By Josh Boyd
There is no better way to become proficient at any particular task than through repetition and practice. This ideology generally applies in a universal manner to many things in life, shotgun marksmanship being no exception.
Just as a brick layer gains proficiency in their craft by laying many bricks, a shooter’s path to exhibiting exemplary shotgun marksmanship is laid through hours of looking down a barrel and an extensive number of spent shells.
Ducks, quail, and pheasants all offer an individual numerous shooting opportunities each season and prove to be an excellent means of honing shooting ability. But inevitably, seasons come to a close, daily shooting is limited once bag limits are reached, and much of one’s shooting opportunities rely heavily upon the success of the hunt.
Luckily, for shooters that are not enthused by the idea of storing away their shotguns while anxiously awaiting the next wingshooting season, endless practice is no further away than their local shooting range or gun club.
Shooting clay pigeons offers shooters a vast array of opportunities to better their shotgun prowess, all the while providing hours of enjoyable range time. Clay pigeon shooting, in all of its various forms, is relished by an extensive and ever growing number of shooters every year.
There are numerous factors that contribute to clay pigeon shooting’s popularity. One such factor is the uninterrupted year round nature of the sport. There are no seasons such as the ones that apply to wingshooting, and although at some point contention with seasonal weather could be trying, in many areas shooting opportunities that extend into winter months are a very real possibility.
Another element that factors into clay pigeon shooting’s popularity is the potential camaraderie that can be had while at the range. For the same social reasons that countless hunters enjoy time in a duck blind with friends and family or golfers value Saturdays on the green with their peers, shooters bond within the bounds of sport shooting.
Clay pigeon shooting is variable in relation to the style and format of competition being participated in. There are several varieties of regulated competitions and courses, with the most common being trap shooting, skeet shooting, and sporting clays.
Trap shooting is characterized by groups of up to five shooters stationed at posts situated in a side by side manner. Upon calling for the launch, a clay is projected upward in an arcing pattern at differing angles. Each shooter fires a total of five shots per station for a total of twenty-five shots.
Skeet shooting is conducted in a layout consisting of a semi-circle or half moon construction. Clays are launched from two trap houses known as the high and low houses, named for the height at which the clays are launched. Shooters move through a series of eight stations firing a total of twenty-five shells. The movement between stations follows a strategic order, with both single and dual clay launches being featured.
Sporting clays is a version of clay pigeon shooting recognizable by its lengthy courses with stations situated in locations of various terrain features. Stations commonly range in numbers from eight to fifteen and feature two clays per launch. The launch timing of the two clays in relation to one another, as well as their size is variable. Sporting clay courses are designed to present a shooter with shots of a simulated hunting nature.
Within these forms of clay pigeon competition, sub-genres of the same shooting disciplines are common. These variances and subsets commonly differ regionally and typically are steeped in the same principle as the competition’s original form. Often times, these versions abide by different governing rules or feature a different standard regarding the number of shooting posts.
Each one of clay pigeon shooting’s individual disciplines and forms offer unique experiences all their own, with every style of competition allowing marksmen to refine various aspects of their shooting. By regularly participating in multiple forms of clay pigeon shooting, an individual becomes well rounded and diverse in their shooting abilities.
Trap shooting focuses on a shooter’s ability to recognize a target and its angle of travel with split second judgment and react accordingly. Skeet shooting assesses an individual’s recognition of speed and angle in order to assess and apply lead to their target. Sporting clays employ a multitude of situational elements within numerous stations to closely replicate the difficult shooting that a hunter is likely to face.
Adding to the draw of clay pigeon shooting, is the availability and prominence of tournament offerings. A shooter can match their abilities against those of others in a region and utilize friendly competition to bolster self improvement and shooting discipline.
Clay pigeon shooting has the ability not only to fine tune a participant’s level of marksmanship, but to also provide hours of fun for those both young and old. From unsanctioned shoots held in a field with family and friends, to competition on the Olympic stage, the world of clay pigeon shooting is a vast one.
This summer, instead of dreaming of the next wingshooting season while setting idly by, grab your shotgun, shells, and some fellow shooters and head to your nearest gun range. Shot by shot you will be on your way to improved marksmanship, all the while having a blast.