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Monthly clay shoot like training camp for local hunters

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:51PM July 10th, 2014

When retired Army Sgt. Marcus Garner learned his son Nathan, 15, was interested in joining in on a pheasant-hunting trip, the first step was to learn how to shoot something out of the air.

Almost two years later, Nathan’s numbers are improving with credit given to the father and son duo going to several sporting clay fun shoots across the Puget Sound area, including the monthly event at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Shooting Complex.

Both were seen July 5 going for their best scores out of 100 potential targets, which are about a third the size of a regular target seen on the skeet range.

“It’s as close as you can get to pheasant hunting,” Garner said.

Sporting clays offers 10 stations with 10 clay pigeons each and not only are they much smaller than the average target, but the portable machines that can be moved around each month.

Targets can be sent flying at different speeds and angles than the previous month’s shoot. Unlike developing a muscle memory from shooting at the skeet range, the targets can be as unpredictable, like the game being targeted on a hunting trip (i.e. pheasant).

“By changing the tracks provides a variety of presentations that makes it unique and challenging,” said Lars Liden, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who has been shooting at JBLM since 2001.

Liden also compared sporting clays to golf, only instead of using a set of clubs participants use a shotgun.

As shooters go to each station, they fill out a scorecard that they turn in with the goal to not beat everyone else shooting, but to do better than they did the last time in a competition against themselves.

Results are added to a growing list that is displayed on a wall within the shooting complex’s clubhouse — shooters from as recent as June to as far back as 2001.

“Some people have gone, but they’ll always stay on this board,” said David Pedroza, JBLM shooting complex manager. “We keep track of their last four scores so they can see how they’ve gone up.”

All that is required to participate in sporting clays is the $35 registration fee for each individual and for them to have their gun registered with the installation as part of the JBLM policy.

While numbers may vary each month, Pedroza said he sees the most shooters in the summer and early fall months leading up to the start of bird hunting season in September.

“They’ll come out and try to hone their skills,” Pedroza said.

While providing a training ground for bird season, Pedroza said he sees several families come out to join in the fun, including Garner and his son.

While JBLM’s sporting clays is once a month, Garner said there are several places on the west side of the state he and his son go to fill up their Saturday mornings, including sportsmen’s clubs in Tacoma, Tumwater, Eatonville and Seattle.

For Garner, sporting clays and hunting have provided a good father-son activity.

“(Nathan) loves computers and until we starting getting into this, it was hard to get him away from computers,” Garner said.