In a piece originally featured in Clay Shooting, Jasper Fellows discovers how Mhairi-Ann Troup aims to bring more women into the sport she loves.
Ami Hedgecock, Lucy Hall, Ellie Seward; the current crop of up-and-coming women’s talent is perhaps unrivalled in the history of clay shooting.
We are at the beginning of a true renaissance in British ladies shooting, one that has been triggered by the headstrong, uncompromising women that have broken new ground over the past 20 years. Women such as Becky McKenzie, whose unflinching training regime leaves the competition in the dust, or Abbey Ling, who married into a family of legendary shooters seemingly just to give them some real competition for once.
Of all the great British shooting ladies helping to inspire the next generation, Mhairi-Ann Troup is undoubtedly one of the most passionate when it comes to getting new ladies on to the stands for the first time. Last year, she launched her Dynamic Ladies Shooting Club, which, despite launching in the middle of a pandemic, has already seen interest from thousands of women both home and abroad and brought to the sport more new talent than even Mhairi-Ann thought possible.
Though the club is a relatively new venture, don’t be fooled into thinking Mhairi-Ann is new to the sport herself – far from it. She’s been swinging shotguns, rifles and even pistols since before she’d even left junior school. “My father, Fraser Troup, first introduced me to shooting,” she explains. “I started off with a BSA Mercury air rifle when I was just eight years old, before moving on to a Webley pistol then finally a Shadow 12-bore shotgun.”
With a family of passionate shooters around her, Mhairi-Ann soon became enamoured with clay shooting and went looking for competitions to hone her skills and show the world, or at least Scotland, what she was made of. “As a youngster the idea of shooting was so exciting. Unfortunately, in Scotland at that time, the sport was very male dominated. Ladies events were few and far between.”
Far from letting a lack of women’s competitions get in the way of her passions, Mhairi-Ann decided to throw in with the boys, and beat them. “If anything, I used the lack of women’s competitions as motivation and found myself competing successfully against the boys at local competitions from a young age.”
While Mhairi-Ann could have made shooting her career, she headed down an entirely different route working as an air hostess, at a private dental practice and even for the Sussex police force.
“While I enjoyed a very varied career, I still wanted to continue shooting, and to give something back to the sport that meant so much to me. So, I trained as a coach and spent my days off on the local shooting grounds helping others to fall in love with clay shooting.
“I particularly enjoyed coaching beginners and young Shots. I get a real buzz from introducing newcomers to the sport for the first time. I love the look on their faces when they hit their first clays and I always let them keep the spent cartridges of their successful shots as a memento of their first break.”
Though Mhairi-Ann was only coaching part-time, her infectious enthusiasm and ability to calm even the most nervous first-timers led to widespread industry recognition, with the CPSA giving her its prestigious Coach of the Year award in 2016. “I was absolutely blown away when I won the award. The Browning B525 I was awarded is by far the best gun I have ever used, and I use it with pride to this day.”
Having been singled out as one of the best in the industry, Mhairi-Ann was now firmly on the radar of anyone looking to help new Shots into the sport. So, when Paul Dancer began to think up ways to get more young ladies on to the stands for the first time, he knew just who to call.
“In 2018, Paul started this fantastic initiative called the Ladies Football to Clay Shooting Pathway,” explains Mhairi-Ann. “The idea was to reach out to ladies football teams across the country and bring them in for a day of clay shooting and to introduce ladies who were clearly already very competitive to a sport they’d possibly never tried before.
“I was honoured when I received a phone call asking if I would instruct the girls alongside Paul and Linda Grayson at an event in the Midlands. The event was a huge success and great fun for everyone involved. When a sportsperson has that competitive drive, they can apply it to whatever they’re doing, and this was very apparent with these lady footballers.”
Inspired by Paul and his footballers, Mhairi-Ann started to entertain the notion of setting up her very own ladies shooting club, with the aim of both introducing new blood into the sport and of using her wealth of experience to help them to become competitive.
“The positive reaction I saw from the footballers, alongside my experiences of hearing so many women over the years saying they’d love to give shooting a go, but that they had never actually had a proper introduction into the sport, convinced me that the idea of a ladies shooting club was a good one. However, in 2018, I simply didn’t have the time to dedicate myself to making such a venture a real success.”
One thing that becomes very clear to anyone who has the opportunity to chat to Mhairi-Ann for even five minutes is her unerring positivity. It was this most admirable trait that allowed her to turn unfortunate events into a cause for good.
“It was actually COVID-19 that finally convinced me to make the leap and turn my passion for coaching into a full-time career,” she says with her usual characteristic joviality.
And so, in the middle of the first COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, Mhairi-Ann finally committed and began her Dynamic Ladies Shooting Club. “Put simply, the club allows me to invite more women to take up the sport I love. Members have access to discounted lessons, either one to one or as part of a small group, are invited to in-house events and more,” she explains.
“Admittedly,” she continues, “there have been questions from some in the industry regarding the need for a ladies-only shooting club, but it is clear to me they provide a way into the sport for ladies who wouldn’t have entertained it previously.
“Our club is as much about having fun, networking and socialising as it is about being a competitive Shot. We provide a place for women to pick up a new hobby or enjoy their shooting with friends.”
There are many who might consider Mhairi-Ann insane for setting up a business in the middle of a pandemic. However, since its inception, the club has gone from strength to strength, picking up new members and supporters in spite of the economic climate and social restrictions.
“I have been absolutely astounded by the success we’ve had with the club so far, even as we face the continuing COVID-19 restrictions. The number of women who have contacted me for lessons and events has definitely far surpassed my expectations,” she says.
“Of course, it has been tricky with the lockdowns. So far, we have managed to host all of our events at Southdown Gun Club, and they have been very supportive of what we do and kept us all safe and well. We have been invited to a number of other grounds across the country, but we will have to leave those trips until after the lockdowns are over.
“Unfortunately, we have also had to cancel a number of events through 2020 and now 2021, but through a strong online presence we have been able to provide a platform for our ladies to continue to talk clays without having to meet up in person.”
Thanks to a booming social media presence, Mhairi-Ann and her Dynamic Ladies have also attracted the attention of a number of major industry organisations.
“Browning, Perazzi, Swatcom, the CPSA and many others in the industry have reached out to us with care packages and assistance. In early 2020, I also became the first ever female shooting ambassador for Musto, which was
a huge honour,” says Mhairi-Ann. “I have been genuinely moved by the industry-wide support we have seen for the Dynamic Ladies.
“Now, as we are hopefully beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of restrictions, I believe there’s no better time to take up a new hobby. Thanks to the support we have received from the industry and from our fantastic ladies, we are looking forward to a bright future, one where we can introduce even more dynamic ladies to our great sport.
“There is simply no better cure to Covid cabin fever than getting out into the fresh air and breaking some clays, and I can’t wait to get more women out there breaking with us.”