Alan Paine Blog

  • The “Bun-club” Conference by Lucy Sillars

     

    The “Bun-club” Conference

    “What are you doing this weekend?”… “Oh, going to a ladies shooting conference” …”???”

    IMG_3868 2 I did get a couple of askance looks when I mentioned my weekend plans, especially as it involved an early morning start and 3-hour drive.

    But yes, I did set off at 5am to get to the 4th Shotgun & Chelsea Bun club conference. The day coincided with the club’s 6th anniversary so much celebrating was in order for the day and evening.

    After a welcome from S&CBC founder, Victoria Knowles-Lacks, we had a packed day of speakers, shopping & networking but to tell you about everything in detail would probably just read like a shopping list.

    Therefore, I’ll keep it to the key points I took away:

    1. Gun fit is important, but only once you’ve got your mount right.

    The day was kicked off by Tom Payne, a gun fitter, prominent pigeon shooter, author & shooting coach. A colourful character with the key advice that gun fit must come after you are mounting the gun to your shoulder consistently.

    Then once you have had your gun properly fitted, changes to your stance, weight gain, weight loss etc will all have an impact on your gun fit.

    If you have seen my Instagram account, you will know my gun has a comb raiser haphazardly taped to the stock. It’s not pretty but it’s working and while I’m still getting to grips with shooting gun down, it will be a while now before I consider getting anything more permanent done.

    1. Even the top shots get nervous.

    Multiple world champion clay shooter, Cheryl Hall spoke about shooting confidence and how important it is to zone everything & everyone around you out for that brief moment when you step up to take your shots. As she moved from the prepared section of her talk to answering audience questions, you could see her visibly relax into her subject. It made me realise that everyone has nerves, even an amazingly accomplished shot such as Cheryl, but it’s how you learn a strategy to overcome them that is important.

    1. IMG_3869 2Eat more Game!

    There are many arguments to eat more game, it’s delicious and good for you, and at this time of the year it’s also plentiful.  It’s also the main justification for game shooting; if we shoot it, we should eat it. This was a key point made in the talks from both Peter Glenser and Bill Harriman from BASC, and Liam Stokes of the Countryside Alliance.

    We already eat a lot of game in the Sillars household but it’s sparked my interest to look for more ideas (already seen a recipe for pheasant sausage rolls posted by a fellow bun-clubber, Gine)

    1. 6% and rising!

    6% of all UK Shotgun licenses are owned by women (34,188 as at 31 March 2017). It’s still a small number but it’s rising as are the opportunities for ladies in all areas of shooting.

    To be with so many other like-minded women was truly inspiring. The day also included other speakers, shopping opportunities and the 2017 annual S&CBC awards in the evening. Plenty of opportunity therefore to build networks and grow friendships. Already looking forward to next year!

     

    If you would like to read more from Lucy you can find her blog page here

  • Partridge Beating by Lucy Sillars

     

    Partridge Beating

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    My beating experience up to now has just been out on the moors with grouse. Other than a slightly smaller note in the brown envelope at lunchtime, I didn’t know how a partridge shoot would differ.

    IMG_3598 1A google search came up with articles on partridge drives coming low over hedgerow’s and copses. This didn’t tally with the beaters wagon chat of lots of sharp climbs. Suffice to say, it seems to depend on the topography of the land how a partridge is presented to the guns. In this part of North Yorkshire, we have moors & valleys; lovely steep sided valleys which I found myself walking up several times on this shoot day.

    For all four of the morning drives, the guns stood lined along the bottom of a ravine while we drove the birds down the flanks and across them. This involved walking up the side of each valley and then along into position. A lot of waiting, and then a steady stop/start drive down the hills to push the birds over the guns in steady bursts of coveys and individual birds. Partridge don’t seem to need as much noise to push them out as grouse do but, just as for grouse, it was important to keep in the line and do as I was told!

    I hate to sound stereotypically female, but I always struggle with what to wear. Beating is no different. Even if you are told that it’s “not a fashion show”, it is still important to be wearing the right kit. This September day was a typical “four seasons” one, bright sun one moment, followed by cloud and then right before lunchtime, a downpour and hail. I was a lady of layers and of quick changes, stripping to a shirt to walk up the hills in glorious sunshine (“glowing” all the way).

