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Thursday, August 25, 2016
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Hamilton County Outdoors -- 07/23/2014 Clay pigeons make elusive targets By Dick Nelson

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - Updated: 5:07 PM

This is generally the time of the year when upland bird and waterfowl hunters begin sharpening up on clay targets at trap, skeet and sporting clay facilities, the latter being more conducive to grouse and pheasant hunting.

Originally called "hunter's clays," sporting clays was developed to simulate upland game bird shooting and waterfowl hunting. Clay targets are thrown from traps hidden behind hedgerows, at treetop level, at the waterline or just about any location so targets simulate the flight of game.

Fields can be set up so shooters encounter "flushing quail," "springing teal" or "passing mallards." The idea is to use available terrain to create shooting situations that are both interesting and challenging.

For example, where waterfowl hunting is popular, sportsmen might want to design a sporting clay course to simulate the flight of geese and ducks. Upland shooters might design fields so targets simulate quail, grouse, woodcock or even running rabbits.

Automatic traps may add to the game, but they aren't necessary, so even a few individual sportsmen or a local sportsmen's club can design a field around their interest.

In England, where sporting clays originated and is still the number one shooting sport, targets are often thrown from inexpensive, hand-cocked (manual) traps, even for national tournaments.

A variety of features adds to the challenge and excitement of the sport and makes the game very similar to actual field shooting.

Gun position is "low gun" with the stock off the shoulder, and there can be up to a three-second delay after the shooter calls "pull" before the target is thrown.

There are "report pairs" in which a second target is thrown at the sound of the shooter's firing at the first target. There can also be "simultaneous pairs" (simos) in which both targets are released at the same time, just as in trap and skeet.

But unlike trap or skeet where the shooter uses five positions in trap and eight positions for skeet and the target flight patterns remain constant, in sporting clays the targets at each station are completely different.

In trap, standard size targets (about 5 inches in diameter) are thrown as singles. The height at which the targets are thrown is constant, as is the distance (50 yards). A squad of five shoots in rotation from five stations arranged in an arc, 16 yards behind the trap house.

Five targets are thrown at each station, after which the shooters move to their right. A total of 25 targets are thrown.

A round of skeet also consists of 25 targets, but differ in the way they are thrown. Standard size targets are released in sequence of singles and simultaneous doubles. Squads of five shoot from eight stations arranged in a semi-circle, with each shooter taking two singles and one double from stations 1, 2, 6 and 7. Two singles are taken from stations 3, 4, 5 and 8. The 25th target is taken after the first target is missed, or as a final target from low house 8.

In sporting clays -- which has often been referred to as “golf with a gun,” mainly because the distance between stations is measured in yards, rather than feet -- a round usually consists of 100 targets. The number of stations can vary between 10 and 15, depending on the size of the course.

In addition, there are several different size targets (standard, midi and mini) including those that break sideways (call a Battue) and others that run along the ground (Bouncing Rabbit).

At a 10-station course a shooter can expect to shoot at 10 targets (usually thrown as singles, report or simo pairs) at each station. On a course with a 15-station layout the number of targets can vary from four to eight.

One of the best things about sporting clays is changing the position of the shooting station or trap can easily vary the degree of difficulty to shoot the course. The game can be made easy or very difficult. Another attraction is the fact that good field shooters can do just as well, if not better than, competitive trap and skeet shooters.

For example, it’s not uncommon for an accomplished trap or skeet shooter to run 50 or 100 straight. On a difficult sporting-clays course, a score of 80 out of 100 targets would be considered a good score. And in competition, a shooter can miss several targets and still be in contention.

The type of shotgun one uses for trap, skeet and sporting clays is as different as the target presentations each of these games represent. In trap, the preferred gun is a 12-gauge single-barrel, preferably one that is 30 or 32 inches long.

The single sighting plane normally permits finer accuracy. And the longer barrel will hold a tighter pattern. Prices can vary as low as $300 to a high of $3,000 or more for a customized model.

Skeet guns are more complex inasmuch as the preference can vary with the shooter. Over-and-unders are definitely more popular than side-by-sides, but many skeet shooters prefer autoloaders.

As with the single barrel shotgun used for trap the single-sighting plane of an autoloader offers an opportunity for greater precision as well as greater speed for aiming. Still, the over-and-under seems to be the most popular.

The cost of a skeet gun can range between $600 and $6,000.

Since sporting clays is so different from trap and skeet it stands to reason that the preferred gun would be different. Not so much in design, because here too the over-and-under seems to be the most popular. But since the distance at which the target is released can vary between 25 and 60 yards, most sporting clays models are equipped with changeable chokes including full, modified, improved modified, improved cylinder, true cylinder and skeet. And it’s not uncommon for a shooter to use each of them as he or she goes around a course.

