Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


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Shooting Clays

By Heidi Rao

Hunting plus fishing  equals an outdoor adventure that offers plenty of excitement.

Shotgun shooting is a growing sport with three popular shooting clay games: trap, skeet and sporting clays. More than just good fun, shooting clays can help prepare you for bird hunting. Trap practice and skeet shooting get you ready for upland birds like quail, dove and pheasant. Sporting clays are more wild and crazy, with special courses that challenge you to shoot more varied targets coming in at every angle and speed. Live pigeons were originally used, long ago replaced by bright orange discs about the size of your palm, called clay pigeons.



Trap is the oldest shotgun shooting sport in America, and is practiced around the world. One trap machine throws targets into the air in a variety of angles: going away, angling to the right and left and soaring straightaway. The shooter stands in one of five positions (or stations) to fire at five "birds" and then moves to the next station. Teams (or squads) usually consist of five people. Trap shooting is typically done with a 12-gauge shotgun. Shooters wear a vest or pouch to hold extra shells; most locations require ear and eye protection.


Skeet shooting is a lot like trap shooting, except there are two trap houses (where the machine sits), one on either side; both throw at fixed angles. The house on the left is called the high house, while the one on the right is the low house. Sometimes, two birds are thrown at the same time (a double). There are eight stations on the field, arranged in a semi-circle with the last shot in the middle. Like trap, skeet is usually shot  in squads of five shooters, and  a round of skeet consists of  25 targets.

Sporting Clays

It’s sometimes called “golf with a shotgun.” Sporting clays is the fastest-growing clay target game and uses a variety of targets and angles. The sport was designed to mimic hunting conditions, so targets thrown simulate ducks, geese, pheasants, rabbits and teal. Most targets are the standard size used for trap and skeet, except the larger rabbit target (rolled across the ground), a flat-edged battue and two smaller targets called the midi and the mini, which add a degree of difficulty. All sporting clays courses are unique, limited only by the imagination of the course designer.

More Information

  • Amateur Trapshooting Association
  • National Skeet Shooting Association/ National Sporting Clays Association
  • Scholastic Clay Target Program
  • Find a Shooting Range

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