To put it simple; it's like golf with shotguns.
Now that's a gross simplification, but really, walking the 15 sporting clay stations at Birds Landing Hunting Preserve is similar to strolling a links course.
My wife Christine and I have been shotgun fans for years, but our shooting has pretty much been limited to casual, backyard contests. On a recent Saturday, we decided to challenge ourselves with a round of 100 clays at Birds Landing.
The course, which is surrounded by rolling hills dotted with huge wind energy turbines, is as beautiful as it is challenging.
Birds Landing also offers hunts for pheasent and chukar, but Christine and I would be hunting for round, clay discs.
At each station the shooter must hit two clay pigeons in six or eight rounds. Scoring is simple, one gets a point for each hit and a perfect score for the course is 100. One is expected to hit each pigeon with one shot.
We had brought two guns with us, both 12 gauge. I was using a Browning autoloader and Christine had a Browning over/under. On the first station the autoloader kept jamming as it tried to cycle the second road. After four missed clays, Christine and I decided to share the over/under.
Christine and I had never shot at a course before so it took us a few rounds to get used to the routine.
Actually, it took me a few rounds to get used to the routine. Christine was hitting four to six targets in each round. I was ice cold, missing every target on the first three stations.
Howling, swirling winds weren't making it easier. The wind would cause the slower clays to suddenly shoot off faster than the fast clay. Clays would also suddenly slow or make erratic turns.
Each station has a "high" and "low" target. Usually the "low" target was a bit easier, flying in a straight line at a slower pace. The targets are set to resemble the flight paths of different game birds, meaning each station offers a new challenge. (A hunter would say the wind helped make the sporting clays really move like authentic game birds.)
When one shooter is up, another operates a remote that activates the launchers to send clay pigeons flying onto the course. The shooting begins with the traditional call of "pull."
When we arrived at station four, I was trying to restrain my frustration. Christine's efforts to encourage me rang a bit hollow as she was struggling to contain her delight at shooting so well.
Before you shoot, the course allows you to pull a practice round. At station four the clays took off in straight lines moving away from each other, like a 'V'.
I took a deep breath, yelled "pull" and hit both targets. Not only did a hit them, I dusted them.
At that point I relaxed and started shooting a little better than 50 percent on each course. Christine's arms began to tire from lifting the Browning GTI for each shot and the recoil from 3/4 inch shells started to take a toll on her shoulder. After my slow start, I started to beat her on most rounds.
Each station presented a variety of different challenges. At one, a clay pigeon shot straight up into the air, requiring the shooter to time exactly when the pigeon would pause and start to fall. Other stations had pigeons flying fast by the shooting station on a downward trajectory.
One station even challenged a shooter with pigeons that rolled on the ground, mimicking a rabbit.
Timing and fluidity of motion is key. Shotgun shooting is far different from taking aim down the barrel of a rifle. One needs to anticipate the path of target, follow it in a smooth swift manner and then shoot at just the right moment.
It requires patience, timing and quick reactions, but it's really not that hard.
Walking the course took a couple of hours and was well worth the $40 for a round of 100.
Christine and I may have shot at around .500, but we had a great time. Oh, and Christine beat me by two points.
Birds Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays
Hours: April 1 to Sept. 30, Wednesday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Oct. 1 to March 31, Wednesday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Target Prices: 100 targets, $40; 50 targets, $22; 5-stand, 25 targets, $8.
Pheasant season, Sept. 18 to March 16
Chukar season, Sept. 18 to April 26
Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dogs/guide: Dog rental, $30; with guide, $95. (Reservations strongly advised). Dogs are required in the preserve.
For more information:
(707) 374-5092 email, firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.birdslanding.net">http://www.birdslanding.net