Chokes control the distance and pattern (diameter of the pellets) as they exit the barrel; the tighter the choke the tighter the pattern.

While a decent sporting clays gun can be purchased for as low as $800, they can run as high as your bank account will allow.

Regardless of whether you shoot trap, skeet or sporting clays, your accessories should always include shooting glasses and ear protection. Shooting gloves (although recommended) are optional.


Speaking of fundraisers, the New York Crossbow Coalition will hold its inaugural Fundraiser Banquet July 26 at the Ramada Inn, 1305 Buckley Road, Syracuse at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $55 each or $90 per couple, and includes a one-year NYCC membership, buffet dinner, one raffle ticket and a logo key chain. The buffet includes a prime rib carving station, southern fried chicken, baked haddock and accompaniments as well as non-alcoholic beverages. Cash bar available. Banquet and Sponsor packages are also available at $110 ($145 couple) and $250 ($285 couple) respectively.

For more information contact McDermott at (315) 882-1540 or


Anyone planning to purchase their first hunting, bowhunting or trapper licenses this year had better sign up for the mandatory class while there is still room. These classes fill fast, and if you don’t register for one close to home now you may not be able to register at all.

For a complete list of bowhunter classes visit, for gun hunter log onto and for a trapper course it’s

Stephen George will conduct a two-day Trapper Ed course at the Pine Hill Rifle Club Aug. 26-27, but you’ll have to visit to see if there is still room. The club is at 419 Johnson Ave. in Gloversville.

As for the registration system, it has changed quite a bit since I received my instructor’s certificate in 1970. Back then -- and for many years thereafter -- most classes were published in outdoor columns such as this, with the writer providing the class location, along with the instructor’s name and phone number.

Today, everything is computerized. While there is much of the new system DEC Sportsman Education Program Administrator Chuck Dente introduced that I like, there is one that should be revised, that being the online registration.

Not that there is anything wrong with online registration. It’s great for those who have a computer and access to the Internet, but anyone who doesn’t is going to have a difficult time locating and signing up for a class.


The U.S. Senate has effectively killed the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, a bill with substantive measures that would have enriched America’s hunting and sporting heritage.

Having been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), the bill failed to garner the necessary 60 votes that would have allowed it to proceed. The bill, which had been voted through a procedural motion just days earlier by 82-12, would have provided states with the ability to build more public shooting ranges, increase access for sportsmen and women on public land, and prevented the banning of lead ammunition.

“It’s very disheartening that the Senate process and partisan politics pulled down, for the second time in two years, a comprehensive sportsmen’s package that would have benefited this nation’s fish and wildlife resources as well as hunters and anglers”, said American Sportfishing Association Vice President Gordon Robertson.

“The failure had nothing to do with the merits of the bill and much to do with this year’s mid-term elections. Neither party wants to give an advantage to the other. Although we understand that this has always been the way of politics, we also understand that good public policy requires discipline to do what is right for the nation. The former is what killed this legislation and other recent bills in the Senate,” Robertson continued.

Dropping anchor ’til next time.

To contact Dick Nelson email


Aug. 9 -- The Speculator, Lake Pleasant & Piseco Fish and Game Club will sponsor its annual Bass for Cash partners bass fishing tournament on Oxbow Lake from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Launched from the Oxbow Motel, State Rt. 8, Piseco, registration is $50 per boat and can be done in advance by calling Tom Preston at (518) 548-7327 or prior to the start of the tournament. Registration forms are also available at the Oxbow Inn or Oxbow Motel. The event is limited to 50 boats and each boat is limited to five bass.

Only artificial lures or worms are permitted. ?Based on a full field a total of $2,150 in cash prizes will be awarded, with $750 for first place, $550 for second, $350 for third and $150 for fourth. Prizes will also be awarded for the best weight of pickerel and sunfish, lunker bass and tagged bass. ?In addition, the Piseco Fire Department will hold its annual Harley Raffle, Chicken & Pork Barbecue, and Clam Bake the same day at the Oxbow Inn. For more information on this call (518) 548-6400.

Aug. 19 -- Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation meeting, Fish House Fish and Game Club, 478 Fayville Rd., Providence, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28-30 -- The 2014 New York State Trappers Association Convention and Sportsman Show, Herkimer County Fairgrounds, Frankfort. Grounds and dealer buildings will be open Thursday from 12-6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. More than 80 venders and some two dozen seminars will take place from noon Thursday through 4 p.m. Sunday, immediately followed by the NYSTA membership meeting at 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for the entire weekend and free to anyone age 15 and under. RV camping is $18 per night (electric included), primitive camping $10 per night or $18 with electric hook-up, and tailgating $55 per spot. For Mapquest directions use 135 Cemetery St., Frankfort NY 13340. For more information and or reservations contact Wayne Jones at (716) 772-1059 or


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