Shooting clays were invented in the 1880s, described as a piece of “brittle crockery,” and these artificial targets made the sport of shooting accessible to the masses because they were more affordable than hunting live game. Today, shooting clays, skeet and trap are still beloved pastimes for people of all ages.
Clay vs. Skeet vs. Trap Shooting
Sporting clays: Sometimes referred to as “golf for shotguns,” sporting clays offer the most lifelike hunting experience. A course will include multiple stations with varying machine setups so your targets are never too predictable, flying at differing heights and angles or rolling across the ground.
Skeet: During skeet shooting, two target machines launch targets across each other’s paths in an X formation. A round of skeet can include both single targets and doubles where two targets are launched simultaneously for added difficulty. Shooters move around a semi-circle to differing shooting positions throughout the match in order to change their angle relevant to the targets. Shooters fire 25 shots per round.
Trap: In trap shooting, shooters are firing at targets moving away from them. There are five positions for five shooters to participate in a round at once, and each will fire five shots from each position for a total of 25 shots per round.
Q&A With Shooting Instructor & Owner Dale Walker
Dale Walker has been shooting since age 10. He’s the owner and shooting instructor at Blackjack Sporting Clays in Sumterville, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in January, working with novice and advanced shooters day in and day out.
What can someone who has never shot clays before expect when they arrive?
“When you come out to our facility, you’ll sign a waiver electronically. We can provide everything if the participant needs it—gun rentals, ammo, eye and ear protection, and our machines are already loaded with the clays. You can show up with nothing and get a crash course on it, or you can bring your own gun and ammo.
For newcomers to the sport, what should they wear?
“We recommend close-toed shoes, but all of our cart paths are paved. There’s no dress code like a golf course or anything like that. Wear whatever makes you comfortable on the course.”
Do you need some shooting experience to try sporting clays?
“What’s nice is the facility is so big, you’re not going to hold up other participants because you’re not familiar with it. You can kind of be by yourself until you’re familiar with it. Even if you came by yourself, there are features on the station that will give you a few seconds delay so you can shoot by yourself.”
How long does clay or skeet shooting usually last?
“When we do our fundraisers, we group everyone in groups of four and you can expect that to take two to three hours. If you come alone, it will take maybe an hour and a half to shoot the whole course.”
1What type of gun is typically used?
“The 12-gauge is probably what you’re going to see most often, and then you’ll see some 20-gauges. Maybe for first-time shooters or kids you’ll see them use a 28-gauge.”
Why should someone new to shooting try sporting clays?
“It’s different than the thought of a typical gun range. You’re going to be outside, you move at your own pace and you meet great people involved in the sport. It’s a sport that anyone from a 10-year-old to someone over 80 can enjoy equally. Even in bigger competitions, you’ll see a 15-year-old girl competing equally with a 50-year-old man. Families can participate, you can go by yourself or it can be a corporate outing. It’s a nice alternative to something like golf.”
Locations Near Marion County
Want to give these shooting sports a try? Here are the Florida ranges and courses nearest to Ocala that are open to nonmembers.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Ocala Shooting Range
Forest Road 11, north of SR 40 in the Ocala National Forest (GPS coordinates 29°11’16.80”N, 81°46’14.15”W)
Offers single station, self-throw shotgun pad.
Blackjack Sporting Clays
3372 County Road 526, Sumterville
Offers sporting clays, five-stand and FITASC (Federation Internationale de Tir Aux Sportives de Chasse, a shotgun sport similar to shooting sporting clays)
blackjackclays.com, (352) 569-9469
Gator Skeet and Trap Club
5202 NE 46th Ave., Gainesville
Offers skeet fields, trap fields, five-stand and Olympic trap bunker shooting venue
gatorskeetandtrap.com, (352) 372-1044
Robinson Ranch Trap
& Skeet Club
19730 SE 127th Terrace, Inglis
Offers trap and skeet shooting
robinsonranchtrapandskeet.com, (352) 572-7339
Bradford Sportsmen’s Farm
11394 SW 106th Ave., Graham, FL
Offers sporting clay courses, along with pistol and rifle ranges.
bsfshootingsports.com, (352) 485-2302
Palatka Skeet & Trap Club
301 Skeet Club Road, Palatka
Offers skeet and trap shooting
palatkaskeet.com, (386) 325-5425