Learn to Shoot Clay Targets

In Aspen, Colorado

By Jarrod Hollinger

Jokingly known as "Golf with guns", clay target shooting is becoming an increasingly popular outdoor activity. At Aspen Outfitting Company, we take great pride in introducing hundreds of people to this engaging and entertaining sport every year. Taking complete beginners shooting is a big responsibility, and our main priorities are to promote a helathy respect for firearms and to emphasize the practice of safe gun-handling procedure at all times.

When I met Sara and Carol, an enthusiastic mother/daughter pair from Los Angeles, I knew that we were going to have a great day. We left the Aspen Outfitting Company shop in the lobby of the St. Regis Resort early on a Saturday morning, and after stopping for coffee and scones, we began the scenic 18 mile drive to the shooting range. Neither Sara nor Carol had ever held a gun before, but that was fine, because the half-day shooting trip is specially designed to take beginning shooters from the foundations of shooting all the way through to successfully breaking targets presented in several challenging ways.

Upon arrival at the range, and before any cartridges were fired, I showed Sara and Carol

Sara and Carol pose in front of Mt. Sopris

how the various styles of shotguns worked. Then, I briefly introduced them to the concept of ballistics, and taught them the proper names for the different parts of the different types of shotguns. After the ladies were comfortable with the new concepts and terminology, we moved on to identifying the proper shooting stance and the proper way to shoulder a gun. Sara had lots of great questions, and after only 15 minutes, it was apparent that they were off to a good start.

I started the ladies shooting at the patterning board, a stationary target positioned about 20 yards from the shooter. We tried several different guns in order to find the ones that fit properly, taking special care to select from the smaller 28 gauge and .410 caliber shotguns that have little or no recoil. In what seemed like no time, both Sara and Carol were consistent with their stance and mount, and were able to focus on and hit the stationary target every time. It was time to move to the Skeet range.

Skeet is a recreational and competitive sport where participants attempt to break bright orange clay targets at distances up to 50 yards from a variety of angles. Because Sara and Carol had never shot moving targets before, we began by shooting only going-away targets, because the trajectory of going-away targets closely resembles shooting at the patterning board. The similarity in shooter position, and the illusion of almost no horizontal motion makes this target presentation the easiest to break.

When both Sara and Carol were comfortable with the going-away presentation and consistently breaking targets, we moved to a more challenging station. By the end of the session, after only a few minor corrections from myself, Carol and Sara were breaking difficult crossing targets proficiently, and were considering Shotgun shooting as their new favorite sport.

 ©2007 Jarrod Hollinger. This article may not be reproduced in any form without the author's written consent.