    IMG_3526 1But then waiting for the drive to start, the clouds came over and coat & gilet plus gloves and hat were back on. I almost left my jacket in the wagon at the halfway point and as the sun shone on the third drive, I mentally kicked myself for not doing so. However, come the end of the fourth drive, black cloud rolled in and we suffered a deluge. There were more than a few soggy beaters getting back in the wagon to go for lunch. A waterproof coat like the Berwick Shooting jacket, which you can tie round your waist as needed, is perfect for this type of day. Later this year, I’ll be zipping in a fleece but for now, my gilet on its own was enough.

    The afternoon drives were a similar format with the guns stood at the bottom of the drive. It was here, I found my next clothing issue. I’ve worn basic walking trousers to beat in up to now. They have dried quickly and been fine for going over the moors. With partridge (and shortly pheasants), I will need to also be scaling my fair share of barbed wire fences and getting through some brambles and undergrowth without whinging. I almost managed to get through unscathed on this day, but right at the last hurdle I got caught and trousers were ripped. Clearly a sign to upgrade to something a little sturdier!

    I’m off to the S&CBC Annual Conference this weekend. I am still a novice in so much of the world of shooting so can’t wait to hear what the line-up of experts has to say. I’ll be back with what I found out soon!

     

    If you would like to read more from Lucy you can find her blog page here

  • First day on the Grouse by Lucy Sillars

     

    First day on the Grouse.

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    With the boys settled back to school & preschool, I signed myself up to do two days of beating this week.

    First up was a day on the grouse moors. While it wasn’t my first outing, I am still very much a newbie to the beating world and I must straight away confess that I didn’t actually join the “beating line”, instead I was assigned to the flankers (apparently this is the easy job). Flankers, as the name suggests, bring in the sides (flanks) of the patch of moor being covered on each drive and try to stop the birds bailing out to the sides of the line of guns.

    IMG_3229 2So, this is how I find myself standing on the top of the North Yorkshire moors on a sunny Tuesday morning with one of the finest views around. My day started getting a lift to the meeting point in the back of an old army troop carrier, now repurposed to a beaters wagon. After initial sorting into the various groups of beaters, flankers and pickers up, we headed out. For each drive, the team of gamekeepers work together to ensure all parts of the group move at the right time to ensure the best results. I had a previous life in project management, but this still looks to be a very difficult and precise process. The weather and wind conditions need to be considered, as well as ensuring the guns get to their positions on time without being rushed or conversely waiting about too long. I tried not to think about the logistics too much and just made sure to listen up and then keep up!

    For each of the drives (three before lunch and two after) we went out into our flanking line positions spread out apart across a wide area. When instructed, we had to move forward keeping formation in a flat line as much as possible. Sounds quite easy on normal ground, but the North Yorkshire moors are a mix of heather, bracken, peat bogs and reed filled marshes. The heather itself varies stretch by stretch into short and recently burnt or bushy and thick (and difficult to negotiate). Then there are the hills and the streams to also contend with. On top of that, you need to keep cracking and waving your flag.

    All in all, a lot to think about – look left, look right, keep up but don’t go too far forward. Keep my spacing left and right. Flag up! Don’t fall in a hole! Phew! With all that going on, you’d think it was stressful but conversely, I find it one of the most stress-relieving activities I’ve ever done. You just don’t have the opportunity to worry about anything else but what you are doing right there. I also worked out I’d walked over 10 miles, so pretty good exercise too. The small brown envelope at the end of the day is just the cherry on the top.

    And then there are the other people who form the line with you. Camaraderie and banter keep your spirits up, even when the heavens open and do their worst! This came in buckets on the Thursday when Partridge was the order of the day. But that is for next time.

