By Don Mallicoat- As I write this I’m getting ready to compete in the NC Sporting Clays Championship at The Fork in Norwood. It is my favorite shooting sport. So much so that I got qualified as an instructor and teach classes each month at Fowler Farms. It is the fasting growing shooting sport in the country and attracts young and old, men and women. Punching holes in paper with a pistol or rifle is fun. But there is something more satisfying about the instant gratification you get when a clay target turns to dust.
Sporting clays. It’s called golf with a shotgun. Having participated in both I’m not sure if it’s because no two courses are the same, or because you want to wrap your shotgun around a tree in frustration. I suspect the former. If you are an upland hunter or wing shooter, then sporting clays is for you. First, it is fun, especially if you’re shooting with a group of friends. You can’t help but give and receive “comments” about each others shooting skills. Second, it is THE best way to hone your shooting skills for the upcoming bird season. Now I’ve shot skeet and trap for many years, but neither comes close to preparing you for the hunting season like sporting clays; if you shoot enough of it.
Sporting clays is the next level of skeet or trap. It’s similar to trap and skeet, with which most people are familiar, only in that they use the same machines and clay targets. Where trap and skeet are shot from a fixed station with predictable target trajectory, sporting clays courses are designed taking advantage of the available terrain. There are usually 10 to 12 stations with five shots per station: single, report pair (one after another), and true pair (both at once). The shooter moves from station to station along a path. Some courses use golf carts to move shooters between stations.
Each station represents a different shooting situation you might experience while hunting. Some are fairly easy while others are designed to be “difficult.” One may simulate dove flying across an open field; another popular station is a running rabbit target. In addition to different presentations at each station, there are different sized clay targets: everything from the larger rabbit target, the standard, a smaller bateau, down to a mini. Trust me when I say this: If they tell you the target is a mini, avoid the shoulder pounding and decibel level and just throw the shell down range. Just kidding! The neat thing is, unless the course is busy, you can usually stay at one station and shoot at a target that simulates a hunting situation with which you are having trouble. It’s not uncommon for experienced trap and skeet shooters to shoot a perfect score in those sports. In sporting clays, if you can consistently hit 40 of 50 targets on a course then you can brag! The best score I’ve had on a course was a74.
A wise man once said that the best shooting instructor is a case of shotgun shells. And shooting that case of shells over the spring and summer is a good way to be ready for the upcoming season. We spend money on dog training, new boots, and new brush pants in preparation for a new hunting season. Yet we don’t invest a little money in practicing our shooting skills before the season starts. Then we get frustrated when that bird keeps flying when we just knew we were right on. Our season will be more enjoyable, and more importantly we will more cleanly kill game if we’ll just spend a little time practicing before the season starts.
We have two courses in the Asheville area. The Biltmore Sporting Clays Club just opened on Biltmore Estate in November 2013 and is a membership club. You can get information at 828-257-5959. Fowler Farms is a public range open from Thursday through Saturday in Spring Creek in Madison County, contact at 828-622-0177. So get the shotgun out of the case, and go out there to shoot a round of golf (with a shotgun of course)!
A friendly reminder that Delayed Harvest waters revert to Hatchery Supported waters this Saturday, June 7th. It is youth 15 and under from 6 a.m. until noon. After that it is open to all license holders. Also Youth Fishing events are scheduled for Lake Powhatan and Max Patch pond this Saturday. More info at www.ncwildlife.org.