How to prepare for a successful simulated game shoot

How to prepare for a successful simulated game shoot

Duncan Grisedale

Traditionally driven clay days would take place in the summer months, with shooting estates putting on days to generate income during the off season, and guns looking for a fun day out with friends, and a chance to pull the trigger instead of leaving the gun in the cabinet until the following season. However, with the challenges the game shooting world has faced in recent seasons, and the ones approaching, we have seen a shift in the reasons why shoots of all shapes and sizes are now going into driven clay days for the winter.

The thought of a shoot having no birds this season due to Avian Influenza is not a happy one. Shoots are already diversifying into clay days to make sure that shooting is going ahead this season and income is still generated, meaning staff such as keepers are kept on. For some it is a matter of survival to better days in future seasons.

For guns who may now be lacking in shooting at some favourite places, they can still go and take a day this season, support the shoot and have a great day out, allbeit without feathers. In a world of increasing costs, it is of course more affordable, and also opens doors for guns to shoot on estates they may not be able to afford usually.

For a game shoot going into driven clay days with no experience can be a little daunting. Just because a drive works very well for pheasant and partridge, doesn’t mean it will with clays, and vice versa; live birds and a clay coming out of a machine are very different things to get right. Although the desired outcome is the same (birds over guns) there are many different things to consider when setting up successful driven clay drives.

The reality is there are a lot of driven clay shoots out there, and to be honest a lot of them are average at best. Often these have the best equipment, just not set up well. Each shoot is different and there is not one machine that suits all. Today’s guns demand challenging and realistic shooting, not like the ‘sim game days’ of old with guns standing ten yards apart, firing flat out at pretty straight forward clays until they’re exhausted. It can be so much better than that! Yes it is a clay, but set up correctly with expert guidance, can be done tremendously well.

Getting a simulated game shoot right 

Here at Promatic, we provide a full service to help get shoots set up for clay days. Having grown up on a commercial shoot myself which I help run today,  I understand the shoots' and guns' needs whilst understanding what the traps do and how to get the best out of them. I will visit a shoot, have a look at the ground with the owner, chat about what will work and what will not, demo a range of equipment and ultimately tailor make a package to suit that particular shoot's needs. We offer the widest range of machines on the market, and what machines suit a shoot the best depends on a few variables such as the amount of pegs standing, terrain, logistics and so on.

As obvious as it may sound, the direction the drive is facing can make a big difference, a bright sun can make a drive un-shootable, which is less of an issue in the winter. Then there's the topography to consider: is the clay up above the skyline for long enough to be seen and shot? Are the pegs positioned correctly to shoot birds at their peak point?

Often shoot owners will take me to a great pheasant drive where the birds are driven out of woodland, however in this situation it can be challenging to get a visible clay to come out on the right trajectory. This all depends on the height of the trees in relation to the traps and the guns. You don't want the traps to be in front of the woodland. Of course you can lift the traps up in the air to ensure that the clays are visible, however you then need a window to get the traps into and the clays out of the wood. Woodland drives are definitely achievable, but some thought and planning needs to go into it.

Variety is the spice of life 

In the eyes of a true game shot, bigger trap units or game trailers are not always better; the pegs want to be spread out as much as possible within reason, having loads of traps in one place will not achieve this, especially not on flatter terrain. The more ‘flushing points’ (groups of traps) there are, the better the birds for the true game shooting man/woman. Birds coming from different points means a good variety of clays to shoot at, and the guns being spread out enough to take some long crossers too. This, however, can be more logistically challenging to run. The terrain, logistics and pegs dictate what set up is best,and there is no reason that great days cannot be achieved, no matter whether you're talking about a small farm syndicate on a smaller budget or a large commercial shoot. It doesn't take a massive budget to get set up, but it does need the operator to be realistic about how many pegs can be covered based on that budget.

For a team of guns looking to go on a driven clay day this season, the advice I would give is that there are different clay days for different types of people, in the same way there are different pheasant shoots for different types of guns. Ensure you are on a day that is run with the game shot in mind, and not the clay shot looking to shoot some driven clays. 

To discuss setting up a sim shoot on your estate, contact Duncan Grisedale on:  0151 327 2220 (ext.221), send him an email to

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