Andy McLachlan explains how this year’s World Hunter Field Target Association World Championships ended with an intense shoot-off.
Well, what can be said about what must be one of the most impressive events ever held for those of us that enjoy outdoor competition shooting with an airgun?
Held at Weston Park in Shropshire at the Midland Game Fair, organised by Countryman Fairs, it was fortunate that both the weather decided to be very kind and that thousands of outdoor field sports enthusiasts made the trip, some of them from other countries, to either take part in the many events or to wander around the busy stalls and take part in a bit of retail therapy.
It was like walking back in time for me, as I well remember taking my own family, including our dog at the time, to the same event a couple of decades ago when my life was a bit more settled.
However, for those of us booked into shooting either the European Field Target Championship, or, as in my own case the World Hunter Field Target Association Championship, we had other things on our mind, as we took the opportunity to sample the delights of the fair itself in between our organised shooting sessions, set over both days.
The FT Championships have been well established at the ‘Midland’ for some years now, with the competitors shooting an area that they are familiar with. For the organisers of the WHFTA event, the Midland Game Fair was a new venue, at a much more hopefully weather-stable time of the year.
Our own two courses had been carefully laid out by volunteers from two well-known airgun target clubs, Emley and Nomads. The course-setters all did a fantastic job of providing competitors with a couple of outstanding courses that would test the best of the best HFT shooters in the world.
As I had been spending most of my outdoor time this summer hunting trout in North Wales, I was sadly lacking in recent outdoor shooting experience. I have continued to shoot indoors at my own two clubs every week as normal, but the total lack of any outdoor shooting practice for four months was to bite me hard as I swiftly discovered on the first shooting session.
I was managing to read the wind reasonably well and got off to a decent start. It swiftly became apparent, however, that my total lack of recent HFT shooting practice had severely compromised my ability to accurately range targets, particularly when the course-setters had set range traps cleverly designed to fool shooters like me who fell for them hook, line and sinker!
This cost me dearly and resulted in me recording scores below what I would have wished. I have said it many times to you all in the past, but you cannot beat regular practice for preparation purposes.
Still, I managed to finish eighth out of thirty-seven shooters in the veterans category with 96 points out of 120, but, and more importantly than any result recorded, I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process.
In fact, I can’t remember a shoot I have enjoyed quite as much as this one, it really was a great place to be on each of the days, helped in no small part thanks to my shooting detail companions of Liam Todd and Colin Medway who provided great company throughout.
As usual, it was proving to be a close competition at the top. At close of play on day two, four shooters ended up tying for top position on 114 points each. The shooters in question – present leading UKAHFT National Championship 2019 Elliot Compton, Ladies’ shot Theresa Reed, “Demon” Dave Ramshead of North West England and Thom Van Dokkum from the flat lands of Holland – all had to overcome the nerves of a shoot-off to establish the overall victor and title of 2019 WHFTA World Champion.
Having only experienced a shoot-off once in my own competitive shooting career, I could only watch in admiration as all four shooters calmly prepared themselves for what was obviously a nerve-jangling experience as they shot a series of standing and kneeling targets in full view of the many spectators.
It was certainly a weekend that the Dutch competitors will remember for a long time. Not only did one of their party win the main raffle prize, a Steyr Challenge, the previous day, but Thom Van Dokkum managed to keep everything together and secured the 2019 World title with a great performance over both days and the shoot-off.
Many shooters managed to put together some great scores over the course of the weekend. In my opinion though, the true winner of the event was the sport itself.
Three hundred and twenty-five shooters shot the courses and enjoyed all that is good about outdoor airgun shooting competitions. Join this with a terrifically well-organised competition, good weather, great company and some superb raffle prizes and you have a winning combination.
Main organiser Pete Sparkes advised us that the WHFTA now has a five-year deal in place for the Worlds event to take place at the Midland Game Fair. This is great news for all regular HFT shooters who would agree that this year’s event was undoubtedly the best held thus far.
Special thanks should also go to the many sponsors who helped to make the event such a resounding success, in particular Air Arms, who, as usual, provided each entrant with a goody bag containing a specially commissioned cap, pellets, badges and more.
It is pleasing to know that Claire West and all at Air Arms continue to put so much back into the sport, also providing potential airgunners with the opportunity of trying out their excellent product range at the fair-based rifle range adjacent to their stand within the show itself.
Honestly, this was a genuinely superb event. To be surrounded by friends in such great surroundings, shooting some genuinely challenging courses and enjoying what is good about a well-organised country fair is a recipe for high enjoyment.
Thanks must also go to Countryman Fairs and Ian Harford for being part of what was the best HFT event I have ever attended. Enough said!
1st: Thom Van Dokkum (Netherlands) 114 points (ex 120)
2nd: Elliot Compton (Wales) 114
3rd: Dave Ramshead (England) 114
1st: Theresa Reed (England) 114
2nd: Michelle Parsons (England) 106
3rd: Kathy Thompson (England) 104
1st: Megan Reed (England) 108
2nd: Ewan Pantling (England) 107
3rd: Ethan Pantling (England) 107
1st: Slawomir Opiela (Poland) 106
2nd: Gary Chillingworth (England) 104
3rd: Ewan Bowie (Scotland) 101
1st: Pete Muir (England) 95
2nd: Simon Howarth (England) 93
3rd: Nick Byrne (Ireland) 89
1st: Mike Burgess (England) 109
2nd: Bill Jones (England) 108
3rd: Graham Cole (England) 100
Top International Teams
1st: England 447
2nd: Wales 439
3rd: Scotland 429
4th: Poland 413
5th: Holland 411
7th: Belgium 296
1st: Steyr 455
2nd: Air Arms 443
3rd: ISP 437
4th: Walther 431
5th: Anschutz 424
6th: Weihrauch 414
7th: BSA 404
8th: Daystate 403