There are three “formal” shotgun sports consisting of shooting clay targets: Trap, Skeet and Sporting Clays. Each sport has a defined method and specialized equipment and helps develop the shooter in different ways. Each also deserves more than a passing glance from everyone who considers themselves a serious shotgun shooter.
Trap shooting involves shooting clay targets thrown from a “trap house” in front of the shooter. The targets fly away either straight away, or to either side. Even birds flying to the right or left from a trap house are essentially flying straight away. There are five shooting stations in Trap and five shots are taken from each station. This is referred to as a round of trap. The score of each shooter is kept at each station and the highest total score wins the round. Trap is a great game for beginners as the straight away shots allow a good opportunity for some success. Serious trap shooters often break all 25 targets with some frequency.
Skeet is also a formal game consisting of very different shooting than Trap. Skeet shooting involves shooting crossing birds shot from 8 different positions. Skeet shooting is the formal way to improve your lead. The shooting positions are arranged in a half circle between two Skeet Towers. Both Skeet Towers have both a high and low launcher that launches birds on a consistent path. Skeet shooting is more difficult for a beginner than shooting trap. The variety of shots taken in Skeet is much wider than in trap. A round of Skeet also consists of 25 shots or one box of ammo.
Sporting clays is very different than Trap or Skeet. Although the essential function of breaking clay targets with a shotgun remains the same, almost everything else varies. Sporting clays involve several or many shooting stations set up to throw several different clay target designs in a variety of directions and patterns. Sporting clay stations generally have two birds thrown per shooter each time. Birds can be launched at the same time as a true double or as a report double when the first shot is fired. The shooter has two shots to break the two targets. Sporting clays most closely matches hunting field conditions as some birds may be coming towards the shooter, going away, and passing over head and so on. There are even “rabbit” clays that bounce along the ground. Beginning shooters are likely to have some success on sporting clays, however it is the most fun for shooters with some experience.
The formal shotgun sports are all very different and each has a place in the development of a well rounded wing shooter. Try them all, but be careful, it’s addicting!