Renowned for her game-shooting prowess and advocacy of hunting, Rachel Carrie describes her love of fieldsports and explains why she is keen to challenge the misconceptions surrounding them
For Rachel Carrie, it all began with a Webley air pistol and a challenge: hit all the targets first go. She triumphed and has since shot clays competitively, become renowned in the field for her game-shooting prowess and taken on her biggest challenge yet: changing a vegetarian and celebrity PETA model’s views on hunting.
In our new column, seriously sporting ladies write about their lives in the field and offer advice and encouragement. Serena Williams speaks of her sporting journey from Pony Club pistol shooting to gold-medal boar days while for Alexandra Baur, it all began when she got a labrador.
I dispatched my first rabbit aged nine during one of my regular hunting trips with my father and our Harris hawk. I loved these trips, being outdoors, working my ferrets alongside the hawk and that I was part of what felt like an important (albeit fun and adventurous) operation that culminated in a happy farmer and Mum’s delicious rabbit stew. That is where it began for me.
Shotguns didn’t feature until my mid-twenties. By this time, my father [David Carrie] had taken up shooting competitively and as a family we’d go along to international championships to support him. Although I had been around guns and the shooting circuit for a long time I never felt inclined to shoot. That all changed when Dad came home with a Webley air pistol.
We set up some targets in the garden and had a little wager: if I could hit all the targets first go I could keep the gun. I triumphed! For most fathers, a daughter’s wedding day is the most expensive day of his life but that was the most expensive day for my dad. From that little Webley my passion for guns and target shooting grew.
I shot clays to begin with, using a 28-gauge belonging to Frank Croft, headkeeper at Warter Priory. I spent the summer shooting at our local high tower and come October my father threw me in at the deep end and took me for a day on pheasants at the revered Duncombe Park in Yorkshire. I shot my first pheasant on Sheep Pens, a high, gliding cock, and from that moment I fell in love with wing-shooting. Eight years on, I spend all my time shooting and hunting and pheasants remain a firm favourite.
I spend around 20 days driven shooting per season and as the pheasant season ends I buffer it with pigeon and clays through the summer. Nowadays, the pièce de résistance of my cabinet is my Krieghoff K80 Pro Rib, 12-gauge. She’s multi-choked and currently set up to shoot a little high from my stint in Olympic trap. I’m heading to the Krieghoff factory this summer to have a custom stock made. I put a lot of shells through my gun so the reliability of a Krieghoff appealed to me. Although I held my own on the competitive clay circuit for a few years, notching up some decent personal best scores, winning a few county titles and gaining my Great Britain badge, I no longer shoot competitively.
I met my other half, top shooting coach and professional clay shooter Mark Winser, on the clay circuit and enjoy supporting his career and successful coaching business – dare I say being a WAG. Of course, I’d never hang up my shooting boots and still get my fair share of fieldsports.
In recent years my love of hunting has taken over. I have travelled to Spain hunting aoudad, boar and deer; New Zealand after thar, chamois and reds; and Canada hunting black bear. Hunting encompasses my passions and interests: incredible landscapes and animals, fitness, travel, conservation and, of course, firearms and food. I am passionate about promoting the vital yet often misunderstood link between hunting and conservation. For me, the link is easy to come to terms with as I hunt. I feel the more we can educate those who are disconnected the better. I recently took part in a television project that saw me go head to head with vegetarian and celebrity PETA model Jodie Marsh. After spending a week taking her behind the scenes, Jodie had changed her views on hunting. She not only supported and understood management of different species in the UK, she also began exploring the positive benefits to wildlife that hunting has on a global scale. To achieve this was an incredible feeling. I now know what is possible in terms of changing the misconceptions surrounding fieldsports. If I can change the mind of a PETA model the sky is the limit – and that’s where I’ll keep aiming.
TOP TIP: Don’t focus on the fact you’re female – women are just as capable as the boys. I’ve never expected to be treated differently on a shoot day or hunting trip – I like getting stuck in and getting my hands dirty. I also like the look on men’s faces when you clean up after they’ve missed a bird with both barrels.