     

    If you would like to read more from Lucy you can find her blog page here

  • Getting ready for the season by JPR.esq

     

    Getting ready for the season

    Alan Paine Tweed & Browning Gun

    Another evening of dashing up the shoot, straight from my full-time job, and I suddenly notice the nights are starting to draw in much earlier. The pheasants are going to roost and the increasingly brave resident muntjac are barking to signal my arrival, yet I still have my rounds to do. The water needs checking, the feeders need topping up and the pen will have to be checked. I can't help but notice more things are needing to be addressed before our first shoot day in October. I slip into my boots at the back of my Landover, rummaging under empty cartridge cases, cam nets and various tools that I leave  for those 'just in case' moments or jobs I haven't quite finished, whilst looking for various coats and that woolly jumper I thought I had but lost! The evenings are cooler now, and it feels slightly more comfortable when venturing into the acres of cover provided by the ancient woodland we shoot through. Although, it's not cool enough yet to deter the thousands of winged biting bugs from feasting on me!!

     

    Preparing For The ShootThis month we are slowly making our way through the summer growth, creating rides and clearing paths for the beaters, moving downed branches and hacking back the merciless exceedingly sharp brambles. I find it quite amazing that in just a few months of warmth and sunshine nature always manages to undo all the hard work from our previous seasons efforts. Perhaps we should keep on top of it more through the year? I will add it to my note book!

     

    Our birds this year are looking impressive, and they seem to be much further on now than in previous years. Big bold cock birds standing proud with a few eager hens loitering around as we trim, cut and strim our way into the season. I'm always stunned at how many tracks we uncover and, whether they're from deer, badgers or rabbits, there is an undeniable sense that the wildlife always has somewhere they need to go.

     

    I notice the number of small bags of corn are rapidly declining, so with haste I phone our closest farm to enquire about purchasing three more tons. Luckily the harvest is complete and there is ample stock, so a price is agreed and yet another job is added to my little book.

     

     

    Gamekeeper ClothesAlthough playing a part in running a shoot is jolly hard work and very stressful at times, I do enjoy it immensely. The song birds always lift my spirits with their delightful melodies, and the great old oak tree always gets a second glance. I often pause to imagine a time long passed; who may have stopped under its massive branches for a catch of breath, a romantic liaison or a poacher plotting his escape!!

     

    But of course, all work and no play are not good for a passionate country man. So with a quick change of clothes, a pocket full of cartridges and grabbing my near 100-year-old side by side, I will often take myself off into the quieter parts of the woodland in search of some dinner or some pest control.  I always hope for a nice flight line of pigeons heading back to roost, as I find this is fantastic sport and a great way to keep sharp ready for the season ahead. In my opinion the pigeon is one of the most sporting birds we have. They can fly as fast as grouse, as high as any pheasant and their turn of speed and agility can test even the finest gun. Although a common agricultural pest, they really do make fantastic eating and I urge you try it if you haven't already done so.

     

     

     

    Well I think I have exceeded my allotted space with still plenty to say, but I shall save it for next time..

    JPR.esq

     

    Introducing JPR.esq

    Born in a small rural village on the Suffolk/Essex border, my childhood was spent roaming the fields and woodlands with my friends.  Watching nature, the changing seasons and slowly learning about the countryside was to be inevitable.

    Moving forward, I enjoy and greatly respect the environment around me and what it has to offer. Nowadays my interests have expanded to learning old techniques and crafts; there’s something rather romantic about the old days and the old ways.  Although I have a 9-5 job I still have plenty of time left to help to run a small shoot.  I also have over 2500 acres of farm land that I am able to shoot over, so the sport can be varied and interesting.

    You can follow Jay on Facebook here & Instagram here

  • Time to get “Beating Fit”! by Lucy Sillars

     

    Time to get “Beating Fit”!

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    It seems no time at all since the National Ladies Shooting Day back in June. Since then, I’ve carried on shooting with my local clay league, finding that progress comes in fits and starts. My biggest learning so far is that my shooting is as much affected by my mood as my skill level. A bad or stressed out day equates to a lot of wasted clays and cartridges!

    IMG_2689 (2)However, living on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors means stress relief is not hard to find outside my back door. This is my favourite time of the year when the moors are showing off their glorious riot of purples & greens. All over social media are pictures of fantastic views and gorgeous hues of heathers and tweeds, which I consume with a just a little envy! I’ll not be out on a grouse moor with a gun in my hand for quite some time (but never say never!). But I will be out on the grouse moors soon with something else in my hand soon, a noisy beaters flag!

