Have you ever heard of helice shooting?
Don't feel bad if you haven't, many sportsmen have never heard of it either.
This game combines the unpredictable nature of bird hunting with shooting clays.
It's wild fun that will challenge even the most disciplined of skeet and trap shooters. Here is how it's done.
Origins and basics
Interestingly, there isn't a whole lot of information out there about the history of this game. It originated in Belgium sometime during the 1960s, but there is some confusion because this game also goes by two other names.
It is sometimes referred to as Electrocibles (what a cool name), or more often, ZZ bird shooting. While researching, I found two different explanations for the ZZ bird name. One says ZZ refers to the zig-zag pattern the targets take. The other says the creator of the game used to shoot a type of pigeon called a zurito and the first ZZ targets were made of zinc, thus the "ZZ."
Which one is correct? I have no idea, but we're going to assume it isn't the main thing you wanted to know. There is a U.S. Helice Association, but on the surface, the practice seems a little more popular overseas.
On the surface, helice seems very similar to your standard clay pigeon shoot, but the main difference is you've got a target made of two different plastic pieces: the witness cap and the propellors.
The witness cap is shaped much like a clay pigeon. The main difference is that this witness cap fits onto an orange piece with plastic propellers. To some, it makes the whole set up look like a clay pigeon from hell.
It's this unique target design that makes helice so much fun. This is pretty much the closest you can get to live bird shooting without heading afield with dog and gun in hand. A helice target flies incredibly randomly and at high speeds which means much of the shooting is done on pure instinct.
Just as unique as the target is the setup, which plays heavily into the rules for this game. The setup features a shooting stand not unlike what you'd find with clay shooting. The big difference is there are five launchers, each one holding two targets. But shooters only take on five targets at a time. The reason for those five extras will make sense in a minute. It should be noted there is also a variant that utilizes seven launchers.
Just like with clay shooting, once in the shooting stand, the shooter calls pull to release the targets. You get two shots to hit each target. This is where helice varies dramatically from any type of clay shooting.
The helice targets are rotated rapidly by the machine and once released, thanks to those plastic wings, they take off on an unpredictable flight path that can't be replicated by any clay target.
Some of the targets go high and fast while others stay low to the ground. Unlike sporting clays, you never know which way a helice target is going. It's easy to see why this style was made because it closely resembles hunting live pigeons or doves.
The basic idea behind the whole thing is that the launching of the targets is completely randomized. You never know which one is going to launch next.
Remember that extra target on each machine? That's so savvy shooters can't predict the next launch via process of elimination. All in all, it's a pretty clever design for a game that even the professionals are going to find difficult.
Helice varies greatly from trap or skeet in that you're not just trying to hit the plastic target. When you watch videos of helice, you might notice a semicircular fence in the back of the helice ring. This fence isn't there randomly. It comes into play in the game. In order to score a hit, you don't just have to hit the target, you must separate the witness cap from the propeller portion AND the witness cap must fall inside the fence to count.
That means you can score a hit on a target, but if the witness cap separates and falls over the back of the fence, you're out of luck. There are also times where the witness cap doesn't separate at all. If it doesn't, that's an unfortunate miss by helice standards. You also can't shoot the target once it crosses the fence.
It is little wonder most shooters who try helice describe it as one of the most humbling shooting games you can try. It's hard enough to hit such an erratic, fast target, but there are so many other intangibles in play that you can do little to change. A match consists of just 30 targets, but because of the unpredictable nature of the targets, a perfect score is incredibly rare, even with professional shooters.
Most matches take an entire day to complete, longer if you have a lot of shooters. You may only be shooting 30 targets, but as far as shotgun sports go, you'd better set aside some time for the competition.
Shooters get two shots at each of the targets, so the most popular helice gun is usually an over-and-under shotgun. There are some people who use semi-autos, but in general, over and unders are generally thought of as the only guns fast enough for helice because each target is only in the air for a few seconds.
Under U.S. Helice Association rules, the largest gun you can use is a 12 gauge and you're limited to factory-load shells (Sorry to all the reloaders out there).
Most helice shooters are using a setup like what they'd use for bird hunting, because that's what this most closely resembles. Many shots are at a distance, so you might want a tight choke, but preference varies from shooter to shooter.
You'll want a shotgun with a fast and smooth swing, because you won't have much time to think about your form once the birds start flying.
Finding a place to shoot
Unfortunately for most of us, helice shooting is much more popular in Europe than it is here in the United States. A bigger challenge than the game itself is probably just finding a place to shoot! The machines and targets are expensive, so many gun clubs just don't have a setup.
In fact, the U.S. Helice Association only lists 16 helice ranges in only seven states. Texas leads the way with five of them. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't more, but you might have to do some asking around to find one.
If you're wanting to add a helice setup to your local club, you're in for another challenge. While you can find the targets for sale online, it's tough to find the launchers for sale at all. You'll need to be resourceful to bring this game to your local area.
The good news is, if you do find a place to shoot, it's a great alternative to trap and skeet shooting for shooters who have gotten bored of those types of competition. Also, it's a good way to prep for the upcoming bird hunting seasons!