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What is Sporting Clays?

(Source: adapted from Sporting Clays Magazine – Online Edition)

Wingshooting with a shotgun had its origins in England in the mid-eighteenth century. In the next century live pigeon shoots became popular, reaching their peak toward the end of the Victorian era.  In 1880, American inventor George Ligowski invented a replacement for live bird targets made of baked clay, and modeled after the clamshells he used to skim across water.

The first clay target game was called trap, after the device used to hold and release live birds.  Next, a new shooting game called skeet was developed in New England that was designed to approximate the fast, close-range shooting found in that area's grouse coverts.

Meanwhile back in England, the demand to perform at estate shoots on driven game gave rise to a number of shooting schools.  These schools, in turn, adapted Ligowski's clay pigeon to use on practice fields of targets that approximated the flight of live quarry, as the English like to call it.  Thus Sporting clays was born. 

In sporting clays the clay targets are therefore presented to the gunner in ways that mirror the flight pattern of game birds, or occasionally rabbits, in their natural habitats. The shooting grounds are laid out in stations, with each station representing one type or a combination of types of targets. 

At each station, clay targets are generally thrown in pairs, five or so targets to the station.  A course consists of several stations, usually five to ten, where 50 or more may be presented over the course.  Sometimes birds from the same traps are shot from different positions, so the gunner sees the same target from entirely different angles, creating entirely new shooting challenges.  With variations in trap position, trap speed, shooting position, and flight paths, targets can come through the trees, from under your feet, straight down, over your head, quartering, going away, left to right, right to left, and in any path a real bird might choose.  The key words are unpredictable and variable.

Although the British Open, England's premier sporting clays competition, dates back to 1925, sporting clays has made its greatest gains in popularity in England within the last 20 years.  Meanwhile it took a while for the sport to make it to America.  In 1985, the Orvis Company hosted the first national sporting clays championship at its Houston facilities.  Today, sporting clays is the fastest growing shooting sport in the USA.  Surveys from the National Shooting Sports Foundation boast that well over one half million shooters now log over 25 days a year sampling targets called "minis," "midis," "battues," "springing teal," and "rabbits" from sporting's testy menu.

    Really all we need to begin enjoying the game of sporting clays are (1) a mechanically sound shotgun that will cycle two shots in rapid succession (available for rent at the range) and (2) a clear understanding that everyone, everyone , misses sporting clays targets.

            The Sleepy Creek Sports range is best described as a comfortable approximation of the wooded live game type of environment – “Sporting Clays the way it was meant to be”.  While many US sporting clay ranges are located in open fields, often under blazing sun, the shooter at Sleepy Creek Sports enjoys shade from the forest within which the range is located.  The range also provides a most relaxing environment within which to learn to shoot.  Check your ego at the door, fill your pockets with shotshells, and come join the fun.

Visit our Shooting School web page by clicking here.

Sleepy Creek Sports
Berkeley Springs
(202) 870-7709