LONOKE -- Remington Gun Club opened a new 13-station sporting clays course Wednesday, creating an exciting new shotgunning destination in Central Arkansas.
Sporting clays, often called "shotgun golf," offers a much greater diversity of presentations than skeet or trap.
Kris Carson, director of product affairs for Remington Arms Co., hosted a interactive tour of the course Thursday with federal magistrate judge Joe Volpe and Shawn Daniel, vice-president of Darby's Warriors Support. We were all very impressed with the layout, the shot selection and the difficulty, which Carson described as medium.
"It's not easy, but it's not elite level, either," Carson said. "We want it to be challenging, but we also want it to be a place where recreational shooters and people that might only shoot their guns a couple of times a year will be comfortable."
Carson said that work will begin on a second course on Monday. It will have 12-stations, completing a venue that can host national sporting clays events, which require two courses.
The course is a good distance from the trap and skeet fields at Remington Gun Club. Walking the entire course course covers about a half mile. The path consists of chunk rock that might be challenging to walk for shooters with creaky knees, hips or ankles. Carson said that shooters are welcome to ride the course in their own side-by-sides, golf carts or four-wheelers.
Before shooting, visitors must check in at the Remington Gun Club clubhouse. A 50-target round costs $20, and a 100-target round costs $35. After paying the fee, shooters are issued an access card like those to access door locks. The card is necessary to activate the traps at each station and must be used at each station.
Most of the stations are report pairs, meaning that the trapper pulls the second target when a shooter fires at the first target. Others feature true pairs, meaning that the trapper pulls both targets at the same time. Some stations have four pairs, and others have three pairs.
The course offers presentations at an impressive array of angles, speeds and and combinations. One station features a rabbit target, a large, tough clay target that is rolled at a high speed across the ground. It might streak unimpeded across the course, but it often hits a hump and jumps high in the air. The second target comes in high and drops in roughly at the same sport where the rabbit target enters the woods. The second target is hard to pick up against a backdrop of trees, making it hard to lead.
Compounding this station's difficulty is shooting from a tower, which requires shooting down on the rabbit. With the second target, you are shooting down on a falling target. You can also shoot this target from the ground.
With a 12-gauge, a skeet choke tube is suitable for most shots. I used a skeet tube in my Remington V3 and did not feel limited except for a few presentations going away where I felt rushed. An improved cylinder choke is a good all-around option. Carson, who had the high score in our group, used a Remington Peerless over/under with improved cylinder and modified tubes.
Volpe probably had the best setup. He brought an ancient Remington Model 11 20-gauge with a Poly-Choke, an adjustable attachment on the muzzle that enables you to dial in the constriction you want with a simple turn.
Daniel, our runnerup, used a 12-gauge Benelli semiautomatic.
Sporting clays is an entirely different game than skeet or trap. Targets fly at unconventional angles, making conventional skeet and trap footwork a liability.
"I prefer to shoot sporting clays with a foot forward, like I do when I'm hunting," Carson said.
The high, looping targets are deceptively challenging. The best break point for that kind of presentation is at its arc apex, but many shooters wait too long and shoot when the target is falling.
"It's hard to hit a falling target," Carson said.
Many presentations have obstacles, which limit break points. Pre-selecting break points imposes discipline, but that can also trick a shooter into stopping the swing at the break point instead of leading a target through that point.
I am conditioned to lead targets on a trap and skeet field, but I tend to stop my swing on a sporting clays range. Late in Thursday's round I finally realized I was leading targets too much and shooting in front of them. A 4-inch lead is suitable to break most of the targets at Remington's range. Carson said he led his targets about four inches most of the time, but some he led by a nose.
Regrettably, I did not acquit myself well on this course, finishing third in our group. That motivates me to improve, and I am happy to have a new, high-quality shotgunning destination to test and hone my skills.