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The Roving Sportsman

By Jon Pries
Summer Shot-Gunning
 
 

With the spring gobbler season behind us, and what seems like forever until the October small game seasons finally arrive, we should concentrate our efforts on sharpening our shooting skills over the summer months ahead. For those who enjoy shooting a shotgun, there are opportunities to shoot trap, skeet and sporting clays.
Trap shooters usually shoot 25 shots in a round of trap at clay targets that are thrown from a single trap located 16 yards away. The shooters move through five positions on an arc, firing five shots from each of the five positions. The targets are going-away targets that vary in height and vary from left to right as they travel from the trap. Clay targets are presented one at a time.
Those who shoot a round of skeet, also shoot 25 shots at clay targets. They are generally crossing targets, but also include some going-away presentations. The clay birds are thrown from two towers — a high tower on the left and a low tower on the right. In skeet, the shooters move along through eight positions, mostly on an arc, thus varying the angle of presentation of the birds at each position. The clay targets are presented either as single targets or in pairs.
Sporting clays is the most recently developed of the three shotgun sports and is a totally different breed of cat. In sporting clays, pretty much “anything goes!” The usual setup involves 12 to 16 stations along a ½ mile to mile long route, with the settings of each station varying in topography and vegetation — meaning that some stations are in open fields, while others may be in a wooded area with trees or shrubs restricting full view of the path of the clay target. The object is to present for the shooter as many varied presentations as possible that closely resemble what one might see in an actual hunting situation. In trap and skeet, the same size and shape of clay target is used, but in sporting clays the targets can vary considerably. There are the standard targets that are used in trap and skeet, but there are also varying sizes of these birds along with multiple shapes that are thrown at varying angles. There are even clay targets that have their own unique shape that are thrown across the ground and bounce along their path to represent a rabbit! A round of sporting clays can be of a 50-bird presentation, but generally is shot as a 100-bird event. The presentation of targets is completely random, varying greatly from station to station. There are outgoing birds, incoming targets, crossing targets and that darn rabbit target that bounces from left to right or sometimes from right to left. Some clay birds launch straight up into the air, hang for a split second, and then plummet straight back to the ground. You might even encounter an overhead target that is launched from behind the shooter and speeds overhead and away from you. As shooters move from station to station, they often use a push cart for their equipment, or frequently travel via a golf cart — thus giving rise to the term applying to sporting clays of “golf with a shotgun.”
Each of these three shooting venues — trap, skeet and sporting clays — has their particular appeal and following of dedicated shooters. If you are a beginning or novice shooter, certainly trap or skeet will be the best activity to build your shooting skills and practice the proper techniques of shotgun shooting. In fact, intermediate and higher level sporting clays shooters will often return to the trap range or skeet field to work on shooting outgoing and crossing targets.
While sporting clays can be thoroughly enjoyed by beginner shooters to Master Class shooters, you must be prepared to miss a target or two — or perhaps quite a few because of the unique presentations. It can be challenging, but also very rewarding when you watch one of the targets explode when properly hit with one of your shots.
Next week, let’s take a look at where you can go to enjoy and learn more about trap, skeet and sporting clays. Until then, safety is paramount — always keep the muzzle of a shotgun pointed in a safe direction!


 
 
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