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 fixed stations with predictable target trajectory, sporting clays courses are designed taking advantage of the terrain, as is a golf course. There are usually 10-12 stations with six to ten 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 provide 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! 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 35 of 50 targets on a course then you can brag!
We’re fortunate to have a very nice course within an hour’s drive of Asheville. Fowler Farms Sporting Clays north of Spring Creek off Highway 209 in Madison County. Fowler Farms opened in early July 2004 and has an 11 station course which follows a trail around an old pasture with most shots being wooded and a few shots in open terrain. One of the best shots simulates grouse flushing through a wooded area. Yes, I shot it as bad as I do during the season. But I vow to work on it! Fowler Farms is open Thursday thru Saturday each week. Call them at (828) 622-7380 for directions and costs.
Also in our area, the Buncombe County Wildlife Club in Fletcher has 5 Stand, which is a condensed version of sporting clays with five side-by-side stations and a 25 shot course. Biltmore Sporting Clays Club opened last year and membership is required. It has a 12 station course, 5 Stand, and skeet and trap.
A wise man once said that the best shooting instructor is a case of shotgun shells. And shooting that case of shells over the 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 opening day dove keeps flying after we unload both barrels or a close flushing grouse 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. So get the shotgun out of the case, and go out there to shoot a round of golf (with a shotgun of course)!