‘Golf’ with a Shotgun
Sporting clays courses offer a different kind of shooting sportBy Mike Zlotnicki
Ryan Allen stood at the shooting station with his Benelli Nova shotgun shouldered. After a couple of practice swings, he yelled “Pull!” and a clay was launched. He powdered the target and two more until yielding the station to my daughter, Olivia.
While 16-year-old Ryan had some experience with skeet shooting, this was Olivia’s first time handling a shotgun. We were at Deep River Sporting Clays in Sanford — one of several ranges like it around the state — and we had (excuse the pun) a blast.
While many people are familiar with trap and skeet shooting, sporting clays is a different concept. It’s often described as golf with a shotgun. Instead of standing in relatively close shooting stations with familiar clay target trajectories, a sporting clays course tries to mimic the many different angles of flight and flushes of wild bird hunting. Clay targets may come toward you, away from you, crossing and even rolling on the ground.
Another thing I love about it is you can take a group of friends or family as a group, and you have the camaraderie, you walk along, you’re talking and having fellowship — and every once in a while you stop and shoot some clays.
Deep River owner Ed Strickland purchased the business from Bill Kempffer in November 2020.
“It’s just fun,” Ed says about sporting clays. “It’s something that anybody can do. Another thing I love about it is you can take a group of friends or family as a group, and you have the camaraderie, you walk along, you’re talking and having fellowship — and every once in a while you stop and shoot some clays.”
Our fellow shooter, Ryan, is a member of the Southern Guilford High School youth shooting team and wanted some practice before an upcoming competition. Olivia simply wanted to try a new adventure. So, Ryan and his mother, Robin, and his grandparents, Bruce and Donna Dillon, met my wife, Renee, along with Olivia and me at Deep River one Sunday afternoon. It turned out to be one of the most entertaining afternoons we’d had in a long time.
The course at Deep River winds through 65 acres of woodlands in Lee County. A golf cart provided mobility for the older visitors and helped haul snacks, drinks and equipment. There are 13 stations with a variety of target angles. Shooters get four shots at 12 of the stations and two at one of them. At the end of the day, Ryan broke 25 of 50 clays, and Olivia had a respectable first outing with 12.
Sporting clays is a growing sport, Ed explains, and a large part of his business is beginner and novice shooters just getting started in the shooting sports. That’s what they focus on at Deep River Sporting Clays.
For Ryan’s grandmother, Donna, it was her first time on a clays course. “I loved it,” she says. “It was just an amazing experience seeing my grandchildren, one of whom was shooting for the first time. The facility is amazing. It’s a comfortable family atmosphere.”
Olivia, a senior at NC State, enjoyed the experience. “I’ve done archery before but never shotguns,” she says. “Absolutely I’ll come again.”
No shotgun? No problem. Most sporting clays courses have rental shotguns and sell ammunition. Many offer shooting classes, and some, like Deep River, also offer other shooting opportunities like archery areas and pistol ranges. Visit sportingclaysnc.com to find a range near you.
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