By Andrea Haas
I have really come to love upland bird hunting over the years, but not living in an area that is known for this type of hunting I am limited to just one or two upland hunts a year during my week’s vacation from work. Shooting sporting clays is a great way to sharpen your shooting skills and “extend” your hunting season. If you’re new to sporting clays, here’s a basic run down on what to expect.
How It Works
Out of all shotgun sports, sporting clays is the closest thing to actual field hunting. With skeet and trap you have clays thrown at generalized distances and angles each time. Sporting clays are designed to simulate actual wing shooting of ducks, pheasants and other upland birds. The clays can be thrown from any direction, at any speed and any angle. Some clays even vary in size, giving you the next best thing to real world hunting conditions.
Sporting clays are usually shot in squads of 2-6 people and is played over a course of about 10 different shooting stations throughout fields and the natural features of the land. Each person in a squad shoots a determined number of clays, usually around 4-6, before moving on to the next station.
Like all shooting sports, safety comes first in sporting clays. As soon as you remove your gun from the vehicle, make sure the breech is open and the gun is not loaded. If you shoot an over/under shotgun, make sure you break it open and the barrel is pointed down or up towards the sky. Even if you know the shotgun is not loaded, always treat it as if it is.
Ear and eye protection are also a must any time you are on a sporting clay course.
Shooting a Round
Once each squad is at their designated first station, hand the score cards to the referee. Before anyone shoots, the referee will show you the targets so you can see how they are being thrown.
Step up to the station when it’s your turn to shoot and load your shotgun. Point it safely towards the firing area and yell “pull” once you are ready. The target is considered a “dead bird” if any part of it is broken. When you are done shooting, make sure the breech is open and exit the station. Remain behind the station until everyone in your squad has finished shooting and is ready to move on.
If you feel sporting clays is something you would like to get involved in, here are a few ways to get started!
- Join a Local Club.Check out the National Sporting Clay Association (NSCA) website to search for clubs in your area: http://www.nssa-nsca.org/index.php/nsca-sporting-clays-shooting/clubs-associations/club-search/ Once a member, you can use your clubs facility on a regular basis and meet other shooters. My first experience with shooting sporting clays was a positive one. The shooters were all very friendly, encouraging, and willing to give advice.
- Join the NSCA.The NSCA is the ultimate resource for all things sporting clays. They are dedicated to getting more people involved in shotgun sports, no matter what level they are at, and promoting healthy competition within its membership.
- Shoot In a Competition.I think one of the best ways to improve your shooting skills is to step out of your comfort zone and go shoot in your first competition. You can watch other great shooters and learn from them. Don’t worry about “not being good enough”. You only compete within your own class, so you’re only competing against others that are at the same level as you.
- Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more! Experience really is the best teacher. Also, if any upland seasons are open, get yourself a tag. I feel that my experience with hunting live birds prepared me the most for shooting sporting clays.