It’s never too early to get in shooting practice for the upcoming season
The dog days of summer may seem like an odd time of year to be thinking of wing shooting, but dove and teal season are just around the corner. So, August is, in fact, the perfect time to get out the old scattergun and start practicing for opening day.
Shooting clay birds is one of the best ways to sharpen your shotgun skills.
Skeet, five-stand and sporting clays are three ways to shoot clay birds. In each, a shotgun is used to shoot small, circular clay targets, called birds, that are thrown into the air from a machine called a trap. You are never too good or never too bad to learn from these practices.
Of these three activities, the five-stand and sporting clays offer the most realistic hunting scenarios.
The five-stand has five shooting stations laid out in a straight line with six trap houses scattered around them that throw the clay birds at different angles and heights.
Shooters take five shots from each station, and then rotate to the right until all five stations have been used. Except for the first shot at each station, the birds are report pairs, meaning that a second bird is launched at the report of the gun.
Sporting clays consist of a number of stations set along a wooded course that you walk or drive to in a golf cart.
Each station recreates a realistic shooting scene, such as a rabbit running across the ground, doves flying overhead or quail flushing. They also vary between single birds, simultaneous doubles, following pairs (one bird being launched immediately after the other), and report pairs.
The number of shots taken at each station varies, but one course round is either 50 or 100 shots. Studies show that the average shooter will score 35 to 40 percent on their first attempt.
Any shotgun, except perhaps a .410, is suitable for the clay bird sports, and chokes are largely a matter of personal preference. Modified and improved cylinder are the most popular, but modified is probably the best all-around choice. If you have screw-in chokes, just take both with you and change them out according to the type of shot that is presented.
Shot size is also a matter of choice, but you can use anything from #7.5 and up. Most shooters use #8s, although #9s are good if the shot is going to be really close. If you so desire, it is permissible to carry different size shot and use whichever is best for each scenario.
Where to go
There are a number of Louisiana shooting clubs that offer clay bird activities, but the LDWF range in Woodworth is centrally located and has a good five-stand setup. Information can be found at https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/shooting-ranges.
Lake Chicot State Park near Ville Platte is within easy driving distance of the Woodworth range.
Lake Chicot is the centerpiece of this 6,400-acre park. It has three boat launches, fishing piers and boat rentals, so visitors can cool off fishing in the lake after enjoying some five-stand shooting at Woodworth.
There are also twenty miles of hiking and biking trails, eight miles of canoe trails on the lake, primitive and improved campsites, cabins, glamping sites, RV hookups, a water playground, picnic areas, and a playground.
The 600-acre Louisiana State Arboretum is also within the park and includes several miles of hiking trails. Walking these trails is a good way to learn the state’s flora because the native trees and plants along the way bear identification labels.