More women are taking up shooting. Sarah Probert meets one who is championing the sport.
I am not interested in trophy hunting, I am only interested in putting things in my freezer,” explains Liz Lamb. She talks enthusiastically about her ever expanding shooting hobby, which has gone from clay pigeons to deer stalking.
When this former GB clay shooter isn’t lying on her stomach in the undergrowth stalking a variety of game, she is encouraging more women to take up the sport and break into what has traditionally been a male-dominated world.
“Shooting is my life. Promoting shooting sports in a responsible manner. It is what I am passionate about doing, it gives me huge pleasure to introduce someone to the sport, to nurture them and then to see the smile on their faces when they achieve something,” she says.
This rather petite, confident woman who qualified for the GB team without even realising she was in a competition, is certainly convincing.
Her passion for the sport is contagious and it is easy to see why her ladies syndicate, Game Birds, has been so successful since it was set up in 2001.
Next month she will be hosting a ladies day at a clay pigeon shooting ground near Warwick.
“It doesn’t have to be expensive. There is this myth it is for a particular person with a particular salary, driving a particular car and it is not,” she says.
“Women are very well placed to break that myth. They are often on a budget, a lot of people have seen their family grow up, children leave home and they have spare time and want to do something.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, I have had girls starting at 60 and you don’t have to be physically fit.
“You can start at any age and it is a wonderful way of providing food for the table.”
Liz embarked on this crusade to entice more women into the sport after her own difficult experiences setting out on her own.
“The trouble with clay pigeon shooting is that I had great trouble finding somewhere to go and be taken seriously, it took months and months to find somewhere. I eventually passed a gun shop in a town and went in and said ‘I want to do this, where can I go,” she says.
L iz found an ideal club but after just three visits the venue was forced to close following complaints over noise. Determined to continue, she settled in to a new club and, before long, found herself competing at top level.
“It happened almost by accident. I went to have a lesson and I was completely converted and went on to Olympic trap shooting.
“I was hooked and bought a gun there and then. I entered this competition and I didn’t even know it was the GB team shoot.
“I just wanted to break all my targets so I ended up in the team and winning the open. I got to that level extremely quickly. I qualified for the GB team and it made me think I had a responsibility to my country so I trained hard, got fit looked at my diet and gave up alcohol.”
Liz left the team after five years to work for the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC), missing the chance to compete at the Olympics.
“I missed the opportunity and I left the team thinking, could I have done more? I still feel I would be capable if I got back into training. But I needed the job.”
In 2003 she became the first female regional officer at BASC and has since become a qualified clay pigeon shooting coach.
From clay pigeon shooting, Liz “fell into” game shooting after being given a five-year-old black labrador called Teal. A lot of people call their animals after the quarry they hunt,” she points out.
“Deer dogs are called things like seeker, for example,” she says.
Using Teal to retrieve her quarry, Liz explored both drive shooting, where beaters are used to drive the birds up towards the shooters, or “guns”, and rough shooting.
“Rough shooting is where you are working along hedges and shooting any legal quarry, which could be pheasants or rabbits for example and you have got to have a dog with you for that.
“It is more natural,” she explains.
“When I felt ready and had done enough work with my dog, I went out to my first game shoot in the capacity of picking up (quarry).
“I was terrified of getting it wrong with the dog because I thought I was going to be the only woman. But there were other women there.
M ost of the girls were involved with dogs and they would be working the dogs the way I was, or they were on the beating line with spaniels.
“I had a chat with the girls and said ‘don’t you ever want to shoot?’ and they said nobody had ever asked them so I spoke to the gamekeeper and said ‘let’s have a day for the girls’.
“From that day I ran a ladies syndicate called Game Birds – it was the first of its kind in the country.
“The main aim was to encourage women into the sport and to open up shooting of all kinds to women.”
Liz is also running a lady shot register, where she puts women in touch with other lady shooters.
“It is this fear of not being taken seriously. When I was brave enough to go the gun club closed down and I had to start again and look for somewhere else.
“I had this idea that it was male dominated and I now want to make sure other women don’t have to go through what I had to.”
* The Warwick ladies day takes place on November 6. For more information on that and other events or to join the ladies shot register, telephone Liz on 01335 324 507