Shooting Sporting Clays

Shooting Sporting Clays, and Why It's Making You Better

Here is why you should take up sporting clays.

People often describe sporting clays as "golf with a shotgun." It's a fair description. You're moving from one shooting station to another, taking on many different shooting angles and scenarios much like a golfer takes different shots at the course.

But shooting sporting clays can do more than just improve your wingshooting.

Want to get informed about all the ways taking up clay shooting can make you better? Some aren't obvious, but they're all beneficial.

What is sporting clays?

Shooting sporting clays is different than other forms of clay target shooting; unlike with skeet shooting, you'll never shoot the same station twice in an outing. The number of stations varies from setup to setup, but you're generally looking at 10-18, and you'll be shooting at five to 10 targets at each of these spots.

The throwers for each station are setup differently to throw at different altitudes and angles. Some may shoot out high, others may hang low. You never know what you're going to get. At some spots you might be dealing with multiple clay targets. It really depends on how each place sets up their course.

The idea is to keep score to compete with your buddies. If you weren't seeing the comparisons to golf before, they should be a little more obvious now. Many sporting clays courses even utilize golf carts to get from station to station!

How it makes you better at hunting

One of the main reasons sporting clays was developed in the first place was as a kind of real-world practice for bird hunting scenarios. Without knowing where the clay pigeons are going to be coming from, the shooter is faced to make split second decisions on the multiple target presentations they'll face. Game birds are unpredictable and don't always fly away at a perfect angle for the hunter.  The different shooting stations help to simulate those conditions. So, the next time you sight down a quail or pheasant, you have a better chance of hitting it. 

Remember those low clay throws we mentioned earlier? Some people use those as practice for rabbit hunting.

This also presents the opportunity to practice shots at varying distances and from differing elevations. Many sporting clays courses will have you shooting from an elevated position, but the clays may be flying high above or down below you.

People tend to make bird hunting look easy in videos, but a day of sporting clays can quickly show if you need more practice or not!

Other than maybe helice shooting, there is no other form of shotgun sport that more closely resembles hunting conditions than this. Shooting clays also allows you the chance to try out new ammo loads before you hit the field. This will build confidence since you will know how it patterns before you ever take a shot at game.

Every hunter should run through a few sporting clays courses before they head afield for the first time. If you can get good at bringing down clay birds on a sporting course, you've got a good chance of bringing home dinner when you head out.

How sporting clays makes you safer

Whenever you're dealing with firearms, safety is your number one and biggest priority. Sporting clays is a great way to teach new shooters many of the things they need to know before they go hunting. From eye protection to ear protection, clay pigeon shooting is a great opportunity for instilling the basics. It also gives them a chance to make new friends in their hobby when introduced to a gun club. 

Other clay shooting sports like trap shooting can't replicate conditions like the bird flying behind a tree or close to the ground. Sporting clays helps sharpen your senses for target awareness.

This is also a good place to practice barrel discipline. You probably know the rule: never point your firearm at anything you don't want to destroy.

With sporting clays, you can introduce some variables for a newer hunter to practice. You can designate a specific rock or tree as a person or home. The new shooter can then practice the discipline of not swinging their barrel over said spot. This is especially important if you're hunting in a group in thick brush where it's easy to lose the line of sight on everyone in your party.

In between shooting stations, you can practice things like walking with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and keeping the breech open to show others your firearm is unloaded.

How it makes you a better shooter in general

If you can master the art of going through a sporting clays course, you can pretty much master any type of shooting. Sure, different types of firearms shoot in vastly different ways and you're likely not going to be leading your target with a rifle or pistol.

But making a long shot on a 150-pound whitetail deer is going to seem easy by comparison when trying to take out two clays screaming away from you at 50 yards through the treetops.

Another way sporting clays makes you a better shooter is by allowing you a way to practice shooting with both eyes open. Most experts agree this is a more effective way to shoot, but for some people it can be hard. Sporting clays gives you a safe avenue to work on these techniques.

In fact, it may be a better place to hone these skills because of how quickly you must acquire and focus on your target. Some scenarios might not give you time to think about it.

Sporting clays is also a great place to work on your form without the worry of winging or injuring an animal that can't be recovered. The more confident you are on the clays course, the more birds you'll bring home out hunting.

And if you can get confident swinging a shotgun to shoot sporting clays, it should be no problem to sight down a big buck moving slowly through the brush.

How it makes for a better social life

This may seem like a strange thing to mention, but hear me out. No matter the form of clay pigeon shooting, it doesn't have to be just about competing or practicing for the hunt. It can also simply be a place to spend time with friends and loved ones in the outdoors. Is there really a better way to unwind from a rough work week than joking around with your buddies over some friendly competition and a few boxes of shotshells?

It can also make for a safe, comfortable environment for older hunters who maybe can't get around as well as they used to or can't handle the cold and harsh conditions of hunting anymore. You can take your grandfather or grandmother out on a warm comfortable day and enjoy some great bonding time with the family.

Overall, shooting sporting clays is a great way to get in some practice with your favorite shotgun and have a lot of fun while doing it. What are you waiting for? Find a course, grab some shells and get shooting today!

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels