Clay birds

Shooting sporting clays is a good way to hone your wingshooting skills for the upcoming dove season. (Photo by Terry L. Jones)

It’s never too early to get in shooting practice for the upcoming season

The dog days of summer may seem like an odd time of year to be thinking of wing shooting, but dove and teal season are just around the corner. So, August is, in fact, the perfect time to get out the old scattergun and start practicing for opening day.

Shooting clay birds is one of the best ways to sharpen your shotgun skills.

Skeet, five-stand and sporting clays are three ways to shoot clay birds. In each, a shotgun is used to shoot small, circular clay targets, called birds, that are thrown into the air from a machine called a trap. You are never too good or never too bad to learn from these practices.

Of these three activities, the five-stand and sporting clays offer the most realistic hunting scenarios.

The five-stand has five shooting stations laid out in a straight line with six trap houses scattered around them that throw the clay birds at different angles and heights.

Shooters take five shots from each station, and then rotate to the right until all five stations have been used. Except for the first shot at each station, the birds are report pairs, meaning that a second bird is launched at the report of the gun.

Sporting clays consist of a number of stations set along a wooded course that you walk or drive to in a golf cart.

Realistic shooting

Each station recreates a realistic shooting scene, such as a rabbit running across the ground, doves flying overhead or quail flushing. They also vary between single birds, simultaneous doubles, following pairs (one bird being launched immediately after the other), and report pairs.

The number of shots taken at each station varies, but one course round is either 50 or 100 shots. Studies show that the average shooter will score 35 to 40 percent on their first attempt.

Any shotgun, except perhaps a .410, is suitable for the clay bird sports, and chokes are largely a matter of personal preference. Modified and improved cylinder are the most popular, but modified is probably the best all-around choice. If you have screw-in chokes, just take both with you and change them out according to the type of shot that is presented.

Shot size is also a matter of choice, but you can use anything from #7.5 and up. Most shooters use #8s, although #9s are good if the shot is going to be really close. If you so desire, it is permissible to carry different size shot and use whichever is best for each scenario.

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