Guns lined out in the beautiful countryside; the call of ‘over!’ from the beating line; delicious elevenses taken in the field; gunshots ringing out all around. Just a typical driven shoot day, right? To all intents and purposes it is – the only difference is that the guns are shooting clays (and lots of them), there are no out-of-control dogs, and you can’t eat what you shoot.

Simulated game seems to go from strength to strength, no doubt bolstered by the troubles that many estates had sourcing birds over the past couple of seasons. It is seriously good fun – fast- paced and a guaranteed way to get those barrels swinging in every way imaginable, as thousands of clays are fired over the line, drive after drive.
Sim 1

What to expect

Simulated game days normally follow the basic premise of a driven day, with guns lined out on the ‘drives’. One of the big differences is that on sim game days it’s common to share a peg and take it in turns to load and shoot. This simply adds to the fun. Each gun gets a turn at stuffing for the other and calling birds – and with the pace of the action this can get quite frenetic if you so choose. And if you fancy poaching your neighbour’s birds, go ahead. Generally speaking this is all part of the fun of a sim day. As with a driven day, you’ll stop for elevenses and then either shoot through, finishing with lunch, or stop for lunch and finish up with another drive.

With so many clays flying overhead it can be easy for the red mist to descend, so it’s important to remember your own abilities and go at your own pace. Be selective with your shots – don’t just fire blindly into the sky – and don’t feel that you need to keep blasting away if you are starting to tire or your technique is faltering. You’re likely to end up with a bit of a sore shoulder at the end of the day anyway, so there’s no need to compound the problem with strings of rushed gun mounts.

Variety is the spice of life

The beauty of a sim day is the flexibility it offers. Depending on your provider, drives will often simulate certain quarry, so you might be presented with a partridge drive, high pheasants, woodland vermin, grouse and so on.

Most outfitters use auto traps, but some use a mixture of those and manual ones to really up the ante in terms of being able to deliver certain unique presentations. You can often opt to have exploding clays sent over the line, or in some cases a flying gnat!

If you fancy adding a really competitive element to your day, some places will arrange for a team flush at the end, which can really add to the enjoyment.

Sim 2

What you’ll need

Take plenty of cartridges! If in doubt, take more than you think you’ll need – there is nothing worse than running out. And don’t just chuck your normal game shooting loads in and hope for the best. Due to the volume of clays you will be shooting, it’s best to use a light load, such as 21g or 24g. Shot size No.7 or 8 will be fine – there are no vital organs that need to be penetrated. Also remember that fibre wads are probably the order of the day if shooting in the countryside In terms of gun, you’re best off using the gun you normally shoot with, but if that is a side-by-side, bear in mind you’ll need a glove as the barrels will get hot. Even so, your gun could literally get too hot to handle, so consider using an over-and-under if possible. One thing that isn’t optional is some kind of hat and glasses – there will be fragments of clay flying all around and it simply isn’t worth the risk of not wearing them. Otherwise, dress codes are generally more relaxed than on a game day. Just ensure you’re wearing a good shooting vest with deep pockets.

Sim 3

Why do it?

If you’re a game shooter as well as a dedicated clay buster, you might find that on a game shoot you’re finally getting into the swing of your shooting just as the day is finishing. With a sim day you have so many opportunities to shoot that you can really get your eye in, as long as you are not just practising bad technique.

If you are a novice, consider taking someone more experienced along to stand with you and help you select your shots so that you really make the most of the opportunity to get plenty of lead in the air.

Most of all, the days are simply a great fun and great value way to spend time with mates or colleagues and break some (or rather, a lot of) clays!