Unlike some of the more visible team sports, clay pigeon shooting sports may be new to many. They consist primarily of three types: skeet, trap and sporting clays, but they all involve shooting a shotgun at a clay target. But there’s much more to it – and lots of opportunity for fun.
“We can get you started, from the beginner who’s never shot to whatever level of competition you desire,” says Brian Hughes, owner of Quail Ridge Sporting Clays in McLoud, who shot competitively for more than two decades before purchasing his club a couple of years ago. He encourages everyone to give these sports a try.
Quail Ridge specializes in sporting clays, which, as Hughes describes it, creates a kind of hunting scenario.
“You’re out in the woods, or in a field, or around the pond or whatever the setting of the club may be,” he says. He compares it to a golf course in that shooters follow a trail of stations that go through woods or pastures. Each station has different kinds of targets that may throw toward the shooter, away from the shooter, crossing, falling, and even rabbit targets that run across the ground.
Skeet shooting and trapshooting are the two other main forms of clay target shooting (also known as pigeons or birds). These disciplines are more stationary than sporting clays and involve the mechanical throwing of a clay target from a “house” in a variety of locations and angles. And all of these sports can be played competitively, up to the Olympic level.
But many who enjoy the activity are simply “looking for a nice day outside with friends and family,” says Hughes.
There are a couple different kinds of amateurs within these sports. There’s the true beginner who hasn’t held a shotgun before – those who have a gun they have inherited in the closet that they’d like to put to use. Then, there are the people who hunted or shot targets in the past and want to pick it up again. That is Matthew Riggin’s story. He got back into shooting about 20 years ago and now serves as the Tulsa Gun Club board president.
“The nice thing is that young and old, men, women, they all come out and they all have fun,” says Riggin as he describes the more than 1,000 people who shoot at the Tulsa Gun Club, a member-led non-profit.
The Tulsa Gun Club has been around for nearly 100 years in its location in northeast Tulsa. Members and guests can practice shooting skeet, trap and sporting clays there, as well as get direction and training from instructors. They even offer a First Shots program for the uninitiated to allow beginners to get a feel for the sport without significant purchases.
“They can truly come with nothing more than an open mind and a willingness to try and experience the game,” says Riggin. “The best feeling in the world is when you hit a target straight on, and it just dusts into a big starburst, and you know you were right on that target.”