    I’m signed up to beat again this year on the Snilesworth Estate in North Yorkshire. This year they start their grouse days in mid-August, with partridge from September and pheasant from October onwards through to the end of January. There are 66 days this season, but to balance work, my pre-schooler and my fitness levels I’m sticking to just one to two days a week maximum. Beating days are hard-work, even for the spring chickens (teenagers)

    In case you are unfamiliar, beaters are a vital part of a successful shoot. Under the supervision of the Gamekeeper, the beaters flush out the birds towards the shooting line. This must be done in a well-coordinated manner – with all the beaters moving in sync. You cover quite a bit of ground on each drive and are expected to keep in line with your fellows despite whatever obstacles are in front of you (waist high heather or peaty bogs spring to mind from my exploits last year).

    Therefore, while I’m not able to get out there during the school holidays, I am doing my best to get “beating fit” by getting out walking with the boys on their bikes. I also need to check my beating kit is in order. I know I need a new pair of boots after getting soggy feet more than once last year. The moors are very uneven and boggy so short walking boots, wellies or country boots really aren’t safe. I’ll be investing in some high ankle waterproof boots come pay day and then getting out with the boys on to the moorland tracks to break them in. The views are fantastic, but with two noisy children and the dog (always on the lead on the moors), chances of spotting many grouse are slim (but they are there).

    I’ll be back soon with an update of how my first day went. The early money is on my falling over at least twice, just as long as I don’t need pulling out of a bog I’ll be ok!

     

    If you would like to read more from Lucy you can find her blog page here

  • Muzzleloading...by Claire Wright

     

    Muzzleloading

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    I am very fortunate to work in an organisation where many of my colleagues enjoy shooting in their spare time; as a result I have never been short of mentors to encourage me in my sporting endeavours. I was kindly invited to join fellow Chartered Surveyor, Tim Woodward and his friend Jeremy Ives, for a morning’s shooting at Cambridge Gun Club with his muzzle-loading shotgun. Tim describes this as “the shooting equivalent of driving a classic car” so I was keen to give it a go!

    The day dawned cloudy but dry which is very important, as damp conditions and black powder do not mix well. Indeed, I am told that whole battles have been halted by inclement weather!

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    We positioned ourselves on a quiet stand so as not to hold up other users with their new-fangled over-and-under shotguns! It was fascinating to see Tim going through his preparations, adding exactly 75 grains of powder from an authentic 19th century powder flask, then wadding and then 1oz1/8 shot, all separated by thin pieces of card. With the gun now ready to fire the barrels have to be kept upwards so the shot doesn’t fall out again! Tim showed us how it was done by smashing the first clay; however, a misfire plagued the second barrel which led to the time-consuming process of clearing the barrel of the shot and wadding using a ‘worm’ before re-loading for another attempt.

    It was then my turn to have a go with this magnificent piece, a 13 bore percussion lock side-by-side sporting gun which dates back to 1860 and was made by Edmund Morris & Son of Bridgwater. I missed the first clay but had the thrill of obliterating the second clay. The booming noise of the shot followed by clouds of smoke was awesome and soon gathered attention and admiration from the other guns using the club! Black powder muzzle-loaders are much noisier than modern shotguns!

    Having started with some simple crossers we moved onto simulated rabbits; these really highlighted the power of the gun as when you fire the gun straight from the shoulder you can actually feel and see the flame of the powder igniting and get the full effect of the resulting wreaths of smoke! You end up asking whether you broke the clay as you can’t see through the murk! It’s easy to underestimate a gun like this – it may be nearly 160 years old, but it’s as efficient at busting clays as a modern gun, and, of course was built and used for walked-up game shooting.

    It was a truly amazing experience and if you are ever offered the opportunity to fire a muzzle loader either at a club or at a game fair then seize it with both hands!

  • My visit to The Game Fair by Claire Wright

     

    My visit to The Game Fair

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    One of the highlights of the summer calendar for me has always been The Game Fair. For the last eight years I have camped on site with friends, which is the finest way to experience multiple days at the show. It is worth staying under canvas for a few nights to beat the traffic! We arrived on Thursday afternoon which gave us plenty of time to pitch the tents and then enjoy a barbecue. There is a wonderful atmosphere on site as you are with kindred spirits from the field sports family even if the weather was far from kind.

