BY DEAN SIEMON
Monthly Sporting Clays shooting events at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Skeet and Trap Range on Lewis Main have been a tradition for many years.
For a long time, they weren’t registered competitions under the National Skeet Shooting Association’s National Sporting Clays Association and the Washington Skeet Association — until now.
On Saturday, the range hosted its Sporting Clays event with two options — registered shooters who were looking to improve their class ranking and nonregistered shooters who were participating for fun. Twenty-six participants were nonregistered, which was about the average of last year’s monthly fun shoots.
Thirty-one were registered shooters who came from nearby cities. Some traveled from as far as Oregon and Idaho — bringing the total to 57 shooters.
“The fact that they have this is another opportunity to shoot,” said Derek Leto from Sequim, Wash. “Just to move up in class and see how we do. We just like to compete and we’ll drive two-and-a-half hours to compete.”
There are additional clubs that offer registered Sporting Clays competitions, like the Tacoma Sportsmen’s Club or the Evergreen Sportsmen’s Club, in Olympia.
Many regular shooters who are registered with NSCA or WSA attempt to attend as many events as possible with 19 clubs in Washington state.
Greg Willis, the Sporting Clays chairman for the Tacoma Sportsmen’s Club and an Army veteran (1960 to 1975), said he is happy to see another venue not only for civilian shooters but service members and family members who are interested in the sport.
“It just brings more people into the Sporting Clays field,” Willis said.
Other participants who came to JBLM were happy to see another option within a short drive from their home. Keith Pelzel of Tenino, Wash., hadn’t shot at JBLM for five years, but returned when he heard the range was NSCA registered.
“Other than Evergreen, this is the closest one for me,” Pelzel said.
The event itself is done in a 10-station format. Each shooter has a chance to hit up to 10 clay pigeons at each station — with a maximum possible score of 100. According to the NCSA website, punches are awarded based on how shooters finished. The number of punches awarded in each place is determined by the number of registered shooters in each class.
Shooters who are competing for the first time start at E Class and attempt to move up the ranks through D, C, B, A, AA and Master Classes.
A good percentage of the participants at Saturday’ JBLM Sporting Clays were serious competitors with expensive shooting gear and even golf carts they brought to the range. Other participants viewed the event similar to a casual golf outing with friends.
“I also love the bang and the smell of the powder,” said Chris Farwell of Olympia, a retired Army chief warrant officer.
Ronnie Pippen, the secondary outdoor recreation manager for JBLM’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said most of the shooters were new; approximately 12 were some of the Sporting Clays regulars from the last few years.
Pippen said he believes having the Sporting Clays competitions opens the sport to the entire local community.
“I see it as when the weather starts getting better, I would not put it past us to have over a hundred shooters,” Pippen said.
With the first JBLM Sporting Clays event having taken place, the rest of the events are set for the following dates: Feb. 18, March 17, April 28, May 19, June 16, July 14, Aug. 18, Sept. 29, Oct. 20, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15.
Registration at the JBLM Skeet and Trap Range opens up at 9 a.m. with the event starting at 10:30 a.m. The entry fee is $35 for non-registered shooters and $42 for those who are registered with NSCA. For more information, call 253-967-7056.