The single biggest thing you can do to take more birds when hunting is to practice shooting sporting clays in the off season. On this episode I give an overview of what sporting clays is, why it’s so helpful, what to expect your first time, the costs, and how you can find a course and get started. 

Here is the episode I mentioned in the show: How To Set A Realistic Annual Hunting Budget

Sporting clays is imperative for the wing shooter. Unless you can hunt birds constantly, sporting clays is the best way to develop and hone your shooting skills. Due to the variable shots, angles, speeds, and scenarios it provides significantly more realistic practice than trap shooting or skeet, though both are helpful. 

  1. Trap shooting involves shooting at clays as they are being launched away from you, like a bird flushing away. 
  2. Skeet shooting focuses on clays crossing in front of you, simulating passing shots, or birds being flushed from the side but flying into your field of fire.
  3. Sporting clays is kind of like those two crossed with golf. You typically have a 20-position course where clay targets are thrown from different angles, directions, and with different purposes to mimic a variety of realistic hunting scenarios. 

All three utilize clay targets often referred to as sporting clays, clay pigeons, clay targets, etc. 

To get started shooting sporting clays you first need to find a course. They tend to be much smaller than golf courses and are more easily hidden, sometimes close by and without much signage or fanfare. Search on Google and in the yellow pages or other local directory and ask around at local shops and local gunsmiths. There may be courses close by that you do not know about.

Once you find a course you may be easily able to schedule a day and time to come, else you may have to join a club. Weigh your options and do what is best for you. But I recommend trying to get access to a course at least twice a year in order to be regularly improving your skills. More is better of course, but it’s also more costly.

There is typically a fee to run the course plus the cost of ammo. Most courses are 100 targets, and some provide options for less or more. There may be other costs or options as well such as a golf cart, or hiring a guide/tutor to help you learn about the sport and how to shoot the course. I very much recommend paying the extra fee to get a seasoned shooter to go with you and train you. If you are shooting in a group, then you can often split the cost and it becomes more manageable.

This professional instruction is invaluable if you are new to sport and it’s something I think you should continue to pay for once every year or two in order to keep growing and improving.

Most courses require you to use target loads for safety reasons. Some enable you to bring your own ammo and some may require you to buy it there. Ask in advance so you can be well prepared.

Most importantly, you should listen to this entire podcast episode to get all of the details of how to start shooting sporting clays.