SPORTING CLAYS – A BRIEF EXPLANATION
Here at Canandaigua Sportsmen’s Club, we can shoot many types of weapons on different courses or ranges. Rifle, pistol, and shotgun can all be shot on the rifle and or pistol ranges at stationary targets. Pistol shooters can also shoot at steel targets (club-hosted events only; no member steel allowed). What makes Canandaigua different from a lot of gun clubs, is we also have a sporting clays course.
Sporting clays is not a new sport/game by any means. First started in England in the early 1900s, it soon became popular as a way to practice live bird shooting, without the live birds. When sporting clays arrived in the U.S. in the early 1980s, it was a totally new shotgun game. Designed to simulate hunting wild game, the sport caught on quickly and became popular. Sometimes referred to as golf with a shotgun because just like no two golf courses are exactly the same, neither are any two sporting clay courses the same.
Generally, a sporting clay course can be set up on most any type of terrain, including swampy, wooded, or open fields. A round of sporting clays is usually 50 or 100 targets (clay birds), depending how the club has its course set up. Some of the larger clubs may have two or three separate sporting clay courses. Most clubs have between 12 and 20 shooting stations on each course.
Since the courses are designed to simulate hunting situations, a shooter can use most any type of shotgun, capable of holding two shots. Experienced shooters often desire to use over/under shotguns. Two advantages of an over‐under gun include: you can have separate chokes in each barrel, and the shells don’t fly onto the ground when fired, a desirable feature if you reload your shells.
Because many people shoot sporting clays to keep their wing‐shooting skills sharp for hunting season, many shooters shoot the same shotgun they hunt with. Pump action, side by side doubles, and auto loaders are all popular types. The majority of hunters shoot mostly 12 gauge, but a 20 gauge is not a handicap on most courses. Sub-gauge guns (20 gauge, 28 gauge, and even .410 gauge) are getting more popular each year due to less recoil, are cheaper to reload, and generally more fun to shoot.
Shooting is done in squads, usually between two and six people. They travel a specific path from station to station. At each station, they are required to shoot at various targets in a specific order as indicated by the menu displayed on the shooting stand. Each person shoots the same menu. The birds can be thrown one at a time (singles), as a pair at the same time (doubles), or as a report pair, where the second bird is thrown when the shooter fires at the first bird. The birds or clay targets can appear at different distances, speeds, or angles depending how the traps are set that day.
There are five basic targets use: a standard or full‐size target is 110 mm in diameter. This is the same clay target used in trap or skeet shooting. There is also a midi target, which is 90 mm in diameter. A midi target travels at a faster speed due to weighing less. The smallest target is a mini target measuring only 60 mm in diameter. Sometimes, because they are harder to see, a mini target puts the shooter to the true test. Lastly, there are specialty targets; the most fun being a rabbit target. Like the full‐size target, the rabbit is 110 mm in size and rolls and bounces across the ground, just like our furry friends. Next is a battue target, also 110 mm in diameter It is very thin, presenting little or no visible area for the shooter to see or the shot to hit and break until it begins to slow, then it turns on edge, presenting a full size profile (while also falling from the sky).
Safety is always top-of-mind with all shooters, and there are a few basic rules of which all sporting clay shooters comply, no matter what club to which they belong. First, eye and ear protection. Second, guns are never loaded with more than two shells unless shooting a special event like a flurry. Third, guns are always to remain empty unless the shooter is on a shooting station and it’s his/her turn to shoot. Forth, guns are always opened and emptied before shooter steps off of the shooting station. Lastly, only standard shells with shot no larger than 7‐1/2 size is allowed.
Costs vary from club to club, private or public, and usually run between $14 and $18 for 50 targets, (double for 100 targets). Your supply your own ammo. Reloads are allowed except at many registered tournaments. In comparison, you can’t shoot too many center‐fire handguns or rifles today with factory ammo for that price, so I’d say costs are very similar to other venues.
Sporting clays is a great way to keep your wing‐shooting skills sharp in between hunting seasons. It’s even more fun if you bring your son or daughter along for a walk-in-the-woods. Check out our Youth Clays Program that makes it easier and less costly than ever for youngsters to learn clay shooting!
Our sporting clays course is open Wednesdays from 1 until about 6 p.m. (last start time is 6 p.m. or one hour before dusk) and Sundays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. (last start time is 12:30 p.m.) .Come out with a few friends and have some fun! There are plenty of experienced members who will be glad to let you shoot with them or go with you and show you the ropes.