Pete Harrison and his son Jack attend their first HFT competition at Wold Farm, finding a great new spin on an already fun hobby
It’s 5.15am. Not only that, but it’s a Sunday morning, my alarm is ringing in my ear and I’m starting to wonder why I ever thought this was a good idea. The internet has a lot to answer for, because it was on one of the airgun forums that I heard about today’s planned activity.
I drag myself out of my pit, quietly creep out of the bedroom trying not to wake the wife and fall unceremoniously through Jack’s door to find him just waking up.
He’s pretty chipper for an 11-year-old, especially when you consider the time, and is far more excited at this point than me about the prospect of a two-hour drive north to essentially lay on the floor a lot with our air rifles.
We are driving today to a place called Wold Farm Fisheries and Country Pursuits, to have a go at their first open HFT competition on the brand new course that they have just set up.
For those of you that are new to all this, HFT stands for Hunter Field Target. It is essentially a course that consists of 30 knockdown targets. Each target is shot from a “peg” (this peg must be touched by a body part or your rifle whilst taking the shot) and can be at any distance between 8 and 45 yards, with different sized hit zones to knock them over.
The course is laid out in such a way that it will be a challenge to even the most seasoned pro, but approachable by all. It is scored out of 60, and you get 0 points for a miss, 1 point if you hit the target, but don’t knock it over, and 2 points for a successful knockdown. The only other stipulation is that your scope must remain unaltered from the first shot to the last.
We arrived at around 8.30 and were guided into a field to park, which also had one of the zeroing ranges on it. We were greeted immediately by a chap called Bill Birch, who was the main designer of the HFT course. He instantly came across as a friendly and knowledgeable man, and seemed really pleased that Jack had come to shoot the course as well.
We then went round to register, pay and collect our scorecards which were labelled with the peg number we were to start at and then went back to the car to sort out our rifles and check that our scopes were still zeroed correctly with the various distance markers in the far side of the field in which we had parked.
We were given some tips and had a chat with a few more of the competitors, and were even lent a shooting mat by a seasoned pro, Mike Toweler, who suggested we’d prefer this to laying straight on the floor (how right he was!). Again everyone was very helpful and welcoming.
The safety briefing was held around 9.45 and a brief introduction to the course followed, led by Bill and the owner of Wold Farm, Dax Miller, a down-to-earth character whose ethos appeared to be creating a one-of-a-kind shooting experience, welcoming just about everyone from the very experienced to the first-time shooter.
As the introduction finished, we were led into the woods to find our starting position, we had been given Lane 7, which turned out to be a supported standing shot and the peg was in fact a large tree, which you were to use as a support. The target was at around 35 yards and had a reasonably sized hit zone. With that, two blows on the whistle by a marshal saw the competition start.
We were lulled into a false sense of security on this first peg as Jack hit the plate straight away and I knocked the target down. We were both happy with this start as neither of us were really in the slightest bit prepared. Other than zeroing, we hadn’t put any time into working out our holdover points or anything, as I only found out about this competition by chance the week before.
So with one down and 29 to go, we picked up our gear and moved to the next peg. Now I won’t bore you by detailing every shot, but suffice to say we certainly had a very mixed bag of targets come our way, literally anything from long targets with small hit zones to a few really short, almost covered shots which on the face of it seemed easy, but showed themselves to be just as challenging as the long shots.
As with any HFT course there were two unsupported shots, one kneeling and one standing.
The latter caught us about halfway through the course and in any other circumstance would have been a relatively easy shot, around 30 yards and a good-sized hit zone, mounted to a tree at around head height.
But for those of you that only ever shot benchrested, I urge you to stand up and take some shots unsupported. Now that is a skill worth developing. We both hit the target (possibly more luck than judgement), but neither of us knocked it down.
The course that Dax and the team set up is in a fantastic woodland walk setting. It’s spaced out well enough that you aren’t all on top of each other, but there’s still a sense of everyone being in it together.
It made for a chilled environment to shoot in, but the pressure of competition was still apparent, especially for the new shooters. It’s amazing how confidence-sapping a few misses can be.
Personally, I had a great time. I was nowhere near prepared enough, but this was a very impromptu trip, so I can’t blame anyone but myself. My score of 37/60 highlights this, but it really didn’t detract from the experience as it gave me a benchmark to beat in the future.
Jack, on the other hand, considering his age and experience and that he hasn’t shot the HW30 S at more than 30 yards before, did incredibly well to plate nearly every target. He was not put off by this, saying afterwards he had really enjoyed himself and couldn’t wait to have another go.
As we left the course and went back round to the starting area for the results to be logged there was plenty of chatter about what a challenging course it had been, and how everyone who’d come along had enjoyed the experience. Once the scores were in there was a little get together as Dax announced the results of the various categories. Jack was made up to get first place junior!
OK, so he was the only junior, but that didn’t seem to bother him one bit.
Before we left, Dax also invited us to find some time to use the plinking ranges that have been installed, and having seen some pictures that had been taken previously of the trout lake with its custom-built target boats on it, I was definitely keen to have a look at it.
It definitely didn’t disappoint, being a very well thought-out take on a more traditional range, which makes shooting here a real pleasure. Dax has more big plans for the place, including a large indoor range, and he is also hoping to host an airgun show at some point as well, so keeping an eye on the developments at Wold Farm is a must.
All in all, our first experience of HFT together and Wold Farm in general couldn’t have been better. It really is a wonderful place, and regardless of whether you are local to it or not, it’s worth the trip.
Although we won’t be regulars due to the four-hour trip, we will definitely go back with a little more experience to shoot the course again and compare our scores. We were made to feel very welcome, and as usual Jack was encouraged at every opportunity.
And yet again, we had another very positive airgun-based experience.