About 25 years ago, someone invited me to shoot my first round of sporting clays and explained that it was kind of like golf with a shotgun. "Sounds cool," I said without knowing what that description meant but figuring it had to be fun if a shotgun was involved.
I pictured in my mind a game of golf played with shotgun bunkers situated at strategic locations along the length of a fairway. In these bunkers, shooters would wait for someone to tee off and then try to blow their golf ball out of the sky as it passed by - kind of like skeet but with a smaller and faster-moving target. If the ball landed safely on the fairway, the golfer received a point, but if one of the shooters dropped the ball, he would get a point.
While that seemed logical enough, I never could figure out how shooters and golfers would each handle their part of the short game. I couldn't see a groundskeeper being too happy with shotgun-sized divots in his greens.
As it turned out, my vision of what sporting clays might be was more than a little off course, but by the time we were finished shooting, I knew what I wanted for my next birthday - a sporting clays course of my own.
I'm still waiting.
From the clubhouse, we followed a trail that meandered through the trees and along ponds of water. At numbered shooting stations, not unlike the tee boxes on a golf course, the shooter yelled "Pull!" and clay targets flew in, across, up and away or down from above. At each station, the flight of the clay pigeons was set to resemble the flight of game birds. One of the toughest holes ... uh, stations ... was the double representing a pair of chukar partridges flying at top speed along the face of a cliff.
While I probably never will own a sporting clays course, the people of Clark County soon will have one to call their own. On Tuesday, officials broke ground for what will be a 30-station sporting clays course at the Clark County Shooting Complex, formerly known as the Shooting Park. The 75-acre course will be located between the shotgun center and the rifle-pistol range.
To ensure the course was designed to provide shooters with a challenging experience while taking advantage of such scenic backdrops as Mount Charleston and the Strip, the county brought in the big gun of course design, Marty Fischer of Rincon, Ga. Fischer, a professional shooter, author and co-host of The Outdoor Channel's "Shotgun Journal," has more than 100 sporting clays courses to his design credit.
Fischer's design calls for rolling hills around each shooting station that will provide the intimate environment sporting clays shooters prefer. A big difference between this and other courses, however, is this one will feature three shooting positions at each station for a total of 90 on the course.
"Sporting clay courses are probably the most sought-after venues around the country, especially among younger people," Clark County Shooting Complex manager Steve Carmichael said. "I think this new course is really going to be a hit with our residents and with tourists. Customers will be able to rent a clays cart, hit the hillside trail and really enjoy what is known as 'golf with guns' at our five-star-rated facility."
The goal is to have you shooting sometime this fall.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His "In the Outdoors" column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.