     

    There is so much to see and do that it takes military precision to make sure you don’t miss out. The wild fowling display in the main arena by Chris Green was both entertaining and informative. You couldn’t help but be carried away by his enthusiasm for a niche area of shooting activity. The Game Fair theatre had lots going on too with many debates including one on bias against field sports within the BBC. Meanwhile famous chefs in the cookery zone were showing how to dress and cook roe deer or wild boar.

     

    There is always an emphasis on trying new activities no matter what age you are. The queues at the instruction stands run by BASC, CPSA and others down at the clay lines were testament to the continued interest in getting into shooting sports. A youngster in our party had great fun trying her inexperienced cocker spaniel in the ‘have a go’ scurry competitions. If you were after something different from shooting then you could take a fly fishing lesson down on the river or meet the foxhounds in the main arena. A highlight for me was the demonstration from Dartmoor Hawking who use retrained racehorses for mounted falconry.

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    This was also a great opportunity to go shopping with most of the major firms represented.  There was a chance to buy things you knew you needed and quite a few items that you didn’t know you needed until you saw them! I fell in love with a beautiful, English leather cartridge bag on the Croots stand and it is now hanging on my pegs at home awaiting some new shooting adventures. Gunmaker’s Row held a new fascination for me this year although I left feeling overwhelmed by the choice of shotguns on offer! Luckily, I have plenty of time to make a decision!

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    All of this dashing about can leave you exhausted so it is important to refuel; unlike some country events there is a fine array of British produce on offer in the Totally Food area. No need to have a greasy cash and carry burger here! Our favourite was the pheasant goujons and wraps on offer, but you could tuck into cheese, pies, charcuterie or just have a liquid lunch of gin and cider!

     

    If you have never been to The Game Fair before or it has been some years since your last visit then I hope that you will consider coming to the greatest celebration of country sports in 2018. Oh, and if you decide to join us on the campsite do drop by for a gin!

  • My Shooting Journey Part 3 by Claire Wright

     

    My Shooting Journey Part 3

    My Shooting Journey

    I have had a very busy and a very sporting weekend. It started by joining the Fitzwilliam (Milton) Hunt for hound exercise on bicycles from the kennels. There is something entirely magical about being up and about early in the morning to take the pack out in the beautiful countryside close to where they are kennelled. After re-fuelling with a much needed bacon roll it was time to set off for home. The plan was to have a quick shower and then head over to Cambridge Gun Club for my shooting lesson with Mike Williams. The estate sheep flock had other ideas as they had re-enacted the great escape by breaking out of their field and I ended up getting hot and bothered helping to coral them back into their paddock before making my lesson by the skin of my teeth!

    Being the first Saturday of the school holidays it was relatively quiet at the club, this gave us the chance to go and have a play on the skeet range. I was somewhat apprehensive as the last time Mike and I had ventured onto this part of the ground I had scored in Eurovision parlance ‘null points’. After a bit of a false start I was soon hitting some clays at various stations; a massive improvement in technique and confidence. We finished off with a trip to the sporting stand to practise some rabbits and crossers. Whilst my overall lack of experience often shows through it is also clear that I am making huge strides forward with my consistency and accuracy in hitting the clays bang in the centre so I went home well pleased with how things had gone.

    I spent Sunday at the Holkham Country Fair in Norfolk.  Unfortunately, as I was working on the CLA stand, I wasn’t able to get down to the clay lines but it was heartening to see many youngsters being introduced to target sports at the air rifle range as well as the levels of interest in the gun dog training demonstrations in the main arena.

    In other news I have now managed to purchase a second hand gun cabinet and to send off my application for a shotgun certificate. There is approximately a three month wait in Cambridgeshire so everything being well I could be buying myself a rather expensive birthday present! I am off to the Game Fair at Hatfield House next weekend so I am looking forward to having a sniff down Gunmakers’ Row and start my search for the perfect partner.

