Sporting chance: Varieties of clay help keep challenge fresh

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Burning powder, friendly competition and a chance to sharpen wingshooting skills are factors bringing more shooters to sporting clay courses every year, a sport with unlimited growth potential according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
For hunters who carry a shotgun afield, there are rarely two live game shooting opportunities exactly alike, and most vary widely from one to the next. The best way to practice shotgun shooting has always been using clay targets. While interest in traditional skeet and trap shooting remains strong, venues where target presentations are reasonably predictable from one setup to the next, possibly the greatest groundswells of popularity ever seen in the shooting arena is occurring in a practice often called “golf with a shotgun.”
According to national associations here in the U.S., the sport originated in England in the 1880s. It took its time crossing the Atlantic but, once it made landfall, its popularity spread like wildfire.
new day for shooters
The first national competition here was organized by the Orvis company in 1983, two national sporting clay associations were formed within the next two years and, today, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, roughly a half million shooters burn powder and break clay at least 25 days per year each.
Sporting clay courses generally consist of 10 to 15 stations, each offering a unique target presentation. A full round includes 60 or more targets and is scored on a sheet not unlike a golf scorecard. Also like golf, each station’s character and challenge is unique, and the great courses offer a nice balance of punishment and reward. Targets may be thrown from behind, below, above or in front of the shooter, flying directly toward, directly away or any variation between.
In addition to the varied presentations, clay target makers offer a variety of target shapes and sizes that are seen in the sporting clay discipline only. Standard sized targets, the same variety offered in traditional skeet and trap, make up the majority of the course. These targets measure 4.25 inches and about one inch high. Rockets are the same diameter and a fraction flatter. Midi targets are shaped just like the standards but measure 3.25 inches across. Mini targets measure only 2.375 inches across. Rabbits and battues are roughly the same diameter as standard targets. Rabbits have a thick edge to tolerate being rolled along the ground, and the battues are wafer thin, forcing shooters to wait until they turn full profile in the air before firing.
Between the setups and the targets, the opportunity for a new challenge is everywhere.