From the water to the skies: Clay pigeon shooting on boats!

We are always asked by companies to recommend a good team-building event. In our opinion something with a bit of competition always brings people together. It’s also fun to learn a new skill – it gives everybody a chance to compete at the same level. We also like to offer something a bit different as it means people start the day with a sense of interest and intrigue. What could possibly tick all those boxes?

Clay pigeon shooting! Most people have heard of it; most people have never tried it and most people cannot imagine how you could have a clay pigeon shoot on a boat! It’s a huge amount of fun and gets everybody involved. You also get one of the best backdrops – London from the Thames!

So clay pigeon shooting sounds good. Now what is it all about?

What is clay pigeon shooting?

A target is fired from a trap; a spring loaded machine that can launch a clay target in singles or pairs up to 100 metres. Each person then uses a shotgun to fire lead pellets at the moving target. The guns fire quickly, which makes it easier to hit the rapidly moving target, and as soon as the scorer sees a bit of the clay pigeon break off, the hit is recorded.

The sport is hugely popular, with 25,000 signed up to the CPSA (Clay Pigeon Shooting Association) in the UK alone.

Why is it called clay pigeon – where is the pigeon?

It harks back to the days when live pigeon shooting competitions were held. The birds were released from a trap; a real moving target for sportsman. It was very popular in the early twentieth century; the 1900 Olympics had a live pigeon shoot as a demonstration event. As you would imagine though, not everybody thought shooting at a pigeon made for great sport and the Olympic event caused such public outrage for its animal cruelty that it was never granted official status. Not long after, in 1921, it was made illegal to hold such events in the UK. Most of America followed suit, outlawing the practice as it was deemed inhumane, but a couple of states still hold the events openly today.

Why all the animal terminology?

The involvement of a live bird makes the sport make more sense – we still refer to the machine that releases the target as a ‘trap’ and if you are playing in the sporting discipline, you can set the trap to simulate a live shoot. One trajectory may be a ‘bolting rabbit’, another could be a ‘dropping duck’!

The sportsmen were clearly very keen to make the fake shoot as close to the original bird shoot as possible; before the advent of a clay pigeon, they would fill glass balls with feathers and powder to give the sense of hitting a bird!

Is a clay pigeon made of clay?

The ‘pigeon’ is usually in the shape of an inverted saucer, made from a mixture of pitch and chalk. They are usually 110mm in dimension and coloured black. Others can be used if shooting against a background that demands a brighter colour. Similarly, smaller discs can be used if you are on a sporting shoot and want to emulate a live shoot – try the ‘mini’, it’s the size of a bumblebee, or a ‘battue’, which flies very fast and then falls off quickly.

Of course because the clay pigeons are made from biodegradable material, it doesn’t matter if you can’t track down a fallen target.

How does it work on a boat?

You may be surprised to hear that Thames Leisure offer clay pigeon shooting. Most people assume that a shoot has to be out in the country side. Not so! Our highly experienced and enthusiastic shoot masters have adapted the sport to make it perfect for boat parties. We head out towards Barking Reach, where the river is wider, and moor up to a buoy. Everyone receives full training and a safety briefing, as well as an introduction (and perhaps a go) on a selection of different guns. Then it’s time to line up and aim as we shout “PULL” and the targets are released. Don’t be too hasty though, if another boat appears our safety conscious shoot masters might shout “CEASE FIRE” instead!!!You can book a 4 or 8 hour trip – contact us for more details.

By Guy Wimpory

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