  • My Shooting Journey Part 2 by Claire Wright

     

    My Shooting Journey Part 2

    My Shooting Journey

    On Sunday I was at Cambridge Gun Club for my regular lesson under the expert tutoring of their Instructor, Mike Williams. We started with rabbits to get my eye in and I surprised myself by managing to smash the first clay; this success was repeated on eight more clays – a feat that had hitherto never been achieved by me in any session! It felt as if the skills I had been gradually building during the past few lessons had all clicked into place and it began to feel natural. Up until this point I think it was fair to describe my shooting performance as patchy!

    We moved rapidly onto teal and then crossers from both the right and the left. A few clays were missed but for once I was hitting more than passed by unscathed! The final challenge for this session was to tackle a right to left crossing bird followed by a teal on report. With one false start I was soon even nailing these. By this point it was hard to tell who was more pleased by this success – Mike who had finally seen the fruits of his patience or me feeling that at last I had make giant strides forward in my shooting career. We both returned to the club house with huge grins on our faces.

    So, what was different about this lesson? I was wearing my usual clothes, I was shooting the same Beretta 20 bore that I usually used, I hadn’t had my Weetabix for breakfast and I wasn’t shooting different layouts. The conclusion that we came to was that I had finally repaired my dented confidence and relaxed with the gun enough to focus exclusively on getting the method correct. The results and the fallen clays speak for themselves.

    The major difference between my lessons with Mike and my lessons with other coaches has been defined by Mike’s patience – even when I am shooting appallingly he has never once got frustrated with me; If I don’t grasp something he simply explains it another way until I do understand. Unlike some coaches he has never resorted to shouting the same instruction louder in a vain hope that additional volume will help rectify the situation! He is always willing to answer questions about shotguns and shooting no matter how dim they must seem to an experienced shot. We also have enormous amounts of fun, I’m sure the other guns at the ground must wonder about the levels of hilarity on whichever stand we happen to be working on!

    One thing is for certain is that I have some important paperwork to complete and return to our local Firearms licensing department...which will hopefully be followed in due course by a major shopping expedition!

  • My Shooting Journey by Claire Wright

     

    My Shooting Journey

    My Shooting Journey

    My first experience of shooting clays with a shotgun came courtesy of a Range Day with the Territorial Army; having spent all morning firing my SA80 personal weapon I was handed a badly fitting over and under twelve bore and a box of cartridges with an unsuitable load. Like many women this ended up being a miserable introduction to shotguns thanks to the resulting huge recoil which sent me flying and hurt my shoulder. Needless to say I didn’t hit any of the targets!

    Many years later a friend who was mad keen on shooting encouraged me to give it another go with a smaller bore and smaller load; however I still struggled to make contact with many of the clays. Undeterred I persisted with more lessons as time allowed. I finally got involved with the Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club where I improved moderately but never seemed to set the world on light!

    It is very easy to feel disheartened when everyone seems to be progressing at lightning speed, knocking down clays like it is no effort while you struggle to make sense of instructions that should be simple. At one session the coach was so desperate for me to hit something that he resorted to shouting ‘Bang!’ when he wanted me to pull the trigger! I left having achieved nothing.

    I was feeling pretty down and on the brink of giving up with shooting when I decided to give it one last try with a Bun Club day at my local Shooting Club in Cottenham. I had the good luck to be paired with a highly experienced club instructor, Mike Williams who specialises in problems with eye dominance. It turned out that of the five ladies under his tutelage we all suffered from a condition known as central eye dominance where neither the right nor the left eye is dominant. This condition is only exacerbated by working in front of a computer screen on a daily basis. This problem can be easily corrected at the most basic level with a piece of tape stuck on your shooting glasses. It was a revelation as I managed to knock down clays easily and finished with my best score card in years. I was literally on cloud nine as I left the shooting ground.

    A year later and I have regular lessons with Mike at the club as well as attending Bun Club days when time allows and I’ve swapped the piece of sticky tape for a RedEye dominance corrector, which makes me look far more professional than I feel!  My shooting has really come on in leaps and bounds and I even managed to attend (and not disgrace myself) at my first driven shoot back in January.

    Over the years I must have had lessons with twenty or more instructors, some were dreadful, some mediocre and a couple were brilliant. Don’t be afraid to change instructors if their style or manner isn’t working for you. Shooting is after all supposed to be fun and if you aren’t enjoying yourself then it may just be time for a swap!

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