Sporting Clays: How to Get in the Game

April 3, 2015



Upland hunters looking to improve their shooting skills in the off season should look no further than their local sporting clays course. Sporting clays targets are launched from unknown distances and locations, simulating hunting scenarios. Getting into the game isn’t hard or expensive. Here are some tips for folks interested in getting started.

What is “Sporting Clays” 
Sporting clays is similar to trap or skeet in that participates use shotguns to break clay targets. It originated in England in the early 1900s when live pigeons were still used as targets. The sport we know today became popular with the advent of clay targets.

The difference between sporting clays and other clay pigeon sports is that, since every course is different and most are set in a wooded environment, sporting clays more closely resembles a hunting experience.

Who Should Play
Grouse, quail, and pheasant hunters looking to improve their shooting in the off-season will find no better practice than visiting a sporting clays course or two. A round of sporting clays is a great way to spend an off season day with your hunting buddies and you’ll see improved accuracy when hunting season opens again.

How to Play
Sporting clays has been described as “golf with a shotgun.” This is because every sporting clays course, like every golf course, is different based on the terrain and background offering shooters a new experience with each course.

Rounds of 10-15 stations are shot by groups of 2-6 shooters. Targets can be thrown in any speed, angle, or distance. This variation forces shooters to be proficient from multiple angles.

Gear Up
To get started shooting sporting clays, all you’ll need is a repeating shotgun and some ammunition. Side by side and over and under double barrel guns are popular since they give the shooter two choke choices, but semi-automatic and pump action shotguns will also serve their users nicely on a sporting clays course. Proper eye and ear protection will help ensure a safe and enjoyable day on the course.

Once you get serious about sporting clays you can invest in an ammo pouch or vest for holding extra shells. A pair of shooting gloves will provide solid purchase for your trigger and off hands and protect you from hot barrels.

Know Your Target
Course setters use a variety of targets including: standard, midi, mini, shondel, battue, and rocket to trick shooters into misjudging speed and range. Knowing which target you are shooting at will help ensure accuracy.

Smaller targets like the midi and the mini start off fast but don’t sustain their speed because of their light weight, heavier targets start slower, but fall off faster. Shooters should strive to shoot every target when it is most visible (i.e. dome or belly up is best, edge is worst.)

The variation in target size, speed, and angle is what makes shooting sporting clays so rewarding and frustrating at the same time.

Where to Shoot  
Sporting clays clubs are available all over the country and instruction is available at most of them. Visit the National Sporting Clays Association website to find out more about shoots in your area.




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