By ROBYN BRISTOW
After just 18 months of competitive clay target shooting, expending thousands of shotgun rounds and countless clay targets, a North Canterbury 15-year-old was right on target recently to gain national selection.
Millie-Jane McIlraith, a Hurunui College student, produced the dream result at a shoot at McLeans Island late last year, which propelled her into the New Zealand Open Women’ Skeet Clay Target shooting team.
“Walking up to shoot for New Zealand, as part of a team made up of the top six ladies, was a moment filled with adrenaline,” says Millie-Jane.
The foundation for her selection started at home on the farm, and with the Amberley Gun Club.
Millie says without her coach Graeme Everett, and sponsors Gun City, Hanmer Springs Helicopters, and Heathstock Apiaries, being selected for a New Zealand team would have remained an impossible dream.
She is also full of praise for the Amberley Gun Club for showing her and many other junior shooters nothing but support and encouragement for many years, and her mum and dad who help her to make it all happen.
Millie took up the sport after joining her dad and three older siblings at smallbore rifle shooting at the Amberley Club.
“I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to give something else a try, such as shotgun shooting,”
Millie says she has no regrets turning to skeet and down-the-line shooting, each of which have differing target configurations.
“It is brilliant,” she says. “I love the sport. I don’t see myself doing anything else,” she says.
Millie was selected in the New Zealand skeet team after a shoot at the Canterbury Clay Target Club at McLeans Island, where she shot 150 targets over three days.
The aggregate of the two scores was enough to take a spot in the team of six to represent New Zealand in a postal shoot against the Australian Women’s team in November last
It was a wet, miserable day, when the New Zealanders lined up.
New Zealand eventually lost in a close battle to their Tasman rivals, by five targets.
Millie says her score was average, but it was a close, exciting match, but just a bit sad the New Zealanders couldn’t quite out-shoot their rivals.
She is now keen to develop down-the-line shooting with the aim of making a national team.
She performs this discipline on the secondary school circuit where she has also performed successfully, having been selected in several regional teams, and gained national and North Island top placings.
Covid-19 has put the brakes on competitors gathering at one club for school shoots, says Millie.
However postal shooting, where scores are mailed to a central point, has kept the sport alive.
This is in spite of having to wait a couple of months for Auckland competitors to register and post their scores due to being in lockdown.
‘‘It was awesome that people still made the shoot possible which I am very grateful for,’’ says Millie.
Millie practices twice a week, with three months concentrated practice prior to shooting to gain a place in the national side.
She is now in training for two shoots in February
and March – the Canterbury districts meet, and the New Zealand DTL
Both will be held at the McLeans Island.