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Sporting clay's popularity continues to grow

By By Ben Norman
Outdoor Columnist
Shooting skeet, sporting clays and trap are excellent practice for the coming dove, duck and quail season. The game of sporting clays has become very popular in the U.S. in the last ten years, attracting thousands to its ranks annually. But shooting at a sanctioned range can become expensive if our desire to shoot frequently exceeds our financial means.
Most of us have access to a suitable area for shooting clay targets. A pasture or open field with a safe shot fall area is all you need to set up several trap sites. Several shooters can go together and set up quite a challenging shotgun course for a reasonable expenditure. With the exception of the land, the main cost factor for a cow pasture clay target range will be in the cost of the traps.
Traps will run from $5 each for a discount store hand trap to several thousand for a battery or electric powered wobble trap. The inexpensive hand trap requires only a few minutes of practice before one is able to launch clay targets with it. Many modify their hand traps by adding a three-foot section of PVC pipe to the trap handle for added leverage-much like swinging a baseball bat. Clay target speed and distance can be significantly increased with this modification.
Leaving the hand traps, we come to the various manual spring traps offered by Outers, Trius, Hoppe and several other manufacturers. Prices start as low as thirty bucks and run to around $750 for the commercial three-fourths cock traps. The type trap to buy depends on what you want to accomplish. If you simply want to brush up on your wing shooting skills prior to bird season, a hand or inexpensive spring trap will probably fill the bill. Most manufactures offer the chair-trap combination where the trapper sits behind the trap to operate it. This is a comfortable system but requires at least one additional person besides the shooter to work it. Trius' One Step is a portable target thrower that shooters can cock and release by applying pressure with their foot, leaving both arms free for gun handling.
If you shoot a lot of formal sporting clays or skeet, you may want to invest in the commercial grade traps similar to the ones used at official courses. These traps are built for continuous use and can take it. They also provide a wider range of angle and speed adjustment than the cheaper spring traps.
Unless you are shooting competion, the best clay targets are usually the ones you can get the best buy on. Typical prices run around $5 for a box of 90 to about $8 for a box of 135 regulation targets.
As with any shooting sport, safety should be our primary concern. Pick up a box of clay targets and take the wife, kids and a few friends to the back forty to burst a few clays, it's good family fun.