Sporting Clays in the US, “skeet in the woods,” as it used to be referred to, has matured a lot in the time since I began shooting it in the 90’s. A shotgun sport based on shooting pairs of different sized clay targets at different speeds, angles, and distance from a variety of pegs or stations originally meant to simulate hunting, has evolved into a true sport.
Targets consisting of five different shapes and sizes, include standards like any skeet or trap clay, a smaller midi, a mini, a battue and a rabbit. The battue flies in a complete arc and the rabbit bounces and skips across the ground unpredictably like its namesake. By altering the spring rate on the trap and/or changing the trap arm angle, a target setter can create a never-ending array of presentations. It is never boring and highly addictive.
In 1989 the National Sporting Clays Association was formed in San Antonio and offered shooters standards, rules, and regulations. Registered shooters could progress from Class E to D and on up to AA and Master Class if they had the talent and discipline to evolve. Today, with more than 22,000 members, over 2,000 have risen through the ranks to be Master Class shooters, a proud achievement no doubt, but where does a Master go once the title is attained?
The sport was difficult to promote on TV and lacked the uniformity to be in the Olympics. I mean no disrespect to the major competitions held here and abroad but the sport, in this shooters opinion, stopped evolving... until now. Take Dan Carlisle, arguably the most successful, respected competitor and instructor the sport has ever known and add Mike Osowski, a successful Texas businessman, and after much planning and hard work the Professional Sporting Clays Association was formed.
At each PSCA competition, 56 of the top competitors in the US shoot heads up against one another and at days end the lower 28 don’t make the cut to move forward. When I say the “lower 28," I'm referring to shooters at a level that are used to winning registered tournaments on a consistent basis, going home. If you are among the 28 shooters who make the cut, you compete on a new course on day two along with a handful of amateurs who bested the same courses shot by the pros. The target difficulty is beyond extreme. Distances of 60-70 yards, short windows of opportunity, and high speeds require complete planning or “pre-flighting” before calling “pull”. I’ve seen many a Master exit a station, shaking his head, myself included, wondering what just happened?
And then we have the Target Setters. Yeah, let’s talk about those guys. Chief among them is Jeff Foster - a Master class shooter and instructor by day but his true calling is as master Target Setter. Jeff has constantly raised the bar in this alchemy of the Dark Arts and shooting, striving to set the most challenging targets shooters have had the privilege of going for. Pushing even the best shooters' limits, it's not uncommon to hear, "Jeff, you just can’t throw birds like that here.”
When selected to set a course for the PSCA, a most diabolical Target Setter has been let off the leash. Insanely fast target speeds and generally unheard of distances are not the only tools being used. Hell, any Target Setter can do that. Using the angles of terrain, backgrounds, trees, varying target speeds, and monster transitions, Setters like Jeff attempt to test the shooters' every ability to correctly assess what the target is actually doing. Many will get it wrong. Natural ability, great hand-eye coordination, the best of guns, chokes and ammo are all things that allow shooters to do a few things wrong and still break targets. But those things won’t help you on a PSCA course.
The PSCA targets being thrown require a level of discipline, training, and a mental game that in this shooter's opinion, has not been done before. Did I mention it's being filmed for TV? NBCSN will have nine action-packed episodes, airing Sunday nights beginning July 31. PSCA are gaining sponsors and attracting some of the best shooters in the country. Who will make the cut?
Tune in and see.
From the Publisher
If you would like to get into the Sporting Clays sport, there is no better place to start than August M. Crocker Fine Guns. August is a Master Class shooter himself and will get you geared up for some serious shooting in no time at all.