Olympic Shooting Champion Opens Sparsholts New Outdoor Rifle Range

Rod Greenwood

Sparsholt College’s 450-acre countryside campus has officially added a state-of-the-art new 100 metre Outdoor Rifle Range to its comprehensive list of student facilities.

This is a fantastic new addition to the college and Sparsholt is the only land-based college in the UK to have a resource of this size on their campus, approved for use by the National Rifle Association. The new Range complements Sparsholt’s 25m Indoor .22 Range and provides another great resource for students to build confidence, discipline and accuracy.

Ten years in the planning, Sparsholt College has been fortunate to be able to complete the range with its imposing 11.5m high stop butt created from 30,000 tonnes of clean white chalk, moved by TJ Transport from a recent local housing development in Winchester.

Guest of honour at the event was Great Britain’s Olympic medallist, Steve Scott, winner of the Bronze Medal in the men’s Olympic double trap shooting event in Rio where he notched up a perfect score of 30. Steve spoke at the opening event and unveiled the commemorative plaque. Steve then joined a shooting demonstration by Sparsholt’s Land and Wildlife Management students to celebrate the official opening of the range.

Steve Scott commented: “It’s been fantastic to officially declare the Fullbore Outdoor Rifle Range open for Sparsholt students to use as part of their extensive training. It was great to try the range out for myself and it’s brilliant to see this new facility in place to support students in developing their skills and confidence for their future careers.”

Guests attended the event from the many organisations and businesses that support the work of the college including BASC, Natural England, National Trust, Napier of London and Zeiss Optics.  The College Vice President, the Earl of Malmesbury and Chair of Governors, Neil Hopkins OBE were also in attendance, joined by other members of the Board of Governors to welcome Steve Scott.

Tim Jackson, Sparsholt College Principal said: “I’m delighted to have welcomed Olympic Champion, Steve Scott to the official commissioning ceremony of our new Outdoor Rifle Range. We are so appreciative to have the support of our partner organisations and employers within the Game and Wildlife Management industry that have been involved with this exciting student facility and are looking forward to seeing our students’ skills excel with its use.”

Rod Greenwood, Land and Wildlife Management Senior Lecturer added: ‘The new Fullbore Range is a great resource that has been in the planning for some years. We put a huge amount of emphasis on safety, and our students are all very skilful. It’s a learning resource that can be used by students on a wide range of courses offered here at Sparsholt and will be a key tool in increasing learners’ confidence, discipline, attention to detail as well as their accuracy.’

Sparsholt College’s next open day will be held on Saturday 16 November between 10am-2pm. Register online at www.sparsholt.ac.uk/opendays or simply turn up on the day.

Roe Bucks Hunting Story

Rod Greenwood

Its always great to do a cashless deal, and having only recently started fly fishing in earnest, deals can be made with lifelong fishermen who are wishing to take up deer management. The other evening such a pal and I met up after work, we chatted through the trials and tribulations of each of our days and pinched ourselves that we were lucky enough to be off out into the local countryside to look for a Roe buck or Muntjac. Richard has previously shot forty plus deer, Muntjac, Roe, Fallow and a leucitic (white) Sika pricket, this has generally been done from a highseat with the ready-made backstop of the ground to offer confidence when taking the shot, so my intention this May evening was to set him up for his own foot stalk which would hopefully be a memorable one.

Roe Buck Hunting Story

As ever after we’d crashed around, changing shoes for boots and sorting out sticks, dogs and loading rifles we were to look up and spot a young buck cross the main ride, so we scuttled down the ride quickly to where he had crossed, only to spy him drifting off into the hazel coppice, we had both brought our Pulsar handheld TI spotters and tried to follow him further, but stalking through the wood we lost him. We continued with my intention, which was to get out to the edge of the wood, where we could perhaps intercept deer as they began to feed in the fields. With the Labrador helping by raising his head and scenting we squeezed through the hazel and hawthorn hedge and negotiated a rather dilapidated ‘Tiger trap’ style hunt fence, to enter a youngish plantation with dappled shade.

Sabbath, the Lab, was now very intent and stood peering into the cover, so we squatted with him and scanned the area with our spotters, the scene was illuminating. Four heat sources glowed ahead, along with binoculars, we concurred it was a family group of Muntjac and a Roe buck. Sitting with the dog, Richard was sent off to stalk and cull the Roe. Whilst he was gone, all three of the Muntjac approached us and stood with their noses in the air trying to ascertain what we actually were, dog or man or both? After a short while there was the resounding ‘bang – thwack’ of a well-placed shot, it must have been fairly close as the sounds were almost indistinguishable. We waited until Richard appeared with a broad grin and an accomplished look on his face.

Having just been signed up by Napier to be one of their Field Masters, a group dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in field sports. Now was my opportunity to use some of their Apex Range, and the Apex 46 hunters knife which fresh out of the box and sheath easily gralloched the Roe buck once it was hung from a suitable tree by the ingenious Apex tree hugger with its rubberised webbing and S hooks. With the addition of rubber gloves the animal was quickly dealt with offering a quick and easy suspended gralloch. I rarely cut open the sternum as the carcass loses shape and it offers more opportunity for contamination, as more flesh is open to the environment. The Apex Truck Click with Auto lift has been very useful for gralloching larger deer on the tow hitch, making it much easier to swing them into the back of a pick up when lone working too.

With some light left in the evening we got the carcass back to the track side, and then we pottered off along another ride, only to be confronted by a larger buck browsing on the vegetation under the overhanging hazel coppice. Sliding, my first rifle a .243, off my shoulder and onto the Spartan Sentinel stick system in the quickly decreasing light, approximating the shot to be 120m, the buck turned enough to offer a shot to the front left shoulder. There was the satisfying thwack as the bullet struck, it jumped up and kicked out his back legs, and then ran towards us before crashing into the woodland some metres away, the bullet strike and reaction to shot would have never been visible with an unmoderated rifle, due to the muzzle flip.

We stood and chatted about the shot and the animal for a number of minutes as Sab stared unblinkingly into the wood, waiting for us to move forward and find the buck. Approaching the strike first there was nothing visible on the ground, my heart sank, although I was confident with the shot, there was no blood, tissue or pins (hair). Out came the thermal spotters, still nothing, admittedly the bracken, grasses and brambles had begun to grow up. With confidence I cast Sab back and as Richard and I both stepped forward Sab appeared back through the bracken and we all stumbled across the dead buck, laid on his back in a forestry extraction rut, well below ones line of sight. The bullet had never exited, so with no exit wound there was not going to be any blood at the strike and also no blood for a trail, Sab had air scented the animal in the cover.

It was a successful and satisfying evening, all within half a kilometre, if that. The forester would be happier and Richard’s freezer would be ready for the summer BBQs.