Back in 1998, Michael Brunton, then publisher of UK magazine, “Clay Shooting” called me to talk about an idea he had to stage an annual DTL competition. At that time I was writing a monthly column for the magazine and Michael knew that I was a keen DTL competitor and had a shooter’s perspective on the different competitions already in the shoot calendar. As flattering as it was to have my “expert opinion” sought, I have no doubt that the main reason for Michael’s call was that he needed a headline sponsor for the planned annual event. At that time, the Krieghoff K-80 was already establishing itself as the most successful gun used in DTL and as my day job was Krieghoff distributor for the UK and Ireland, I was the obvious person to approach.
A quick phone call to the factory in Germany and agreement to support a Krieghoff Classic DTL Championship was reached. The first to be held in 1999. We now needed to agree on the venue, a date and the format of the shoot and we wanted to do something different!
The venue chosen was Mid Wales Shooting Centre at Trefeglwys. As a Welshman I wanted to hold the event in Wales both for sentimental reasons and because I knew the revenue such a shoot could bring to the local area. As Mid Wales was one of the few grounds in the whole of the UK able to support a shoot of the size we had in mind and because it was a popular venue with the shooters, it was not a hard decision to reach and one that Michael Brunton supported.
Study of the very crowded annual events calendar showed few dates that were not already taken with some of the majors. We spotted a possibility early in the year at the end of May, right before the May Bank Holiday. We reasoned that as it was right before a holiday it would be popular with shooters who would have a day to travel home before returning to work. Even before the first shoot we envisaged staging an event that would pull competitors from all around the UK and Ireland and so the day of travel after the event seemed logical.
The shoot would be a two day event held on the Saturday and Sunday but how to avoid the shooters leaving after shooting a bad score on the first day and putting themselves out of the prize money? We also had the dilemma of keeping as many shooters on the ground as possible right to the end of the shoot as all sponsors hate to hold prize giving in front of an almost empty audience. Firstly it feels that the sponsorship is not valued and secondly, calling out names for prizes to be met with silence or “He’s gone” is embarrassing in the extreme. No photo opportunities and missed publicity. We wanted to keep the sponsors we had and hopefully attract more. The question was how to do it?
I talked the problem through with a good friend, shooting coach and passionate Trapshooter, John Deary. After numerous cups of tea, John suddenly said “how about…. ” and the solution was found. John’s very clever idea was simple. Take the high gun from the first day and the high gun from the second and put them together in a head to head shoot off right at the end of the event. The winner takes the main prize. This achieved two things. Firstly, shooting badly on the first day was now no reason to leave because you still had a chance of taking high gun on the second day and the main prize. Secondly, a high pressure shoot off right at the end of the shoot would keep many on ground to support their favourite and whilst the shoot off was being held the office could get everything ready for prize giving to be held immediately the shoot off was decided.
The past 16 years have proven what a great idea John had that night. The shoot has grown to the point that winning is something all dream of and with that status comes serious pressure. Some of the shoot offs have been memorable but the one that sticks in my memory was 2002, the year John Stafford and Bob Taylor went head to head. That was another rule we decided on, the shoot off would take as long as it takes with no handicap or other attempts to shorten it. Each round would be 25 targets, DTL and scored normally. John and Bob just kept plugging away until they had both shot another 100 without miss. Bob eventually took it when John had a single second barrel but they were both winners for providing a demonstration of trap shooting excellence.
Over the years the format has been tweaked but the basis remains the same. For the first 15 years we had 15 individual winners until last year when Ian Mullarkey repeated his 2012 win to become the first two time winner of the Krieghoff DTL Championship.
As great as the past 16 years have been it has to be said that we have created a monster. The work and the cost of staging this event is now a major commitment and the need to generate enough revenue whilst keeping entry fees to reasonable levels is always a headache. On average we normally just about manage to cover the out of pocket expenses. The main problem as I see it is the prize money remaining more or less static when it should have increased by at least inflation rate to have the same value now as it did when the shoot first started. This has never been possible and every year we have the same discussion about entry fees and costs. I can say without hesitation that the generosity of the Williams family, owners of Mid Wales Shooting Centre, in trimming their costs in tough years has been a big help. Krieghoff too have been generous in their support, both in providing the high gun prize and in later years, the £3,000 cash for the Lucky Numbers event. Every year since inception, someone from Krieghoff management and gunsmiths from the Krieghoff factory have attended the shoot. Never has one penny been taken from the shoot income to fund flight, hotel or even a beer at the hotel.
It seems to me that some changes will have to be made in the near future before the value of the prize fund compared to entry fee diminshes even further. The original intention of Michael and myself was a 10–year shoot, at which time it would be retired. I don’t think either of us envisaged that it would beome such a fixture in the calendar and so looked forward to by so many. Had we done so we would perhaps have paid more attention to the problems we now face.
In a couple of days time, the 17th Krieghoff DTL Championship will begin. Will Ian Mullarkey make it three wins? Will we perhaps have our first outright winner taking high gun both days? or will we see our first lady overall winner, very possible given the standard of some of our lady competitors and something I personally would love to see. To all those taking part, I look forward to meeting you all again this coming weekend and I wish you great shooting and great company and a little sunshine would not go amiss.