights to Europe, which included layovers in London and Manchester in the United Kingdom. Other flights out of Philadelphia resulted in layovers in Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Madrid and Rome. They were all very interesting and provided the

In the early 2000s, during the last several years of my career as a commercial pilot, I enjoyed flights to Europe, which included layovers in London and Manchester in the United Kingdom. Other flights out of Philadelphia resulted in layovers in Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Madrid and Rome. They were all very interesting and provided the opportunity to see, taste and explore the architecture, food and cultures of these European cities — but never was there enough time to travel to the countryside. Growing up as a “country boy,” the one thing I regretted on all of these trips was not getting out of the cities.

Fast forward to the winter of 2016, when, while shooting several sporting clays tournaments in south Florida, I met and became friends with Geoff Farmer and Sandy Greener — from the United Kingdom. The following winter — just last season, we shot together again and our friendship grew. Then, just a few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Geoff inviting me to join him and Sandy in England for a couple of weeks of sporting clays shooting!

The plan included staying at Geoff’s home and traveling daily to various nearby shooting grounds, where we would sightsee through numerous adjoining counties and experience some of the English style target presentations on the shooting grounds we would visit. It was too great of an opportunity to pass up, and at the end of July I found myself enjoying dinner and wine at 33,000 feet, winging my way across the Atlantic Ocean en route to Manchester, England.

I had been up for almost 24 hours when my overnight flight arrived in Manchester at 9:00 a.m., where Geoff and Sandy greeted me. Common sense would have dictated that a long nap would be in order, but instead we drove directly to a shooting ground that was somewhat on the way to their home. It was easy to stay awake and alert as we jabbered the whole way and I took in the sights of the beautiful landscape, with all of the stone fences and old stone homes, barns and outbuildings. Flocks of sheep were a constant sight and the narrow roadways with driving on the left-hand side made me stay alert during the drive to the shooting ground.

Because it was a bit costly and too time consuming to obtain the proper permit for me to take my own shotgun into England, Geoff had offered to loan me one of his over and under guns — a 12 gauge Perazzi MX8 that fit me well and was bored at ½ on the lower barrel and ¾ on the upper barrel — well suited for all of the shooting we were planning on doing. It served me well over the next week or so as we traveled to 10 different shooting grounds across central England. The shooting was always fun, the people who ran the clubs and the shooters who shot there were always courteous and interesting to talk with and were usually rather surprised that someone would travel from “America” merely to shoot sporting clays!

But the shooting was different than what one experiences here in the United States. Some of the target presentations are rather unique. One in particular is the “driven bird” or overhead incoming target. Here, the clay bird is launched from a high tower, streaks toward you and passes 30 to 40 feet overhead. Often the clays were smaller — “midis” or “minis” — that began their flight at 30 or 40 yards and quartered outbound at a rapid speed — a target presentation that I don’t often see on this side of the Atlantic. And then there was the background. Most often in open pastures edged with beautiful old 3 to 4 foot high dry stone walls, frequently occupied by sheep, the shooting stations overlooked a vast countryside. Some shooting stations were along pathways that coursed up and down hills and through wood lots. But almost always there was the wonderful feeling that you were shooting these sports of skeet, trap and sporting clays in the land where they had all first been shot decades ago. All in all, we shot at a dozen shooting grounds across England and spent 4 days shooting at a Grand Prix competition in the Netherlands.

The early history of the shotgun sports along with the history of the homes, farms, taverns and pubs scattered in villages along the narrow roadways added to the lure of this trip, along with the food, hospitality and unique culture that was a joy to experience. As I pen this article, I sip on my cup of Earl Grey tea, instead of my usual mug of coffee, reflecting on the wonderful time with my English friends, Geoff, Sandy and the new ones I made along the way.

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