With Glorious Twelfth only around the corner, we bring you the ultimate guide to the women-only shooting clubs that have been popping up all over the country…
Rebecca Fletcher talks to Victoria Knowles-Lacks, founder of The Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club which has led the way in challenging the misconception that shooting is a man’s sport. With membership constantly on the rise, why not get involved ahead of Glorious Twelfth? As one female shooter put it, ‘It’s fashion as opposed to the F-word, laughter as opposed to lechery and choux pastry over chauvinism. What’s not to like?’. You said it, sister! Now, let’s go slay some clay…
The C&TH Guide to Women-Only Shooting Clubs
The Glorious Twelfth, start of the British game season, is almost upon us. Up and down the countryside, tweed will be donned and the pop-pop of shotguns will ring out from the hedgerows and woodland. Shooting has forever been the traditional sporting pursuit for the country set, once autumn begins to make an appearance. Identified and stereotyped as gentlemen clad in breeks, braying in plummish tones, it has often seemed an inaccessible pastime for those interested in learning to shoot but not connected with local shooting fraternities.
However, times are changing, and a small revolution is already underway to alter the perception of the sport. Leading the field is a group with a distinctly pink hue that is unashamedly feminine and aims to encourage newcomers to try something different. Welcome to the world of women-only shooting clubs.
Get Involved, Ladies!
One club, in particular, has been at the forefront of enticing more women ‘guns’ from all walks of life to give clay pigeon shooting a go. As Victoria Knowles-Lacks, founder of The Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club, says, ‘I set up the club initially to get my girlfriends into shooting and make it easier for women to get involved. The idea of the event was to be fun, inclusive, to practise safe handling of shotguns, to learn how to shoot well and provide a place for like-minded women to meet. It’s about making shooting more accessible and showing that you don’t need to be born into it, particularly affluent or clad top-to-toe in tweed.’
This is clearly the appeal. Anyone can come along, hire an instructor and have a go. No need to worry about looking the part either – sturdy shoes or wellies and loose clothing will see you through until you progress far enough to warrant a bit of grown-up kit or your own ear defenders. With clubs like Victoria’s running days with expert instructors on hand to guide beginners and more experienced shots alike, and an array of shooting grounds across the country to choose from, there’s never been a better time for women to take up the sport.
Boys Vs. Girls
How have the traditional male shooting set taken to seeing more women in the field? ‘There’s a real mix of opinions. To begin with there were a few reservations from the more conservative types, however most are welcoming, supportive and really behind the clubs – unless we shoot better than them!’ says Victoria. ‘Shooting is such a small community and it’s imperative that more people get involved in the sport – an idea which most shooters support.’
Such has been the growing demand for clubs that the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club now runs in excess of 100 clay shooting events a year in the UK’s finest shooting grounds. They’ve run educational days, countless social events, annual conferences, field fashion shows and two hugely successful National Ladies’ Shooting Days. Welcoming over 10,000 women so far from all ages, abilites and backgrounds, it’s been life-changing and industry-pioneering.
Tea, Cake & Gunpowder
Going along to one of the Chelsea Bun Club days, the atmosphere is friendly – women getting together to enjoy shooting followed by a spot of tea served up in fine bone china and a delicious array of homemade cakes, alongside a chance to catch up on the gossip and compare shooting notes. Between sips of tea and rather large mouthfuls of cake, the women I chat to seem to be a rather diverse crowd too. One woman, when asked why she joined a women-only club, remarked, ‘Women shoot together and compete against themselves while men compete against each other. We seem to have more fun our way.’
Try it Yourself: The Best Women-Only Shooting Clubs
Thanks to a massive increase in demand in the past few years, there’s now a whole host of women-only shooting clubs for you to take part in. We round up the best in the country:
Founded in 2011 by Victoria Knowles-Lacks, S&CBC is one of the most popular women-only shooting clubs in the country, and a pioneer in making shooting more accessible. Sociable, supportive and heaps of fun – and there are cakes, too.
Holland & Holland were one of the first shooting grounds to identify the gap in the market for ladies’ shooting, launching their Green Feathers course in 1995 to introduce women to shooting. Since then, they’ve also started Silver Feathers for ladies with more shooting experience. After completing a shooting tuition course, all the ladies meet for a final day of competitions, delicious luncheon and tea and scones.
The Covert Girls
After discovering a talent for shooting at a Green Feathers course, Claire Zambuni (now one of the best shots in the country) set up Covert Girls. Their events include game shoots, private members’ club dinners, as well as exclusive shopping events.
The club for Northern girls who love to shoot. The Yorkshire Fillies meet regularly to shoot, eat and get together with likeminded women from all over the country, and organise their own Ladies Clay Days which include cakes, lunch, competitions and glasses of fizz.
Run by a group of hard-working volunteers who share a passion for clay shooting, the Femmes Fatales aren’t afraid to get their boots muddy. By their own description, they cater for those with ‘a love for fashion, partying, high heels and lipstick, but also like the smell of gun oil’.
Formed in 2006 by four friends during a post-shooting pub lunch spent lamenting the lack of female fellowship in the sport, the Dorset Game Birds are dedicated to making shooting accessible for women. They organise multiple events a year, and provide affordable shooting events and tuition – so great is their work that they are wholeheartedly supported by the Countryside Alliance.
Scotland’s premier ladies’ shooting club. For them, it’s ‘all about old friends, new friends, blue sky, sunshine, guns smoking, clays breaking, birds dropping, laughter, applause, cheers, chat and new friends made’.
If these clubs are the face of the modern country set, then we’d heartily recommend signing up – learn a new hobby and have a blast. As one female shooter says, ‘It’s fashion as opposed to the F-word, laughter as opposed to lechery and choux pastry over chauvinism. What’s not to like?’
This article has been adapted from Rebecca Fletcher’s ‘The Rise of Women-Only Shooting Clubs’ from the 2014 September issue of Country & Town House.