Trap and Skeet

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Published on: Jul. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

Are you a bird hunter who needs to hone your shooting skills in the off-season? Is the weekly bowling league getting stale? Are you looking for a new challenge? If so, there's a good chance some kind of shooting sport is tailor-made for you.

Trap and skeet shooting are pretty similar. In both sports, shooters use shotguns to fire at clay targets that are shaped like a saucer with a high dome. On ranges, machines throw the targets. In less formal settings, clays can be hand-flung or cast out with a spring loaded device.

Both sports offer much to participants, says Mike Rodney of St. Charles, president of the Missouri State Skeet Association. He believes that pursuing either sport will make a shooter more proficient.

"The casual shooter will develop good basic shotgun skills," Rodney said, "including hand/eye coordination, mounting the gun, tracking the target, leading a moving target correctly and shooting two targets in quick succession."

In skeet, shooters fire from eight different stations positioned around a half-circle. The targets cross in front of the shooters from either side of the front of the half-circle. On some stations, shooters fire at one target flying from the left, and another flying from the right. On other stations, they have to shoot at two targets that fly from both directions at the same time.

Trap shooters stand at one of five stations located on a much narrower arc behind a single hidden thrower. From there they fire at targets that zip away at unpredictable angles.

Trapshooting is the granddaddy of the clay target shooting sports. It dates back to 1750 or earlier in England and became a way to practice shooting skills when hunting real gamebirds wasn't possible. Live birds-pigeons, passenger pigeons and sometimes quail-were placed into a series of traps, either cages or boxes. The spring-loaded traps released the birds on the shooter's signal.

From England, trapshooting spread to the United States. Accounts describe organized shoots taking place as early as 1825. Eventually, using live birds for trapshooting became impractical, so shooting enthusiasts began searching for a substitute. Anything that could be thrown into the air was considered, including glass balls stuffed with feathers.

Around 1870, clay was first used to create targets, but it was difficult to attain consistent hardness. In 1880, a mixture of silt and pitch was used to create the target that had the ideal combination of sturdiness and brittleness. Although the targets weren't made

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