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By Jace Bauserman
It’s fun. It makes you a better shotgunner. And if you do it right, it doesn’t break the bank. Why not spend the offseason months turning discs of orange into puffs of black smoke? If you’re new to shooting clay targets, here’s what you need to get started.
My first clay target chucker was a Champion hand thrower I picked up for $5. I still use it. The thing is bulletproof, holds any standard-size clay, and with a little practice, lets you sail targets beyond the 50-yard mark.
Though a hand thrower takes some physical effort, it doesn’t require much. Plus, the thrower can take a safe position that allows for straight-away as well as left and right crossing shots. The key is getting with a small group of friends. This way, each individual can take turns on the thrower. With a couple of friends, you can turn orange clays into puffs of dust for hours on end and nobody will leave needing to ice a sore shoulder.
You can grab a box of targets for about $10 almost anywhere. These boxes contain 135 clays and it’s rare to find a broken one in the box. Typically, three friends and I split five cases right down the middle. On average, each person tosses about $12.50 in the pot. This gets us 675 clays, which means each person gets to shoot at 168 clays during our shooting session.
Helpful hint: If you’re not shooting at an established range and have the option, shoot clays in sandy soil or a field that has been plowed. Grassy fields also work well. Often, clays that go unmarred by screaming lead will not break when they impact the ground. When you and your crew pause for a break, take a walk and pick up undamaged clays. Be sure to inspect each one for nicks and cracks. If a target shows no signs of damage, reuse it. If it does, keep it for some 22 LR plinking—a weakened target won’t do well in a thrower.
Available in .410 as well as 12-, 20- and 28-gauge, Federal Top Gun shotshells are affordable and provide all the performance you’ll need. Choose from No. 7.5, 8 and 9 pellets made of hard lead that shatters targets at a distance. I’ve shot these loads with a number of chokes including improved cylinder, skeet and modified with great success.
When I head out for a day of clay busting, I always bank on my 168 shots, which requires me to tote seven boxes of shells. Of course, you can do what you want, but shooting clays with friends is addicting, and even 168 tries doesn’t feel like enough at day’s end.
Busting clays is an incredible amount of fun and is a great way to get a newcome—young or old—into the shooting sports. In addition, it’s great practice. If you go with a buddy or five, competitions will be created, and new games will be dreamt up. The fun you can have is limited only by your imagination.
In addition to be being fun, few things prepare you so well for fall hunts, especially once you and your crew get handy on the thrower. After a day or two of flinging orange, you’ll learn to manipulate the thrower to create all types of different flights and shots. Plus, if you have multiple throwers, you can create multi-shot scenarios, which is of great benefit to each shooter. Focusing on a single target, swinging through that target until it shatters, dealing with the recoil and then refocusing on another target is a staple of becoming a great shooter.
I’ve been shooting a lot of clays with my buddies and family as of late and have probably blown the monthly “fun” budget more than once. With that noted, finding an activity that creates as much fun and positivity will typically damage the wallet a lot more. My average cost for a day of clay busting—the way my friends and I do it—is $62.50.