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Simulated game days are great fun and a fab way to get your eye in. Find out what to expect, what to take with you, and some of the best shoots to attend!
credit: Matt Limb OBE
Guns lined out in the beautiful countryside; the call of 'over!' from the beating line; delicious elevenses taken in the field; gunshot ringing out all around… sounds like a typical driven shoot day, right? And 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 shooting has grown in popularity over the years, and it's easy to see why. It offers all the trappings of a traditional driven shoot day, at a fraction of the cost and at a time of year when many shooters are suffering withdrawl from game shooting.
Not only that, but it is seriously good fun - fast-paced and a guaranteed way to get those barrels swinging in every which way imaginable, as thousands of clays are fired over the line, drive after drive.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR SIMULATED GAME DAY
Simulated game days normally follow the basic premise of a driven day.You'll arrive around 9am, have a bacon butty and then move off to the first drive, where the Guns will be lined out.
One of the big differences on sim game days is that while on a game day there will be eight Guns in the team, on a sim day there could be up to 16 - so 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 likely stop for elevenses and either shoot through until lunch or stop for lunch and finish up with another drive.
GO AT YOUR OWN PACE
With so many clays flying overhead, it can be easy for the 'red mist' to descend, so it's important to try and 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 no need to compound the problem with 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 have partridges, 'devon-screamer' pheasants, a woodland 'vermin' drive, 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 radio-controlled plane! If you fancy adding a competitive element to your day, some places will arrange for a team flush at the end, which can really add to the enjoyment.
WHY SHOULD I ATTEND A SIM GAME DAY?
Shots on a game day can sometimes be sporadic, so, often, you might find you're just getting into your groove 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 keep up your shooting during the close season.
WHAT SHOULD I TAKE TO A SIM GAME DAY?
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. Because of the volume of clays you will be shooting it's best to use a light load, such as 21g or 24g. And shot size No.7 or No.8 will be fine too - there are no vital organs to be killed in a clay! In terms of gun, you're best off using the gun you normally shoot with, but bear in mind if that is a side-by-side you'll need a glove - the barrels WILL get hot. Even with gloves you could end up with a problem, 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!
SOME OF THE BEST SIM GAME DAYS IN THE UK
Six Mile Bottom Shoot
Catering for single Guns, small groups and larger parties in the stunning Cambridgeshire countryside. Offering a variety of drives, from pheasant and driven partridge to grouse and ducks.
Price: £2960 inc VAT (based on a team of 16 - £185pp)
Tel: 01638 570046
WEST LONDON SHOOTING SCHOOL
Exhilarating, varied and super-realistic simulated game days on the stunning Great Tew Estate in Oxfordshire, just over an hour's drive from London. Duck, grouse and high pheasant drives are broken up by delicious catering as you work your way around the rolling grassland, oak woods and carpets of bluebells in one of the most picturesque spots in the country.
Price: From £3266 + VAT for 8-16 guns
Tel: 020 8845 1377
ESSEX SIMULATED GAME SHOOTING
Catering to novices and experienced shooters, days can be tailored to requirements and also brought to your own land. Top of the range traps offer a variety of quarry, from low partridge to wild duck and pigeon. Tuition provided
Tel: 01621 774038
LONDON VIEW SIMULATED GAME
As the name suggests, a chance to shoot a variety of sim game targets with stunning views of the Captial city.
Prices: £155 per person to include all food and unlimited birds.
ATKIN GRANT & LANG
Sim game days in a picturesque Oxfordshire setting.
Prices from £215 + VAT per Gun
Tel: 01582 849382
BARBURY SHOOTING SCHOOL
Offering a selection of sim days at several venues in Berkshire and Wiltshire, including the school itself.
Prices from £138pp for teams of 10-16
Tel: 01793 940420
Offering the ultimate pre-shoot perfector to enjoy with friends or your syndicate. Options available in Surrey and Scotland.
Prices start at £125 per Gun
Tel: 01483 797017 or 01835 870816 (Scottish Borders)
Set in the stunning West Wycombe Estate in Bucks with options to suit your needs.
Prices from £195pp + VAT (based on 16 Guns)
Tel: 01494 883808
A day of character, humour and challenge, set in the stunning rolling countryside of the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire.
Prices from £4,500 + VAT for up to 18 Guns.
Tel: 01488 689788
HONESBERIE SHOOTING SCHOOL
Offering sim game days at various shoots in Northants, Oxon or a venue of your choice.
Prices from £3,125 + VAT for a team of 16.
Tel: 01327 262922
Set in an exclusive country estate, offering all the thrill and excitement of a driven game day - but at a fraction of the cost.
Prices from £200pp (based on 16 Guns)
Tel: 01242 870391
Featherless game days in Gloucestershire, including a Glorious Twelfth themed day on moorland.
Prices from £3,840 for a team of 10
Tel: 07921 951477
One of the biggest names in simulated game shooting. Offers days for big or small groups and individual Guns in the Yorkshire Wolds.
Prices available on request
Tel: 01377 288295
RBSS (REALLY WILD CLAY DAYS)
Offering 'everything but the feathers' at a choice of eight prestigious venues around the country.
Prices from £5,450 + VAT for a team of 16
Tel: 01491 672900
HOWNHALL SHOOTING SCHOOL
Based at Cowdray Estate in the beautiful rolling Sussex coutryside, Hownhall offers fantastic simulated game days with renowned in-field
catering. Contact Simon O'Leary for prices.
Tel: 07867 422847
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