That’s what you’ll soon be hearing if you’re in the vicinity of a sportsman’s club. The outdoor shooting season is beginning.
Shooting games remain a growing sport for both hunters and non-hunters, with most of the participation during the warmer months. For the hunter, it’s a way of honing shooting skills during the off-
season, especially for wing shooters; and for those who don’t hunt, it can be a very enjoyable, exciting and relaxing sport.
In the shotgun category, the three most popular shooting sports/games are trap, skeet and sporting clays. There are some rifle shoots and leagues, but they’re not as prevalent as those utilizing shotguns. If you’re looking for a way to spend some enjoyable warm-weather days or evenings (some ranges are lighted), take a look at each of these shotgun games.
Originating in England in the 1700s, shooters fired at live pigeons released from cages known as traps. Trap shooting got its start in the U.S. at a sportsman’s club in Cincinnati in 1831, where they changed from live pigeons to targets made of glass, feathers and metal.
The modern day target, now made of clay, is 4.25 inches in
diameter, and was actually developed in 1870. Today these clay pigeons are thrown, usually from a center-housed electronic trap, at a variety of angles and directions at speeds up to 41 miles per hour.
The American trap range has five stations set up 16 yards behind the trap house with one shooter at each station. Each shooter in turn will call “Pull” and shoot at the released target. All shooters fire at five thrown targets at each station and move right to the next, where they repeat the process. Targets can be released in any direction within an arc of 44 degrees and reach a maximum height of about 10 feet. A dead, also called a hit, is scored even if the shooter knocks off only a small visible piece of the target.
“Clock Shooting” was the original name given to this sport when first introduced in 1915 by William Harnden Foster, an avid grouse hunter. It was later named “skeet”, which is Scandinavian for shoot. During World War II, skeet was used to teach military gunners the principles of leading and timing when shooting at a flying object.
This shooting sport is probably the best at imitating the flight action presented when a bird is flushed in the wild. The shooter fires from seven positions, set out in a semi-circle. An eighth is halfway between stations 1 and 2. There are two trap houses located at the corners of the semi-circle from which the birds are thrown. These are known as the high house, which launches clay disks 45⁄16 inches in diameter, thrown from 10 feet off the ground; while the low house throws them from three feet off the ground. The various number and types of shots will vary by station from one to two targets at a time.
This game also requires 25 shots in a round and a hit is determined just like it is in trap.
Another of the shotgun shooting sports started in the late 1800s in England, sporting clays was originally designed for the wealthy. The first targets were glass balls filled with feathers to practice game hunting. Eventually, the targets were made of clay, and in 1927 the first British Open Sporting Clays Championship was held.
It took more than 60 years before sporting clays were introduced in the United States, but it has since become one of the fastest-growing sports in the country.
It involves shooting clay targets at multiple locations, which are called stations. Each station has a variety of trajectories, angles, speeds, elevations and distances. And quite often the area in which you must stand to shoot can be challenging as can those stations that may require quick reloading and shooting. But as challenging as it can be, it’s even more enjoyable for the shooters and quite often reflects the reality of what you encounter in the field.
The typical course will usually consist of 10 to 18 stations. Varying numbers of target pairs are shot at each station. Total shots on a round of clays can vary between 50 and 100. And if you like variety, each club that offers sporting clay shooting generally has its own layout in terms of difficulty, which makes it very interesting.
The primary shotgun used for these shooting sports is 12-gauge. The over/under models are popular, however, bird and/or waterfowl hunters wanting to improve their wing shooting accuracy should use the one with which they hunt.
Other equipment should include protective glasses and either earplugs or muffs. If you’re going to do this kind of shooting on a regular basis — and chances are once you try it, you will — a shooting vest with all the pockets and a shooting pad on the shoulder you shoot from are recommended.