Sporting clays has often been called “golf with a shotgun. ” Unlike trap and skeet, sporting courses run through the woods and use natural terrain in their layout. Trees can be used to obscure a target, and traps are often hidden so the shooter cannot see the launch. Shooters typically start with their gun in a low, un-mounted position. The puller may also delay the target anywhere up to 3 seconds after the shooter calls for it. A squad consists of two to five shooters and is led through the course by a course guide, who will also launch the targets and score the shots. Guns are loaded only when the shooter steps into the shooting station. Each shooter will be called for his or her turn. The first shooter in the squad has the right to call for a target presentation before they shoot. This is called “the see. ” If that shooter forgets to call for a “see, ” remind them to do so. You need a look at the targets before you try to hit them. Targets will vary greatly in distance. Some may be virtually in your face, while others may be 50 yards off or more. Changing choke tubes or loads at each new station is a common practice. Experienced shooters have found that changing loads is often as effective as changing chokes. An Improved Cylinder choke with a load of soft lead No. 9 shot will handle targets inside 20 yards. Hard lead No. 8 or No. 7 ½ with that choke will handle targets to 30 yards. Shift to Modified or Full choke and No. 7 ½ trap loads for longer shots.
Take Different Shots: Unlike in trap or skeet shooting, sporting clay targets can come flying at nearly any angle imaginable and in varying patterns. Here are some of the tougher shots you’ll see.
Report Pairs: Experienced shooters consider the gun mount to be a part of their shot process and many find a slight dismount and remount helps on the second target. These may be incoming, outgoing or crossing. A single target is launched, with the second target launched at the sound of the shot.
True Pairs: Two targets launch simultaneously; it becomes complicated if one is a standard and the other a midi, mini, or battue. The “see” is critical here, as shooters need to plan which to hit first, or see if they can they break both with one shot.
Driven Shot: Similar to skeet station 8, in a driven shot, two simultaneous incoming targets are launched low and rising above the shooter. Right-handed shooters often break the right target and swing left, while the reverse is the case for southpaws.
Fur and Feathers: This crossing shot, which presents the shooter with a ground bouncing rabbit target and a low-flying clay, can be accomplished with true, report or following pairs. Many shooters prefer to take the rabbit as quickly as they can, since this keeps the flying clay within their field of vision. If you shoot the clay first, you can lose sight of the rabbit.
Tower Shot: The trap is located in an elevated tower as tall as 70 feet, and targets may come from behind the shooter as dropping outgoing birds or come toward the shooter. Outgoing birds need to be taken quickly with a lead below the bird. Incomers are best taken just before they come over the shooter.
Springing Teal: In this challenging presentation, the target rises straight up as high as 70 feet, and does it quickly, too. The shooter may encounter either a single or a true pair in this pattern. Lead on the rise is difficult since the muzzle blots out the bird. Many seasoned sportsmen find it best to delay their mount until the target has almost reached its apex and shoot as it hangs before dropping.
The Targets The target presentations in sporting clays are limited only by the imagination of the course designers and the terrain they have to work with. Another difference is the targets: Sporting clays also employs a variety of targets
• The midi (also called a “quail ”) is the same shape as a standard target, but with a smaller 90mm diameter. It leaves the trap faster and slows down faster. It’s often thrown in pairs with a standard target and will display different flight characteristics.
• The mini is a scaled-down version of the standard clay target. It’s fast out of the trap, and sometimes requires a tighter choke because its tiny size can let it slip through a pattern unscathed. These “doves” can be thrown as two targets or mixed with standards or midis.
• The “duck” is 110mm wide but only 3/8-inch high with a slight dome. It doesn’t fly like other clays. Battues are flat when they leave the trap and then turn onto their side in flight. They’re tough to hit when flat, and shooters need to wait until they make the turn to consistently break them.
• The Rabbit (also called the “jackrabbit”) is a clay is similar in size to the standard target but with no raised dome, and has a reinforced rim to allow it to bounce along the ground when it is launched. Its scurrying “flight” is definitely a challenge to follow.
• “Poison birds” are an additional challenge that can show up anywhere, except as true pairs. They are distinctly different and easily identifiable. A shooter who fires at one scores a miss. Refrain from shooting and it’s scored a hit.