After taking a few trips abroad to shoot at the major events, I’m becoming more confident about travelling to shoot – so I decided to test the water just across the channel and shoot a COMPAK competition at Arras Ball Trap in Northern France.
After a quick jaunt across the channel on Friday evening and a day spent with family in Lille, I made the journey down to the ground on Sunday morning for a 10.30 start. We had a beautiful sunny day, with clear blue skies and just a light breeze.
Arras has plenty of hotel and leisure options and of course, being France there are plenty of great places to eat and shop – being about one hour from the channel, and popular with people visiting the Military Cemeteries, plenty of the local hotels and restaurants speak English and it’s easy to find your way around.
The shooting ground is located just outside the village of Maroeuil – and you approach the ground along a decent road, into a large parking area. The club house was certainly busy when we arrived with comfortable seating, and a good flow of local shooters getting a croissant and a strong coffee to start their day off. There was a lot of cartridges for sale, B&P and FOB were the key brands. I was stocked up with White Gold, so didn’t need to purchase any but prices looked keen and stocks were good.
We grabbed a coffee, and then booked in. This was really simple, they had an English-speaking person working on the sign in desk, and she gave me free sample of some German gunoil, along with my back number and a clearly labelled map of the site, with the squad timetable on the back.
After kitting up and saying hello to some of the other UK shooters that had made the journey, I headed out to the first layout along nicely laid paths which meant that you could shoot the whole day without boots.
Layout three was my first to shoot, and my first nice surprise of the day. The stands were situated on the second storey of a double level trap house, meaning that you had an elevated view of most of the targets, which were all set around the banked area that each of the Arras layouts had. My squad was three friendly French shooters as well as two British expats who had travelled up from the south-west to join in this shoot. I was peg one for the first layout, so was a bit nervous as I had a quick look at the targets (as this was an elevated layout – not much room to view them before hand, so they relaxed the formal COMPAK rules for this one), but soon stepped up and hit my first, a fast flat crosser. Targets were great, good variety throughout the day – on this layout we had the fast crosser, a rabbit, an overhead, two left to right crossers of different heights and speeds and a fast going away bird from right under our feet. One other notable surprise was the guy that ran out to sweep the track that the rabbit ran on after our squad had finished… nice attention to detail.
After a decent break, and more good coffee, layout 4 was a more open affair – a wide layout with some more distant targets. Again a good variety of targets with a flat right to left battue that was tricky to see early doors and a high overhead that caught a few out.
We then broke for lunch, and the third decent surprise. Lunch was typically French with Steak Frites on the menu, with a nice mushroom sauce, accompanied by huge bowls of salad. The bar was open, so you could have a glass of wine or a beer if you wanted, although most shooters seemed to stick with soft drinks. Dessert was included in the price, and the food was served at your table with baskets of bread for a full sit down experience.
After lunch, we moved onto Layout 1 – which for me was the hardest of the day, a fast trap bird and a slow incomer caught a few people out as well as a high curling crosser which caught me out a couple of times! This layout was situated in an area with high banks, and the shooting cages set on a slight incline which really made some of the angles change as you moved down the line.
Final layout of the day in the late afternoon sun was number 2, next to the car park and again, another wide open trap layout with banks on all sides and a covered area for trap shooting to the right of the COMPAK cages. This obscured the traps for two right to left crossers which were set with differing angles and speeds and caught plenty of people out. This was coupled with a very fast trench bird and a high stalling crow as well as the bird of the day for me, a long falling incomer which took an age to arrive from a trap inside a shed at the top of the bank – great fun to shoot.
Overall the event was fantastic, the schedule ran like clockwork all day, we started on-time or even early for most of the layouts and everyone was on their layouts in time to watch the squad before and get a view of the targets. Refereeing was professional and efficient, and the etiquette of shooters was excellent all day. It is clear to me that Arras Ball Trap take things very seriously, the organisation and hospitality was top-notch and the target setting was excellent, with very few no birds, no breaks for trap refills and no breakdowns all day.
I will definitely be returning for more at Arras Ball Trap, and I’m excited to start finding out about some other events in France this year.
A few photos from the ground and the event: