Simulated driven game shooting days or “Sim Days” follow the format of traditional driven game shooting but substitute clays for game birds.
As the name implies, Sim Days replicate various forms of driven game shooting such as low flying grouse shot from sunken earthen butts and driven pheasant and partridge shot from behind thick hedgerows, down gentle slopes and in deep valleys.
Sim Days offer Guns a wide array of challenging shooting all year round but are especially popular in the off-game season; that is the British spring and summer months of March through till August.
Sim Days are renowned for providing high quality and high volume shooting over a variety of terrain usually combined with excellent sporting camaraderie and a delicious shoot lunch; all at a very reasonable price.
As well as being the ideal way for a Gun to “dust off the cobwebs” prior to a day’s driven game shooting, Sim Days are also an inexpensive way of introducing novice shooters to the intricacies of driven shooting prior to them venturing out on a game day. Sim Days are also popular with people who enjoy the sport of shooting but not at live game.
Simulated shooting grounds will have a number of remote-controlled and manually operated clay pigeon traps situated out of sight of the Guns, flinging clays in a random pattern of speed, height and direction over the shooting line. Much like on a driven shooting day, no two “birds” are exactly the same.
Depending on the number of Guns shooting, each drive will have 8 – 10 pegs (or butts) with two Guns on each peg making a total of either 16 or 20 participants. Each drive is shot twice so that both Guns get to shoot each drive and also load for their partner.
Sim Days generally offer between 4,000 – 5,000 clays delivered over 4 drives in different locations. It is possible for an individual Gun to shoot up to 800 cartridges on some simulated shooting grounds – if their shoulder can handle that amount of shooting.
Most Sim Days begin with the shooting party & their guests meeting at a pre-arranged spot for morning coffee and hot sausages during which time the day’s safety and conduct briefings are given by a staff member of the shooting ground. This person will fulfil the role of “Shoot Captain” and as well as organising Guns on their pegs and their movement between drives, will be responsible for ensuring that all Guns comply with accepted shotgun safe handling and shooting practices throughout the day.
The peg draw for the Guns initial shooting positions may also be done at this time. Local rules of how many pegs a Gun moves up each drive would be explained as part of the conduct briefing.
The shooting party normally travel between drives in their own vehicles but there is usually a spare seat in someone’s 4×4 if a person’s vehicle is not suitable to cross the shoot’s terrain.
The start of a drive is signalled by the Shoot Captain blowing on a horn or a loud whistle. Guns should not load until after the horn has been sounded. The same horn is sounded to end the shooting at which time shotguns are unloaded and placed back into their carrying cases.
The British shooting tradition of “Elevenses” (morning tea) is usually taken after the second drive. If not shooting through, lunch will be taken after the completion of the third drive. If the Guns do shoot straight through, lunch will be taken at the end of the fourth drive.
Lunch on Sim Days can be provided in several ways. On the more up-market shooting grounds, lunch may be taken in the shoot’s dining room or shooting hut. On others grounds, the shooting party may take lunch at a local pub or have a packed lunch or picnic in the field. Morning coffee and snacks, elevenses, lunch and often afternoon tea are generally included in the price charged by the shooting ground.
Etiquette wise, there are two major differences between driven shooting and Sim Days. On a driven game shooting day it is considered poor form for a Gun to “poach” birds from another Gun. On a Sim Day, poaching from equally talented Guns is not only allowed, it is opening encouraged. The second difference being that the traditional dress code for driven shooting (tweeds, tie and breeks) is often relaxed to functional neat casual (slacks, shirt with tie optional) on a Sim Day.
At the end of the day it is customary for each Gun to tip the team of helpers manning the clay traps. A Gun’s gratuity is normally paid discreetly to the “senior” trap person in much the same way they would tip the Gamekeeper at the end of a driven shooting day. Guns who are more familiar with the shooting ground or the Shoot Captain will be able to advise on what is an appropriate amount to tip.
Gun and shot selection for Sim Days is very much a personal choice. If a Gun is using the day as a warm up for game shooting days to come then it makes sense to use the same gun as they will in the field. While a lot of Guns still use 12 bore shotguns with No 7 shot for Sim Days, there seems to be an increased number of Guns preferring to use smaller calibres such as 20 and 28 bore. When you consider that a Gun may be firing up to 800 cartridges in a day, often in short sleeves and vest, there is sound reason why the smaller bore guns are becoming more popular.
Whatever your choice of shotgun or the location, Sim Day shooting is usually lots of fun and is becoming more and more popular with game bird and recreational shooters.
If you haven’t tried it yet, you don’t know what enjoyment you are missing out on.