Alastair Robertson: The clay hovered as no bird ever has

Alastair Robertson. Picture: Donald Macleod
Alastair Robertson. Picture: Donald Macleod
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I was going up to see Alf, our sporting ally, to see if he would be a referee for my firearms renewal application when up at the corner of his track I came across a small wooden shed on stilts.

It had that look of a meteorological station. You see them in places like Braemar, which vies with Altnaharrah to be the coldest place in Britain at various times of the year (my wife disputes this and says our house is the coldest place in Britain.)

Oh no, said Alf, it’s the new clay pigeon trap. This sort of rang a bell. My son had mentioned something about this but I probably wasn’t listening.

Alf had acquired a new clay trap and had built it its very own little house. Bless. It had double doors either side. From one side you could fiddle with the controls.

The other side opened out so that the machine could traverse a wide arc and so fire a mixture of high and low “birds” to left and to right. 
Sort of.

This fixed, all-weather launch pad beats having to heave the whole contraption out on to a pickup, drive out to a suitable spot only to discover some vital part like the battery, or even the clay pigeons, is missing.

As Alf has been invited to go and shoot driven grouse for the first time we set it up to fire grouse-like clay pigeons straight at his head to get him used to the idea that grouse aren’t like pheasants or partridges or anything else for that matter.

The first adjustment wasn’t quite right. The clay, fired by a handheld remote control while we cowered behind a bank, inexplicably shot up at 70 degrees and hovered in the air as no bird has ever done and then dropped like a stone.

The next one was rather better but went smack into the bund behind which we were sheltering. This time we moved sideways so as to avoid a direct hit and bingo, the clay shot past at head height.

The trick, as I explained to Alf, is to try and shoot them out in front – bang. You don’t have time for a leisurely swing through as with pheasants. Or at least I don’t.

We had it pretty well set up after a bit, but it became clear that if Alf stood more or less in front of the trap about 50 yards back as if standing in a grouse butt, there was a high chance that even if he hit an incoming clay he was in danger of blowing apart his trap and the hut as well.

Somehow we need to dig a hole for him to stand in or jack up the trap shed. The best-laid plans etc... n