The Past, Present, and Future of Sporting Clays

Hunting, Hunter, Shotgun, clays

Sporting Clays is a form of clay pigeon shooting that has been described as “golf with a shotgun”. A typical course includes 10 to 15 different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain, and ranges are usually no smaller than 35 acres for safety reasons.

This shooting sport is distinct from other games such as skeet and trap shooting due to the fact that it simulates the thrill of real hunting by offering a wide variety of trajectories, angles, speeds, elevations, distances, and target sizes.

The Past:

Antique Clay pigeons, claysWhile sporting clays has become extremely popular in America in recent decades, the sport can actually trace its origins back to Great Britain in the early 1900s. At the turn of the twentieth century, several British shooting schools began using gold targets to practice for upcoming hunts. It wasn’t long before clay was adopted, rather than expensive heaps of gold, as the material of choice for this burgeoning new pastime.

In 1925 the first British Open was held in England, and sporting clays has been steadily gaining popularity since. However, Americans wouldn’t get their first taste of the sport until 1980 when Author Bob Brister wrote an article about it in Field & Stream Magazine. Not even a year later, Remington’s Lordship Gun Club in Connecticut would hold the first American sporting clays competition. A total of 90 shooters participated in the event, including executives from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

A vintage field and streams magazine cover, clays issue

By the mid 1980s a large number of American organizations, courses, and competitions began to pop-up all across the country. In 1985 Huston, Texas hosted the ever U.S. National Sporting Clays Championship. The Orvis Company sponsored this first event, and continues to promote the sport today via the annual Orvis Cup.

In 1989, the National Skeet Shooting Association formed the National Sporting Clays Association or NSCA to provide rules, regulations, and best practices for the sport, and to promote Sporting Clays across the country and world. You can find more info about the sport HERE at the NSCA website.

The Present:

Today sporting clays is one of the fastest growing sports in America. More than three million people of all ages to participate in this excellent pastime both competitively and recreationally.

rubbish container with broken shotguns, rifles and other old weapons

The sport is popular with shotgun enthusiasts, and the shotguns used are typically not standard. However, every shotgun used for sporting clays must be capable of shooting two 12 gauge cartridges or smaller. The most popular shotguns that you’ll see out on modern courses are over-and-under, semi-automatic, and pump-action.

yellow ear protection and camouflage ammunition belt for rifleSafety is crucial to enjoying the pastime of sporting clays. Proper ear and eye protection are mandatory on most if not all courses. The National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) Rule Book lists firearms safety procedures, and should be followed at all times while on a course.

A traditional sporting clays course consists of 10 to 15 stations, and each station uses trap machines to launch the targets. Typically shooters are presented with 6 to 10 targets, thrown in pairs, at each station, for a total outing of 50 to 100 targets per person for the entire course. Usually a squad of up to six shooters participates.

plat machine for sporting clays

The possibilities for target presentations are endless, and typically only limited by safety considerations, the terrain, and the imagination of the course designer. Station configurations are often changed to keep things interesting for participants, as well as for the environmental preservation of the course.

A shooting clays tower at longmeadow event center

Each station is unique, and a wide variety of hunting conditions can be simulated by combining various speeds and angles with different types of clay targets. While at a given station, shooters might see targets flying across from either side, coming inward, going outward, flying straight up, rolling on the ground, arcing high in the air, or thrown from towers. I all adds the the trill and unpredictability of the game!

The Future:

While no one truly knows for sure what the future will bring for the great pastime of sporting clays, one thing we do know for sure is that technology will continue to make improvements to the courses, guns, and equipment that we use to enjoy this wonderful hobby. Sporting clays and shooting competitions have continued to experience explosive growth of both participants and attendees in recent years. These competitions use some of the most modern and hi-tech equipment available, giving shooters a glimpse of the endless possibilities that sporting clays can provide its avid enthusiasts.

shooting clays competition

For us here at Longmeadow Game Resort and Event Center, the future is now thanks to our brand new, state-of-the-art sporting clays course! 

Men at a shooting clays course

A picture of a shooting clays tower at longmeadow events centerLONGMEADOW SPORTING CLAYS COURSE OPENING IN SEPTEMBER! Opening Event will be the Morgan County Golden Stars Shoot on September 10, 2016! The course will be open to the public by reservation after that date.  Our new course is an easy one hour drive east of Denver, Colorado off of I-76 and HWY 52 and features year-round sporting clays action on one of the newest, most exciting country clays courses in Colorado. Our course is laid out along a beautiful stretch of Antelope Creek. Each of the sporting clays stations can be reached by foot, ATV or golf cart. (Carts & ATVs not provided)

The course features 15 fully automated stations, including a 30′ tower with both elevated and ground level shooting positions. This allows maximum flexibility in target presentations and simulation of the most realistic targets possible.

To learn more about this exhilarating pastime and Longmeadow’s new sporting clay course, check out our Sporting Clays Page! Interested in pricing? Look here at our Rates Page!