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Use Clay Days to Stay in the Groove Between Hunting Seasons

"Golf with a gun" during the off-season will help you fine-tune your aim for bird hunting.

Use Clay Days to Stay in the Groove Between Hunting Seasons
The Quail Creek Sporting Ranch offers three clays courses accessible to the public, with clay targets priced at 55 cents for non-members.

There’s a long stretch between the end of quail season and the start of fall duck hunts. To keep your skills fresh over the summer, make time to visit one of the many sporting clays ranges around Florida.

In sporting clays, disk-shaped clay targets, or “birds” are launched by automated mechanical throwing machines, called traps. Each station, spread out across the facility, delivers a different set of angles simulating game on the wing or on the ground. Some targets flush away from the shooter, bringing to mind quail or snipe. Some are inbound, like decoying ducks. Others pass high and fast, like dove. Some are thrown on edge low to the ground, rolling and bouncing across the field of view like a rabbit. Combinations are to be expected. It’s a lot of fun. And, it’ll make you a more proficient hunter.

Each clay’s range determines its own mix from station to station, typically 10 to 15 in number. The shooter may encounter a station where targets are thrown singly, one after the other (called a report pair) or simultaneously (a true pair). Finish a round and you’ll have encountered 50 or 100 targets, depending on how the range is set up.

It’s challenging, useful for the off-season hunter, and fun all at the same time. Golf carts are often used to get around these courses; you’ll hear people refer to clays as “golf with a gun.”

Many ranges also offer classic trap shooting (targets thrown from a station in front of the shooter) and skeet shooting (stations at left and right), but sporting clays tends to be the most popular of the three among outdoorsmen.

Rules

Safety is the utmost priority. Ear and eye protection are always a must when on the course. Generally, any type of shotgun may be used, but you’ll find course rules limit you to no more than 2 shells in the gun. For that matter, always remember to arrive and travel with unloaded weapon.

Light loads are specified—read the course rules; typically shot size may be no larger than 7 ½ and no heavier than 1 1⁄8 ounce, and steel shot is generally prohibited. Other rules pertaining to specific establishments may be posted. Read up when heading out for a morning of fun.

shooting clay targets for practice
Wingshooting relies heavily on hand-eye coordination, and there’s no better practice than honing your skills at a sporting clays course.
Cost

Generally, you are charged per clay target, which is typically tracked on a card you put into every station and paid for at the end of your round. Shoot 10 or shoot 200, it doesn’t matter, you pay accordingly. Price averages around 50 cents a clay nowadays. Golf cart and shotgun rentals are typical at these establishments, as well. Golf carts may need to be reserved, so be sure to call ahead and get the scoop. Shells are often sold in the pro shop, as well.

LOCATIONS

Quail Creek Sporting Ranch
  • 12399 Northeast 224th St.
  • Okeechobee, FL 34972
  • (863) 763-2529
OK Corral Gun Club
  • 9449 NE 48th St.
  • Okeechobee, FL 34972
  • (863) 357-2226
Gulf Coast Clays
  • 12425 Union Rd.
  • Naples, FL 34114
  • (239) 642-8999
Tampa Bay Sporting Clays
  • 10514 Ehren Cutoff
  • Land O’ Lakes, FL 34639
  • (813) 929-6200
Blackjack Sporting Clays
  • 3372 County Rd. 526
  • Sumterville, FL 33585
  • (352) 569-9469
Palm Beach County Shooting Sports Complex
  • 11730 Seminole Pratt Whitney Rd.
  • West Palm Beach, FL 33412
  • (561) 512-0285
Jacksonville Clay Target Sports
  • 12125 New Berlin Rd.
  • Jacksonville, FL 32226
  • (904) 757-4584
Santa Rosa Shooting Center
  • 6950 Quintette Rd.
  • Pace, FL 32571
  • (850) 995-9377
Vero Beach Clay Shooting Sports
  • 5925 82nd Ave.
  • Vero Beach, FL 32966
  • (772) 978-0935

  • This article was featured in the April 2024 issue of Florida Sportsman Magazine. Click to subscribe.



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