Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Running Deer: For Competition And Practice

There's a game we play at Bisley, some people for fun, and some as deer stalkers looking for an insurance policy for the deer that doesn't drop to the first shot. They call it Running Deer.

You stand in what's probably fairly described as a draughty shed.  100m away a picture of a two headed push-me-pull-you deer, mounted on a motorised sled, crosses a 23m gap. It's only actually doing about 13 mph, giving you an exposure of about 4.3 seconds, but when you're holding the rifle it looks quicker. You get one warm-up run at 6mph, then its either a round a run, or two rounds a run. Engine room shots, 4 for a centre, then 3, then 2, with 1 for a body hit, nothing for a haunch hit, total derision for a miss.

There are two classes: an open class where as long as it complies with the range orders you can shoot it, and the Deer Legal class.
Lots of people choose their all purpose sporting rifle; for the CSR crowd that's usually a straight pull AR15 in .223/5.56 Nato, stalkers use their stalking rifle, some people bring short barrelled  .22 CF's in thumbhole stocks, the other strategy is to shoot something a bit weighty, being Bisley the Enfield's of old England are always popular.  For the two shot game, the smoother/faster straight-pulls like Heym, Strasser, Merkel, and Blaser all work wonders. If the open sights of the Enfield aren't for you Red Dot's are becoming popular. For the aficionado, the aficionado with deep pockets, very deep pockets. There are specialist scopes with two aiming marks or for the same money you can buy a very nice rifle. New.

The competitions pre-date the NRA at Bisley and were shot at the previous site on Wimbledon Common from as early as 1862. Victorians didn't have digital scoring. Outside the NRA building these are the original thick steel plate push-me - pull-yous that, being victorians, were probably pulled back and forth by impoverished orphaned ten year olds, on day release from the workhouse or debtors prisons.

Back then you got one point for a haunch hit [seems a little unsporting to me] and between 1908 and '48 Running Deer was an olympic sport, at its 1908 debut Oscar Swahn of Sweden won gold in the single shot, and took the bronze in double shot. With Walter Winans of the US of A taking gold in the double. Over the next 40 years Sweden took more medals that any other county. Vikings init.

Although the NRA had kept the sport going from 1862 it was dying out, the targets only being used at the Imperial Meeting. Until 1962 when the splendidly named Archie J. Butterworth, rose to the occasion and formed the The British Sporting Rifle Club which has run the facility ever since. Rumours that the hut was second hand then remain unconfirmed.

Displayed at the bottom of the stairs in the NRA building you will find an important piece of running deer's history, in the form of a table cloth on which Landseer drew the original sketch for the Running Deer target.

For more history and some sage advice on equipment and technique here's a link to
RJ 'Bob' Maddison's Shooting at Moving Targets which may be the definitive work.

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