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Sporting Clays: Vandenberg's best kept secret

Mike Panella, a member of the Vandeneberg Rod and Gun Club, takes aim at a target during a round of sporting clays. The club offers shooting enthusiasts to try there luck at sporting clay on the second and fourth sunday a month, starting at 9 a.m.(U.S. Air Force Photo)

Mike Panella, a member of the Vandeneberg Rod and Gun Club, takes aim at a target during a round of sporting clays. The club offers shooting enthusiasts to try there luck at sporting clay on the second and fourth sunday a month, starting at 9 a.m.(U.S. Air Force Photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif -- Did you know Vandenberg Rod and Gun Club has regularly scheduled competitive shooting events? Most people aren't aware there are rifle, pistol, and shotgun shooting events held every month right here on Vandenberg. Of all the competitions held at the Gun Club, Sporting Clays is one of the most popular, and the most challenging.

Many people have never heard of Sporting Clays. It's a relatively new shooting game when compared to trap or skeet, both of which have been around for almost a century. Sporting clays took off in the United States in the 1990s and has been gaining in popularity ever since. Sporting Clays is more like hunting because target presentations come from all angles, speeds, and directions. Participants walk between shooting stations giving the sport the moniker of "golf with a shot gun." All this diversity makes this game much more interesting and challenging than traditional clay target shooting, with the top guns breaking only 80 to 90 of the 100 targets thrown.

Presentations are laid out using the club's natural terrain and cover to hide the trap machines and provide safe separation between shooting stations. A wide variety of presentations along with standard, mini, and rabbit targets thrown by specialized machinist make the targets roll along the ground, spring straight up, curl, or draw long arcs across the sky. Additionally, most targets are thrown in pairs, adding yet another degree of difficulty to the game. The trapper sets the speed, angle, and height prior to the start of the event and changes the presentations half way through to provide even more variety for the shooters.

The events draw shooters from up to 100 miles away, making the team's dedication a top priority to ensure each competition occurs as scheduled. According to Lt Carroll, the only thing that stops an event is inclement weather or launch missions. Area shooters count on this, with an average of 30 shooters showing up twice a month to take their best shot at the 100 targets presented.

The club always welcomes new participants or spectators looking for a hobby that is both entertaining and challenging, and the club store has ammunition and supplies to outfit shooters of all disciplines. Sporting Clay's events are normally held at the gun club on the second and fourth Sundays of the month starting at 9 a.m. For more information about sporting clays and other shooting events, please contact the Rod and Gun Club at 606-4560.