So it’s all about to come to an end. My epic adventure from the World Field Target Championships in Hungary to the AAFTA US National Field Target Championships in Maryland, via bear hunting with my great friend Bryce Wells in Idaho. I’m so looking forward to going home, and wondering if Little Princess Bonnie (my little cocker spaniel!) will still recognise me, and hoping my wife will let me sleep inside!
I can’t say that I’m not a little bit sad, because I am. Its been a fantastic trip, and I’ve met some wonderful people, many of whom I know will be lifelong friends. For me, this has been the most important part of my trip. I know that we all recognise the community surrounding each of our shooting sports. What the past few weeks have shown me is that this isn’t unique to hunting, field target or indeed any particular shooting discipline. It is truly universal.
I’ve been welcomed with open arms at every port of call. The World FT Championships in Hungary was a great show piece for the sport, but the camaraderie was breathtaking. Shooters who had not seen each other for years were talking together as if it was only yesterday – remembering first names, children and spouses, whilst recalling amusing stories with a healthy dose of banter and a cheeky smile.
From the minute I stepped off the plane on my journey to Idaho with Bryce Wells and his family, I realised I’d met both a kindred spirit, and one sarcastic son of a gun! Although the conditions were harsh on occasion, and the hunting was challenging, there was barely a moment went by that I wasn’t crying with laughter, or at least trying to think up a witty retort. I was looked after so well I felt totally humbled, and I’ll be eternally grateful. Nothing was too much to ask.
And on to Maryland. Sure, I won 2nd place in the international championship, but I was made to feel like a celebrity from the moment I arrived! I met people from across the US, each of whom had travelled to their annual celebration of the sport. I felt privileged – not just to participate, but also be made to feel part of the celebrations. I talked so much to so many people I’ve nearly lost my voice, I’m sure we’ll be chatting across the pond for many years to come.
For anyone who has ever considered shooting overseas, whatever your chosen discipline, the best advice I can give is to grasp the opportunity with both hands and do it. Sure, we all like holidays with the family, but why does it have to be on a beach with thousands of other lobster coloured beer swilling louts? Why not go somewhere you’ve never thought of, and spend time with like minded people who not only share your passion, but will treat you and your family like royalty! I can assure you that you won’t regret it, and will create friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.
So what’s next then? Well, I’m behind with all of my copy deadlines, have 2 hunt reports, 1 competition report, 3 clothing reviews, 4 rifle reviews, 4 binocular reviews and 5 scope reviews to complete, with around 2,000 images to sort through to catalogue my trip – that’s in the next 2 weeks anyway. After that I’m off to Nduna Safari in South Africa for 10 days before taking my wife on a well earned holiday. Hopefully she won’t mind me taking my laptop with me to help me catch up a bit!