Tweed, Hunters and 12 gauges: Meet the girls who shoot

Grouse every weekend

Boys who shoot would want you to think it’s a male-only club, picking off grouse with skills passed down from theirs dads and learning how to tell bourbon from scotch at a tender age.

Read any shooting guide and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just boys in gilets, their posh uncles and an unfriendly loader – but this couldn’t be further from the reality.

More girls than ever are taking up the old sport and are even taking better shots than the boys.

Some go for clay and go for grouse, meet the country girls who go shooting every week.

Minty Bates from Northamptonshire, Oxford Brookes University

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Lock and load

Minty Bates has been shooting since she was 16, but the Brookes student originally started doing it just to get out of netball.

She said: “I also love living up to the classic stereotype and putting my tweed jacket and chameau wellies on.

“I think tweed is quite a big part because it’s such a big tradition of shooting.

“When I go it’s usually a big shoot that someone’s dad has organised which involves ducks and pheasants – no ground game.”

For 19-year-old Minty, shooting has always been a social occasion for her friends and family.

She said: “The whole day involves a lot of chat, plenty of alcohol and a massive boozy lunch at the end of the day.

“I don’t own a gun because I have a pretty rubbish shot but I use my brothers 12 bore shot gun.”

Minty (left)

Minty (left) on a shoot

Minty added: “I would recommend shooting as a social activity because it’s so nice to be in the out doors. I often go before new year so it’s normally a lovely crisp winter day.

“But if you do kill something then it’s extremely satisfying so I would recommend it.”

Kiana Hainsworth from Connecticut, USA, St. Andrews University

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Fire in the booth

St Andrews second year Kiana Hainsworth, 20, has been clay pigeon shooting for five years and even has her own gun – a Krieghoff K-80.

Kiana said: “Shooting is one of very few things that let’s me disconnect from the outside world and take my mind off of everything.

“I really enjoy clay pigeon shooting when I see a target break into hundreds of pieces after hitting it, but I also really enjoy the calm feeling I get walking through fields with the dogs searching for the birds.”

Kiana’s dad is a big pheasant and shooter hunter, and was introduced to the sport when one of his friends started a junior clay pigeon team.

She said: “I figured I had nothing to lose except a couple of Saturday afternoons but I ended up loving the sport!

“It’s only a dangerous activity if people are not well informed of the safety protocols – the worst thing that has happened to me was that I got hit by a piece of broken target and got a tiny cut.”

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Kiana in action

Kiana believes the sport is changing from an all boys club atmosphere and is now far more inclusive for everyone.

She said: “I compete for my university team and we are currently looking to acquire two 20 bore guns due to the increasing number of girls looking to shoot.

“A fair number of people do actually wear tweed but I also know a large number of people that don’t wear tweed at all when they shoot.

“I think wearing tweed to rough shoots is slightly over-exaggerated.”

Charlotte Fraser from Oxfordshire, Exeter University

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The flat cap is essential

Keen-shooter Charlotte Fraser, 22, has been involved for years and even owns her own Beretta over-and-under shotgun.

The Exeter fourth year said: “I have been involved in shooting since I was tiny, but only started taking part when I was about 16.

“My mum’s side of the family have been involved for generations and I live in quite a rural area so many people, locally, are involved in one form or another.

“Historically, the shooting world has very much been male-dominated.

“In my experience, female shooters are sometimes disregarded and often feel that they have to prove themselves, more so than their male counterparts.”

Despite having a shooting background, Charlotte isn’t actually a fan of tweed and prefers to use more modern equipment.

She said: “Shooting is a fantastic opportunity to let off some steam, release some adrenaline, get some fresh air and it generally makes for a fun day out.”

Phoebe Solon from London, Exeter University

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Phoebe with her shooting soc lanyard

Phoebe Solon, 19, first got into shooting when she came across the society stall at freshers’ fair in Exeter.

She admitted: “The next thing I know I am at the range doing a tester session, absolutely terrified of the rifle and the whole idea of shooting.

“Most of the stuff we do is in a range shooting targets, and if you make it to the team then you go rough.

“My most memorable moment from the society is not actually to do directly with shooting, but from the first social we had, were me and my friend turned up to the first pub and realised we were very much outnumbered by guys.”

Being fairly new to the sport, Elisa does not yet own her own gun or dress up too much.

She said: “I have quite a few friends who are members, who very much adhere to the stereotype of wearing tweed and going on family shoots.

“I would recommend shooting to anyone who hasn’t tried it, it’s very social as we meet every week for a shoot and usually go to the pub after. ”

Jennifer Shoesmith from Cumbria, Leeds University

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Jennifer prefers shooting targets at a range to clay pigeons

Jennifer Shoesmith, 23, is an active member of her uni gun society and even met her boyfriend through shooting.

The Leeds Masters student said: “I think there is a stereotype associated with it because usually only rich people and men can shoot.

“At freshers’ fair many women ask if they can actually join the club so i think there is still some expectation that it is a male only sport which is not true.

“One of our most talented current members is female.”

Instead of going into the countryside, Jennifer prefers target shooting with carbine and air rifles.

She said: “The only accident I have ever seen happening is someone having their face too close to the scope of an air rifle and cutting their head because of the recoil.

“I would definitely recommend shooting for new people, it’s different a good way to relax and to meet new people.

“You get to shoot guns, what’s not to like?”

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