Take Your Best Shot

By Nick Simonson

The noise of fireworks over the lake next week won’t be the only bangs being heard with the turn into mid-summer and hunters start looking forward to fall.  Between now and the first opener on the calendar – be it the pending management season for Canada geese in mid-August, doves on the first of September, or grouse and partridge a week later – there’s a good deal of time to grab a favorite shotgun and get to the nearest facility to feel the rush of some fun and exciting shooting sports that will make for a more prepared autumn in the field.

It’s a Trap!

Trap shooting is the base for great field shooting.  Some time behind a house and thrower taking aim at four-inch targets flung off into the distance in a variety of angles will better prepare anyone for any game they pursue in the field.  Whether with a dedicated gun for target shooting or with the one (or two, or three) set for use this fall, taking aim now and over the next couple of months will have a hunter ready for the season.  Whether it’s with a pump, a semi-auto, or a single or double barrel, trap is perfect for someone just starting out in shooting sports or looking to get ready for fall.  Opt for a modified, improved modified or full choke to put a better pattern on birds.

There are more than 18 local and regional trap facilities in North Dakota that cater to those looking to sharpen their shooting skills, and the North Dakota Trapshooting Association (ndtrap.org) has those clubs along with shooting event dates listed on its website to help people get involved in the exciting sport of trap shooting and become better shotgunners.


To up the challenge from the single house of trap shooting and simulate the angles and speed of birds in the field, give skeet shooting a try this summer.  With targets flung from both a high house and a low house, and both single and double targets part of the half-moon-shaped course, the speedy birds can humble the best shooters and a perfect 25 is a truly lofty goal.  While it can be done with a pump shotgun, most skeet shooters opt for an over-under or a semiautomatic firearm to catch up with fast moving birds and take down doubles with better accuracy.  More open chokes, such as skeet, cylinder or improved cylinder will lay out a wider patter to take down the often closer and faster-moving targets on a skeet range.

Be a Sport

Sporting clays courses have come on strong in the past three decades with their real-life hunting scenarios encapsulated in multi-target stations. From simulating a landing goose coming in from afar, to a bounding rabbit dashing through the low vegetation to a ruffed grouse thundering down a narrow alley, each station presents those challenging real-world scenarios encountered by hunters in the field.

Much like a golf course, a sporting clays facility presents a number of challenges at each new station, and typically stays the same throughout a given shooting season.  This allows shooters to get better week-after-week and hone their skills on the challenges that they are sure to face in the field come fall.  Capital City Sporting Clays (ccsclays.com) is the state’s premier sporting clays facility and being centrally located near Bismarck, is a draw for shooters looking for something different an exciting in their shooting sports experiences.  A number of fundraisers and events are held at the facility giving shooters a chance at competition as well.

Heading into summer’s home stretch, break out the shotgun and try any of these options to get ready for fall.  Bear down and focus on the little orange targets now and it’s a guarantee those bigger ones like grouse, ducks, pheasants and geese will be easier to hit in the coming months.

(Featured Photo: The author shoots at a bounding rabbit target from an elevated position at Capital City Sporting Clays near Bismarck, ND. Photo courtesy Eric Thompson.)

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