Champion clay pigeon shooter is keen to keep success firmly in his sights
James Rounsevell believes in aiming high.
When he was only 14 and looking for a work experience placement, the wannabe cook didn't apply to a local cafe or burger bar but sent an email directly to TV celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
It was with the same spirit of quiet determination that, seven years earlier, he had applied for his first shotgun licence.
On both occasions James was successful – but it didn't stop there. This year, he has added a string of major clay pigeon shooting trophies to his achievements, taking the junior crown at the Southern Counties Championship, Cornwall Championship and South West Game Fair, while narrowly being knocked into second place at the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association's British Championships in Nottingham.
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For a young man with such promise, James is remarkably modest, attributing his skill on the range, in the field and at the chopping board to early family influences.
With dad Chris having his own butchery business, as well as being a keen shot, and mum Sarah introducing her son to riding from an early age, it was almost inevitable that James would grow up loving the country way of life.
Polishing his Beretta shotgun at the family's home in Caradon Town, near Liskeard, James explained that he couldn't remember a time when he wasn't involved with shooting.
"My dad shoots and so does my grandad," he said. "When I was five I'd go out with my dad and open the gates, pick up the rabbits and put them in the back of the truck. Then we'd come home and he'd show me how to gut them and skin them."
His first supervised experience of actually shooting was target practice with Chris's .22 air rifle.
"I was about five when I first had a go at shooting a gun," he said. "It was all targets and I had to practise for a long time before dad let me anywhere near firing at an animal. When he decided I was ready we went out – and I had five rabbits on the first night."
James was still only seven when he started using a shotgun, taking aim at bottles, cans and eggs while getting his shoulder used to the "kick".
"I got my shotgun licence when I was eight," he said. "I was definitely the youngest holder in the South West and possibly the youngest in the country."
Since then he has accompanied Chris on shoots around East Cornwall, beginning as a beater and later shooting with adult supervision. It was also around this time that James started training with clay pigeons at the nearby Lower Lake Shooting Ground.
"I practised and practised until I'd reached a level when I felt I was doing well enough to enter my first major competition," he said. "The first thing I won was the South West Game Fair in 2011. I won the same event this year too, plus the Cornwall and Southern Counties."
As well as the individual junior trophy at the Southern Counties event, James and his cousin Martin Kemp took the team event, while James also reached the top score in another category.
Clearly a crack shot, regularly scoring high nineties out of one hundred, James believes he has benefited from having a gun in his hands from an early age.
"I started a lot younger than most people, which must help," he said. "I grew up around it and I suppose it just came naturally."
Still only 16, James hopes to have a long competitive career ahead of him. At the same time he is studying catering at City College Plymouth, which allows him to combine his love of game and cooking by bringing home pheasants and rabbits for the pot.
"I think it's always worth going for the thing you really want," he said. "And that goes for my shooting and my catering. When I was still at school and looking for a work placement I decided it was worth going to the top and that's why I emailed Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall at River Cottage. He was really nice to me and I got to work with head chef Gill Meller. It was a great experience, they were really kind, and I'd love to work with them again after I leave college."
James's other long-term goal is to try for a place on the England team and – who knows – even look at Olympic selection one day. But in order to even be in with a chance of a shot at the national side, James needs sponsorship – and is hoping a South West firm will be interested in helping him compete at a national level in exchange for brand and logo placing on all his kit. Anyone interested in sponsoring him should call 01579 363598.