By Nick Simonson
Spring is in the air, and if you get a whiff of it in the coming days, it likely will bear with it the scent of gunpowder. Across the country and the region, USA High School Clay Target Leagues are kicking off their spring season, bringing tens of thousands of student-athletes in grades six through twelve to the trap and skeet range as well as the five stand and sporting clays course. Thousands of those shooters will be new to the pastime of shooting sports, and undoubtedly a little nervous for their first time behind a target thrower in an organized setting. I know I was when I embarrassingly touched off a shot as I mounted my shotgun before even calling pull on my first skeet target, and I was just the tender age of 25 when a neighbor introduced me to the discipline and loaded with nervous energy.
Those nerves are settled some by a little preparation ahead of the season’s start. From gearing up to getting familiar with a new firearm or even an old favorite, new shooters who are able to check off a few boxes will feel more prepared for the exciting and enjoyable new season before them. What follows are a few quick tips ahead of the next big trap season to get new and inexperienced shooters ready for the life-long adventure that’s about to unfold.
Grab Your Gear
Make a checklist of those items vital to logging a successful league or practice round. Required items obviously include a shotgun and ammunition, and personal protective equipment like safety glasses and ear plugs or muffs. The personal choice of a vest or pouch to hold everything on the line is another necessary item. In addition, it’s important to have a selection of chokes for a shotgun, with full, improved modified or modified for trap, and more open chokes such as skeet and improved cylinder for skeet shooting. Keep those selections and a wrench handy especially if shooting more than one discipline. Finally, as spring can be damp and chilly, have a chosen solvent on hand for a firearm along with a rag or wipes to remove water and apply that oil as needed after rainy days behind the trap house to preserve the condition, functionality and longevity of a shotgun.
Pack It Up
Organize the necessary gear in places where it is stored securely, easily remembered, and ready to roll whenever it is time to shoot. Firearms and ammunition, without question or deviation, should go from a locked storage space to vehicle to shooting facility and back again immediately after rounds are complete. Small items like chokes, oil, glasses, ear protection and the like can be stashed in a dedicated shooting sports bag that is easily grabbed and packed along with a chosen pouch or a vest. Pick a spot in a closet for vests and pouches and if possible, keep all three categories of shooting sports gear close together for easy access.
Take Your Best Shot
Finally, before the season starts, clean and inspect your chosen shotgun thoroughly. Is the action cycling properly on a semi-auto? Is the chamber closing correctly on a pump? Are shells ejecting right when an over-under is opened? Confirm that everything is working before the season starts, and if time and facilities allow, get a few practice rounds in behind the houses and on the courses you’ll be shooting at to get a feel for the environment. Even a few rounds on the back forty with an old tire-mounted thrower will help build confidence ahead of the season. Take the time now to make sure everything on your shotgun is working properly, it fits correctly, and is ready to go for the season.
Using the last few days ahead of the start of this USA High School Clay Target League season will not only help take the edge off for new shooters when they first step on the concrete arch behind a trap house, but it will also help everything move smoother for those they shoot with. A little preparation goes a long way with shooting sports and success is sure to follow those pre-season efforts…in our outdoors.
Simonson is the Lead Writer and Editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors. He has served as a coach and volunteer for seven USA High School Clay Target League Teams in Minnesota and North Dakota since 2012 and helped with the organization of dozens more across the country.
Featured Photo: Having guns and gear ready for the first trip out to the trap house will make everything fall into place a little easier, and make things move smoothly for new shooters, their teammates and coaches as the season starts. Simonson Photo