Looking for a new hobby to participate in during the shoulder season or to sharpen your target skills? Here at Prime Revolution, we are starting to explore the great wide world of shooting sporting clays. Here’s a little information on the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA), how to participate, and how it can help you be more successful on your next hunt.
Brief History of Shooting Sporting Clays
Tally-ho, mate! Odds are you are well familiar with the sport of shooting clay birds. Perhaps from watching scenes of old British aristocrats walking their estates and playing the game of “shooting golf” (pull!), or maybe you grew up in a shooting sports family.
Shooting schools were common in the early 20th century in Britain with the first sporting clays competition held in 1925. It took a little while for target-driven shooting competitions to make their way across the pond, however. The first official competition in the U.S. was in 1980 at the Remington’s Lordship Gun Club in Connecticut. The activity quickly became popular within the sporting world with more competitions and “annual gatherings” to follow. The National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) was officially established in 1989 in San Antonio, Texas, and became the governing body for the sport in the U.S.
Shooting sporting clays became a fun activity for anyone who wanted to practice their hunting skills and compete while doing it. Now it’s more popular than ever!
How to Play
Shooting clays is akin to playing golf in the sense that you shoot a course. However, no two sporting clays courses are ever the same so it would be like playing a new golf course every time! Like a golf game or even a frisbee golf game, shooting clays happens at 10 to 15 stations, like holes, in a group called a squad of two to six shooters. Some shooting courses even provide golf carts to get from station to station.
Each shooting station is meant to mimic real hunting conditions so courses often use the environment and natural settings like trees, brush, or hills as additional obstacles. And, again, like golf, each shooting squad must wait until the group ahead of them has finished their round to move on to the next station.
Once the shooters are at the station and signal to the referee by saying, “pull,” the clay pigeons are launched, sometimes two at a time, at different heights and angles. This is the difference between shooting clays and skeet shooting where clays are thrown at the same height every time. The shooter must then be strategic between which target presentation to go after, much like choosing which bird to point and shoot at!
Shooting sporting clays is meant to help your hunting game so the thrown targets will mimic a duck’s flying pattern, a pheasant that’s been flushed, or a rabbit running close to the ground. Some clays are even different sizes, either “minis” or “midis” to mimic different animals or game birds.
When a clay is hit, and any part of it is broken, it is considered a dead bird, and the score is marked by the referee. The number of stations and targets is established at the start of the game.
Guns and Safety
Any type of shotgun can be used to play but the most popular are 12- and 20-gauges. Experienced shooters tend to use an over/under to allow for two choke choices. New shooters will likely enjoy using a semi-automatic since there is less recoil.
The ammo used during shotgun sports varies and some gun clubs may even have restrictions on certain shells. Shot in the No. 7½ to No. 9 range is most commonly used, according to Let’s Go Shooting.
Guns should only be loaded at the station when it is your turn to shoot. When moving between stations, never point your gun at anything but the sky or ground and travel with the breech open to signal that it is not loaded. All shooters must wear eye and ear protection.
Shooting sporting clays is a great way for people new to hunting or shooting to get used to gun safety, being vocal about malfunctionings, and getting good target practice to help with confidence.
We love clay target shooting here at Prime Revolution! Mike and Joey Dianda are both registered with the NSCA and shoot in the Master Class division. They’ve even won awards for their wingshooting skills! Julie Dianda has recently joined in on the fun too and is working her way up the levels.
Now it’s time to get out there and bring down some clays!