By Linda Robertson

I drove down to south west Scotland to a simulated game shoot based on the 16,000 acre Raehills estate nestled in the Dumfries and Galloway countryside. It was an early start from Fife but an easy journey to the estate which is only five minutes from junction 16 on the M74. 
Turning off the main road after St Anne’s bridge, the estate road takes you through the clear felled landscape. After a mile or so the road curls downhill to the log cabin style shooting lodge. 
A simulated day is set up in the similar way as a game shoot. The birds are replaced by clay targets which are launched from programmable traps mounted on open-backed trucks and also from singled-handed manual traps. 
The guns shoot from pegs and, typically, shoot three drives in the morning, break for lunch and return to the field to shoot a further two drives. You take your own gun and cartridges.
Organiser Frank Pearson ( always greets shooting parties with coffee and freshly made bacon rolls in the shooting lodge. 
He has been shooting since the age of 14, a keen game and rough shooter who has hunted and shot game in the UK, Europe, Africa and North America and holds a German Jagtshein (hunting license). 
In 1990, Frank got involved in simulated game shooting with Bruce Gauntlet who came up with the idea of a shoot day swapping birds for clays.
With breakfast over, everyone returned to their cars to pull on their wellies or boots and to stock up their cartridge bags. Shortly afterwards Frank called the group together for the all important safety briefing and to draw the peg numbers. 
Everyone was upbeat, and just like on a game day, there was a healthy amount of banter flying around about the shooting skills. The sun was out and many of the guns left their coats behind as we set off for the first drive of the day.
The ‘tower’ drive is a short walk from the lodge; the guns are spread out at their pegs, some around the edge of a hill and others in the small valley beside the Mollin Burn. Peter Bower, Frank’s second in command, settled everyone in, then blew the whistle to start the drive. 
The clays flew off the top of the hill at varying angles directly over the guns. On this occasion there were 10 guns; five guns shoot and the other five act as loaders then the whistle goes and the guns and loaders change around. 
The whistle is blown again and the clays are launched over the next guns. Everyone gets a generous amount of shooting on each drive and, unlike a game shoot, the drives cannot be spoiled by someone’s dog running in and spooking the birds.
Frank utilises 5000 acres of the estate for the simulated days and often uses the same drives as a game day. We jumped in the trucks and headed uphill to the ‘Mollin Beeches’ drive. 
Frank’s team set up the truck-mounted clay traps as the shooting party made their way down a steep sided valley into a small clearing. It is a beautiful spot with mature Beech trees and the meandering Mollin Burn glistened in the sunshine.
The clays flew over the trees mimicking high flying pheasants. It is, unquestionably, a sporting challenge for every gun. 
You need to be alert and on the lookout for clays and shoot accurately as the smaller target is unforgiving.
Back into the trucks we headed to the morning’s third drive called ‘Top Mollin Burn’. We parked up and walked over the rough grass and crossed a marshy piece of ground before going over a bridge and into a big open clearing. Peter positioned the guns in an elongated line along the valley floor which looked up to the steep, tree-lined hill, he blew the whistle and the clays flew from the top of the hill out across the sky and over the guns.
By 1pm we were back in the lodge and sitting down to a delicious venison stew (Frank is a lifelong deer stalker, qualified to DSC level 2, an accredited witness and mentor) served with potatoes and veg followed by a selection of cheese and fruit.
After lunch we drove to a more remote part of the estate for the ‘Minnie Gap’ partridge drive. 
Frank and his team make the most of the topography of the estate to provide testing shooting on each drive, this one was no exception. The guns were spread out in a line along the base of a grassy steep-sided gorge, at the sound of the whistle the clays whizzed over the guns like rocket propelled partridges.  
We headed to the moorland at the top of the estate for the final drive called ‘Parks Grouse Butts’. 
The road climbed high as the landscape opened out giving huge panoramic views across the Scottish countryside. The clay traps were set up on the road as the group of guns made their way down to the grouse butts. 
What a great drive to end the day’s shooting as the fast low flying clays impersonated the grouse’s flying style and challenged the guns’ shooting abilities to the max. We went back to the lodge for tea and cakes before everyone said goodbye and headed home.
A simulated game shoot day is a great opportunity to keep your shooting skills on form, and at only £150 per head (food included), it represents excellent value. 
Frank and his team put on a very realistic and abundant day’s shooting on the beautiful Raehills Estate. There were identical social elements to a game day; you shoot with friends, enjoy the banter, meet new people and get to know them in between the drives and at lunch.  
The only things missing were the gundogs, picker-ups and bag count after the last drive. The days can be tailor-made to suit the party and shooting skills. You are guaranteed to be driving home content and with a smile on your face, feeling well-fed and knowing you have had a wonderful day.