By Barbara Baird
If you like to play golf, or even mini-golf, and you like to shoot skeet or trap, you’re going to love sporting clays. Or if you want more of a challenge than shooting at airborne clay targets, you’ll appreciate the change-up when a “rabbit” target zigzags across the field in front of you.
Sporting clays offers a shotgunner the opportunity to shoot at clays that fly like birds or bounce like small game at ground level. The spontaneity of clay shooting makes for great field training for upland, waterfowl and small-game hunting. The sport also lends itself to social outings among friends and family.
Sporting clays is a challenging clay target game designed to simulate a variety of field-shooting situations. On a sporting clays course, squads of shooters are presented with a wide variety of targets in natural settings that duplicate the flight path of game birds, such as flushing, crossing, incoming and other angling shots. A “dead bird” is a recorded hit, even if you just nick a clay.
Sporting clays participants carry shotguns—any gauge—that can shoot two rounds. Many participants prefer over-and-under shotguns so they can change the chokes. You’ll also need boxes of target load shells, a shooting vest or a shotgun shell holder, baseball cap, closed-toe shoes and, of course, eye and ear protection. Remember that ear muffs might interfere with the stock of your shotgun when you shoulder the gun. Always check the fit before you go to the range.
Not only are the courses different throughout a round, but also target sizes can be different during the 50- or 100-target course, ranging from standard trap and skeet clay birds to midi and mini targets and a flat target. Shooters proceed through 10 to 15 stations, using either a pre-mounted or low-gun approach when at the firing line, and attempt to break all the clays at that station.
One way to participate in sporting clays is to join the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA), which boasts more than 23,000 members. Memberships run from $30 yearly for associate to $500 for a lifetime. Members may shoot at more than 3,000 sanctioned events annually, and they can participate in a classification system. Membership also includes monthly issues of Sporting Clays magazine, discounted insurance options and other benefits.
The NSCA also offers Target Talk, a weekly newsletter that offers shooting tips, a quiz and an “Ask the Instructor” feature. You do not need to be a member to receive this instructive publication.
It’s easy to find a range that offers sporting clays. Check the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s “WheretoShoot” webpage, then find your state and shooting discipline. A dropdown list will appear that includes ranges and their locations. Click on the range you want, and you’ll see other important details, such as membership requirements.
Be sure to check out the First Shots’ calendar of events to find an opportunity to learn to shoot shotguns.