Deer hunter: Middleton under fire for going shooting with Royals
By GLEN OWEN
13th October 2007
The magnificent Balmoral Castle is one of the Queen's residences
Kate Middleton takes aim as she goes deer shooting with the Royals for the first time yesterday – in a move that has infuriated animal-rights campaigners.
The girlfriend of Prince William was being expertly coached by two ghillies shortly before joining the main deerstalking party on the Queen's Balmoral estate.
Prince Charles looked on as Kate, clad in camouflage gear and aiming a fearsome hunting rifle in the prone position, fired at a practice target.
Pre-hunt: Kate with Charles before joining WIlliam's party
Her presence on the Highlands shoot is the clearest sign yet that the 25-year-old fashion buyer has been fully accepted into the Royal inner circle.
And Kate clearly passed muster with the bolt-action rifle, which was equipped with telescopic sights and a silencer to be able to kill at a mile.
As she lay prone in the heather in full view from a public road, the gamekeepers set up the weapon for firing. After settling into the correct position, she made sure of her target through the telescopic sight and fired, scattering frightened birds.
A huge stag on the Queen's Balmoral estate
The sights on the rifle were then adjusted and she headed off to find William in the main party of stag hunters, leaving Charles to return to nearby Birkhall House, the home he shares with Camilla. It is not known if Kate managed to land her first 'kill' yesterday.
But last night her involvement with the shoot was condemned by the League Against Cruel Sports. A spokesman said: 'It beggars belief that the Royal Family believe it is fun to slaughter deer and I am very sad that Ms Middleton has been introduced to this cruel sport.
'Presumably it is all part of her induction into a family with an appalling track record on blood sports.'
Patrick Murphy, of prestigious gunmakers Holland and Holland in London's Mayfair, said: 'It is quite normal now for women to go shooting.'
However he did have a mild dig at Kate wearing camouflage gear instead of tweeds, saying it used to mark someone out as a 'suburban novice' but was now gaining acceptance.
Huntswoman: Kate takes aim as she is tutored by ghillies at Balmoral
He added: 'Deer are colourblind and the camouflage is a disruptive pattern that allows the hunter to get close enough to them to make a clean, humane shot to the heart.'
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation says no one should consider stalking unless they can consistently hit a 10cm target with three shots from 100 metres.
Stalkers also must, for humanitarian reasons, use bullets that fragment when they hit the deer so they have a greater chance of killing and not merely wounding it.
The association additionally says shots should never be taken at moving or badly-positioned deer, in poor visibility or through cover.
It is only legal to shoot in the deer-stalking season, which has only a few days left to run.
Kate is spending a private weekend with William at his Balmoral cottage, just a few minutes away from Birkhall. It is part of an effort to pursue their revived romance away from public attention.
The 120-year-old former gamekeeper's cottage, which is equipped with a large round bath-for-two, is hidden away and boasts impressive views over the rugged Highland estate.
The pair have been in Scotland since Thursday.
A spokesman for Prince Charles said: 'We do not act for Ms Middleton and so we have no comment to make.
'What the Royals do on the Balmoral estate is a private matter.'