York’s original shooting stars

Why I co-founded the University of York’s first Clay Pigeon Shooting Club

For a university in the heart of Yorkshire, a county with such a strong heritage of country pursuits, I was surprised that there was no shooting club. Having shot from a young age, three years without taking part in my favourite hobby seemed like a dull prospect.

A few weeks into my first term I saw a note online asking if anyone would be interested in starting a clay pigeon shooting club. It was from Ryan, the club’s founding President. A small group of us met up in a room in Vanbrugh, and very shyly and awkwardly decided who would do what and when we should meet to go shooting for the first time.

About five of us went along to a small shooting club just outside York, and we shot as a group for the first time. This club was very small and we eventually chose another as a regular haunt. Upon arrival, we went indoors and waited to be greeted by an instructor.

We followed him out and lined up ready to be passed the borrowed 12 bore and take our turn at the ten skeet clays. Stepping forward when it was my turn, the chap turned to me, inspected me top to toe, and exclaimed, “You shoot?!” Happily, I strode forward and surprised him by hitting all of the clays.

Unfortunately, his remarks weren’t an isolated incident and I have encountered a plethora of people who are surprised when I turn up to shoot or tell people I shoot. I’m not a girly-girl, but I’m also not a tomboy, so I’m perhaps not what others involved in shooting expect. But that’s another story.

There was much more talking and less shy shuffling during our second meet up. We were students who shared a common interest. These were the people I’d been hoping to find during my few months at university. They weren’t people I’d accidentally sat next to in a lecture or tutorial; they weren’t strangers who happened to share a Derwent kitchen with me; they were funny, interesting people who wanted to shoot. And they cared enough to gather together and make a club.

Derwent College, before the college moved to the Heslington East campus

The next week we went shooting again. After that, we had our first of many shooting club ‘socials’ with a ‘hunter and hunted’ theme. I still look back with a smile as I picture one club member swinging around a post along the walkway between Langwith and Vanbrugh, landing on his back with an unfortunate crack of his head. The social began in Derwent bar and ended at The Willow Disco, setting a tradition for future socials.

In the following months, we became a ratified University club: we took place in Roses, and held committee elections and meetings. We held more themed socials and even had ‘formals’ (a formal party) at the end of the year. As the founding Vice President of the club, and with the current wind of public opinion so against shooting and country sports, I feel proud to see that the club continues to go from strength to strength, years after I graduated. Being part of the club’s first year is still one of my proudest accomplishments at York. It also makes me realise that if you want something that isn’t there, the chances are that at least a few other like-minded people want it too.

Find out more about the University’s Clay Pigeon Shooting Club.