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Sporting Clays offers shooters fun new test

"A lot of good shots at the Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club are scratching their heads, wondering how they could have missed.That's because there's a new game in town; a game in which clay targets come from every which way, including loose. From the left, from the right, from behind, straight up, even bouncing along the ground, shooters have to be ready for anything.Gun Club volunteers have finished installing an elaborate new test of shotgun shooting skills called Sporting Clays. It's the only such set-up on the island.Don Goodfellow, a long-time shooter who has won more than his share of trophies in regular clay target contests as well as skeet, quickly became a fan of Sporting Clays. It's a fun thing, something that's new, he said. And it relieves the boredom -- it's humbling.The range will be open to the public as well as Gun Club members beginning July 1. But in tune-up tests plenty of shooters other than Goodfellow have been humbled -- but they also have a great time on the range.Pete Tulloch, assistant range master, sits in front of a small wooden box with an array of toggle switches, which he uses to launch the Sporting Clays targets. Five shooters are lined up, each in a cage-like structure so they can't swing their gun barrel too far left or right. Each shooter steps forward in turn to either impress others or humiliate themselves.You miss, laugh, and go on to the next target, Tulloch said. Until I shot this game I thought I was a good shot.The target styles have their own names. The screaming teal, for example, soars straight up into the sky, like the small fast duck it is named after. The bouncing rabbit, on the other hand, starts out low and actually skips across the ground.The bouncing rabbit appears to be most challenging, and it was the most popular target at a recent shoot. I don't care about the bird in the air, get me the rabbit, demanded Leslie Austin, shotgun draped across her arm. She got her wish but the rabbit escaped unscathed.Mark Steele, who managed to connect on a few shots, gave another shooter some advice. You've got to shoot on instinct, he said. That's what it's all about.Mike McInerney's advice was even more succinct. See the bird, shoot the bird, he said. If only it were so simple.Goodfellow said regular trap shooters get so good it's not uncommon to hit 25 of 25 targets. That seldom happens in Sporting Clays. There are eight different traps the targets can come from and shooters can't hone in on one or two.Perfect scores are virtually unheard of, Tulloch said. A full game consists of five flights of 25 targets each, but most shooters don't hang around that long. It's too humbling.Public welcome to take aim, fireBeginning Saturday, July 1 the Sporting Clays at Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club will be available to the public as well as members. Cost for non-members is $5; bring your own gun and ammo. The cost is $3 for members.On July 8 a special promotion aimed at boosting Gun Club membership gives all prospective new members three free flights, consisting of 25 clay targets each. For more information call Pete Tulloch at 360-678-5484."

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