Make your own sporting clays course
Photo by J. Wayne Fears
A skilled launch operator can make this informal one-launch sporting clays course a challenge.
Most of us who hunt upland game would like to have more time shooting clay targets. It is a fun way to sharpen your wing-shooting skills.
While there are many excellent sporting clays, skeet and trap courses in the country, there may not be one near you. If you would like your own “back 40” clay target range, here is an easy way to set up a simple five-position clays course using one target launcher.
This little course can be set up and taken down for an afternoon shoot or made permanent.
One-day or temporary course
When setting up a temporary, also called a one-day course, select an area where it is safe for shot to fall within the boundaries of your property. Find where a target launcher may be set up to throw clay targets in the open out to 50 or 60 yards. I like to set up my course so that almost all clay targets are hit in a 50-yard diameter within the flight path of the thrown targets (see illustration).
Select a target launcher in good repair with a guard around the throwing arm. It should be mounted on a tripod or solid platform so it throws targets consistently down range. I like a machine that can throw two clay targets at once. It is important to have a launcher that can throw targets 40 yards or more and is adjustable for elevation. If “running rabbits” are a desired target, the launcher must have that capability.
Position the target launcher and have someone throw a few targets while you go down range and select four to six shooting positions where the shooter has a challenging shot, the target is quartering away from the shooter and the launcher is not in his field of view. Place a stake at the position with a number on it for those interested in record keeping.
Select shooting positions that take advantage of the topography, trees and brush to make the shot as much like a real hunting scenario as possible. I like the first position to be near the target launcher for a fast going-away shot. The second position will be a left-to-right crossing shot — also good for doubles. The third position is further down the flight path of the target behind some brush. It is a slower left-to-right shot, very difficult for many. The fourth position on my course is on the other side of the target flight path. It is a high right-to-left shot. The fifth position is near the launcher and is a sharp and fast right-to-left shot.
Use your imagination, but always think about safety.
Permanent one launch course
Make permanent one-launcher course following the same guidelines. The major differences are the clay target launcher may be permanently located on a solid base in a small shed designed to give the operator solid protection from stray pellets and housing the launcher out of the weather. Each shooting position may have permanent barriers to limit the swing of the shotgun. Near the end of the target flight path one shooting position may be constructed so the shooter has to spot the target and shoot almost straight overhead from a sitting position.
Again it is up to the imagination and the safety of the shooters. — J. Wayne Fears
Prepared to launch — about the Champion Skybird
The clay target launcher I use is the Champion Skybird mounted on a tripod, a well-made sturdy machine that has safety guards around the throwing arm. It is capable of throwing standard clay targets to 70 yards and can send one or two targets downrange at a time. It is adjustable for throwing targets at various elevations and at varying angles. With some minor adjustments it can also throw rabbit targets. The throwing arm is cocked from a convenient ¾ position, which allows the operator to load targets quickly and safely, then fully cock the arm with a short easy pull. Tension on the mainspring is adjustable to control the distances the targets are thrown.
The Skybird weighs only 20 pounds and is about $145. Learn more at www.championtarget.com. — J.W.F.