About six months ago, I took a small group of friends up to Orvis Sandanona to try out Sporting Clays. The four of us enjoyed ourselves very much and decided to return. For our return trip, I purchased 3 vouchers for 4 people each on “pulsd,” giving us an hour of shooting time and a nice lunch, my thought process being, that some folks would want to get a taste of clays, and others would want to burn through boxes of shells. The night before, I was pretty apprehensive as the weather had been cold and rainy all weekend… not ideal for novices.
At around 8 am, four cars departed the Tri State area, all converging on the Orvis grounds at about 9:45. For most of our party, it was their first time at Orvis, and their first time handling actual firearms. The group was very impressed with the clubhouse. Seeing rows of ten-thousand Dollar of shotguns was quite a treat. At 10am, they provided us with Caesar Guerini loaners and divided up into three groups, each with one instructor. I used my Beretta which they were fine with.
In, what felt like 15 minutes, but actually took an hour, the instructors ran each student through a “trap-like” Sporting Clays Station. He taught basic safety, gun handling, and shotgun technique. Then, using instructing techniques honed over many years, he made sure that everyone was breaking at least some clays. Each of us probably shot about 15 rounds… certainly not enough for the folks with meaningful experience.
Here he showed us the 4 most common shotgun shells, and importantly showed us why 20 ga shells are yellow:
Here were two of the Caesar Guerini loaners along with my Beretta:
Here the instructor is teaching my friend how to load an over/under shotgun:
We returned to the clubhouse and ate lunch. I had a Korean BBQ sandwich, which I thought fairly surprising to find at Orvis. I’d expected something more along the lines of Smoked Pheasant, but no matter, it was a good sandwich.
One carload of guests had to head back to the city and the rest of us went out for a full round of Sporting Clays.
We seriously lucked out as we hadn’t pre-reserved trappers (the folks who operate the clay throwers). After making a few phone calls, two trappers were ready for us at 1:30 pm. Yet again, we got lucky, as the weather changed from cloudy and freezing in the morning to sunny and mid-60’s in the afternoon.
The afternoon was very engaging, but challenging. As with the morning, we started out on some ‘easy’ birds, and progressively worked up to some very hard following and simultaneous pairs. The targets we engaged were crossing, coming inward, rolling, and flying outward at high speed. I think my group agreed that the most fun birds were those that were flying towards us from over a hill at high speed. On that station, you had perhaps a second to acquire the bird and shoot or else it was already behind you.
These two photos were from the “Coming Towards” station:
Another highlight was the “rabbit” target that rolled and bounced along the group. It was especially hard as every time it was thrown it bounced differently, so it was never the same target twice.
A few nice shots capturing a clay mid-break:
My shotgun for the day was my still new Beretta A400 Xtreme. I spent about an hour at the Beretta Gallery the weekend prior working with their master instructor to diagnose my cheek slap. He was 99% certain it was mostly a “me” issue rather than a “gun” issue. He suggested holding the grip differently, placing the buttpad differently in my shoulder pocket, and making sure that the comb had no runway to smack my cheekbone. True to his suggestions, I had significantly less cheek slap this time around. I did learn one valuable thing, my Beretta A400 Xtreme will NOT cycle Winchester AA 100%. I had 2 malfunctions during the day which is about a 1.5% failure rate. I’ve heard that this shotgun will ‘break-in’ otherwise I might have to look at alternatives. (I’m beginning to think I should have bought a 20 ga O/U first, and a duck gun second, no big deal).
The other participants in our group all borrowed Caesar Guerinis in 28, 20, or 12 ga. I know of at least one shooter in our party who ended the weekend with a bruised shoulder AND bruised cheek, I think he should have stuck with a 28 ga.
After burning through 20 boxes of shells in the afternoon, our group was ready to call it a day.
Hopefully, having tasted a bit of the “Upland Lifestyle” a few of my friends will begin purchasing their own shotguns so we can shoot at closer (and cheaper) Clays ranges!