By Jim Kesel
Sporting Clays is still growing in popularity within the shotgun sports community. The lack of availability of clays course in many parts of the country prevents many shotgun enthusiast from enjoying the sport. The cost of setting up a 10 to 12 station course is beyond the financial ability of most rural clubs. Even investing into a 5 stand with ten stations means the purchase of 10 to 12 traps, which is also a major investment. Setting up a good quality skeet and trap field is much more reasonable.
While skeet and trap shooting are still popular they tend to become as one of my sons observed, “boring”. In many ways traditional as they are, trap and to a lesser degree skeet are an unnatural approach to shotgun shooting as it relates to the real world of bird hunting. How often do you follow your bird dog around with the gun mounted to your shoulder? In addition it does not take too long with practice to shoot a perfect round of trap and a while longer to do so on the skeet field. Shooting a clean round of sporting clays is no mean feat of accomplishment. Many will argue that I am comparing apples to oranges and some will even cry heresy. Sporting clays is much more challenging but many times finding a place to shoot clays can also be a challenge.
However, if the local skeet and trap club has an existing combination skeet and trap field, it is possible with little effort make your sport much more challenging and interesting. Utilizing both skeet house and the trap houses at the same time will provide shooters different and interesting target options. Our course of 50 targets is shot from the low gun position. It is begun using skeet stations 1,2,6,7 where the shooter under takes a normal course of fire for skeet including doubles. This followed by a report pair consisting of a single target is thrown from each skeet house and upon report a single from the trap house is thrown for a total of 7 target presentations. At skeet stations 3,4 and 5 using the normal skeet protocol of a single bird from each house would be followed by a report pair off the first target thrown from the trap house followed by target using both the high and low house. Each station would present 6 targets to each shooter. At station 8 the normal skeet protocol is used with a single bird from each house.
Through out the course, a total of 48 targets are thrown with two option targets to be used at the time of a target miss or without any loss at the shooters discretion. This provides for a 50 target presentations or about half the number of targets presented at standard sporting clays course. The most appealing aspect of the using the existing combination skeet and trap field is of course the monetary savings.
We initially tested our course of fire using experienced sporting clays shooters. This included one shooter with a low 90’s average. They reported that the course was much more challenging than they first anticipated. Granted it is not the same course of fire as a standard clays course but it still was challenging to the point that so far only one shooter has completed the course clean. Two additional people have broke 98 targets to date.
We also invited trap and skeet shooter to test out our course as well. It was surprising how well they did on the course. One trap shooter broke 89 targets on his first round using a 20 gauge and stated he would definitely be back to shoot with us again. The number one complaint given was about the required low gun position where the entire firearm had to be positioned below the waist of the shooter. This was later modified to require the butt of the firearm below the waist. It was surprising that this change did not result in higher scores. As expected some of the died in the wool skeet and trap shooters did not care for the course. However, the vast majority thought it was fun and that is what shotgun sports are all about. Sporting clays shooters commented about the lack of rabbit targets being a significant difference between Standard clays and our course.
As we developed our course of fire we tried to think of a name for our endeavor. Names such as “3 Stand”, “Short Clays”, and “Hunters Clays” were proposed with the majority of people calling 3 Stand. As far as we are concerned we call it just plain fun. One observation that caught my attention was that after using the low gun shooting position, shooters were amazed about how much time they really had to break targets. Other comments that were noted included that shooters were able to focus better on the bird from the low gun position.
So if you belong to a range, sportsman’s or conservation club with a combination skeet and trap field, you can easily convert it to a 3-stand course of fire. Of course some clubs could devise their own course of fire to meet their facilities and needs. The cost is zero and it may attract additional shooters to your club and its shoots. It may even make you a better shooter. One thing it is not and that is boring. Sporting clays is fun and challenging and now it can be more available to the average shooter.
James A. Kesel, MS