Sporting Clays: How to get started

I shoulder my shotgun and yell “pull”!

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I take my aim and miss the first two clays. I’m at my very first sporting clay competition and to say that I’m nervous is an understatement. I hear encouraging words from the other competitors behind me as I shoulder my gun again and prepare for the next two clays. Again, I yell “pull”, but this time I bust both clays! The other competitors in my group start cheering for me and giving me high fives, easing my nerves as we walk to the second station.

I recently shot at the 16th Annual Women’s Charity Shotgun Event hosted by the Ozark Shooters Sports Complex in Branson, MO. The proceeds from this shoot went to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children, a hospital that provides high quality care to children in need, regardless of the family’s ability to pay.

Before now my only experience in this area was shooting trap in my backyard a few times, as well as hunting doves, pheasants and crows. One thing that I truly believe is that you learn the most by forcing yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Going into this sporting clay competition by myself, not knowing what to expect was definitely a little uncomfortable for me, but I am so glad that I did it!

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The women competing in this event were not only very friendly and encouraging, they were excellent shooters and I was happy that they were willing to give me some pointers. One tip was to lift my right elbow up just a little higher & keep it parallel to the ground. This creates a “pocket” in your shoulder that the shotgun fits into better which helps with recoil, especially after shooting 50 shells. I learned that other shooters really want to help you and want to see you succeed. Sure, it’s a competition, but it’s all in good fun and for a great cause.

For those like me that are new to sporting clay shooting, here’s a basic run down on what to expect:

How It Works

AndiEvo4_copyOut of all the 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. Being from the Ozark Mountains, our stations overlooked some beautiful scenery and was naturally, very hilly. Each person in a squad shoots a determined number of clays, usually around 4-6, before moving on to the next station.

Safety

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.DSC_0071_copy3

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.

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Shooting sporting clays is a great way to sharpen your shooting skills and “extend” your hunting season. 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.

Link: 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. Like I mentioned above, my experience with meeting other shooters was a positive one. They were very helpful, encouraging, and these ladies could shoot very well!

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 actually shoot in a competition, like I did. 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.

Keep Practicing! Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more! Experience really is the best teacher. Also, if any upland seasons are open, get yourself a tag. I ended up getting 1st place in my class and I feel that my experience with hunting live birds prepared me the most for sporting clays.

-Andrea Haas, Huntress View

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