Sporting Clays

In the REAL WORLD of wing shooting for quail, pheasant, grouse or waterfowl, the birds never flush from cover exactly where one might expect and fly a course that offers an “easy” shoot opportunity. Birds bust out from behind, criss-cross high or low, or run on the ground through thick cover.

To practice for the real world, sporting clays was devised as a shotgun training shooting game based on real world happenings. In the early 1900s, a number of British shooting schools adopted the use of clay targets to practice for driven-game shoots. Eventually, the framework for these practice sessions became standardized. In the United States, 1985 was the magic year when the USSCA was formed. This acronym stands for U.S. Sporting Clay Association. Shooters follow a course of 10 to 15 stations laid out over natural terrain. Sporting clays simulate the unpredictability of live-quarry shooting, offering a great variety of trajectories, angles, speeds, elevations, distances and target sizes.

The sport is popular with a wide variety of shotgun enthusiasts. Shotguns used do not fit an exact standard; however, every shotgun must be capable of shooting two cartridges of 12 gauge or smaller. Most popular guns are over/under, semiautomatic or pump actions in 12 and 20 gauge. All of these sporting arms are readily available in different models to fit youth, women or men as per individual preferences. Shot sizes used are routinely size 9, 8 or 7 1/2.

A typical course consists of shooting positions carefully spaced for the shot being offered and safety of others farther down the course. A squad of up to six shooters per station will focus on the clay targets launched from close by. Fifty or 100 targets constitutes a full round. Targets can be thrown as singles, pairs together, pairs one after another, pairs criss-crossing high or low, incoming, outgoing, arching high or low, and running on the ground. The result is a true to real life setting in which shots missed are common, even sometimes humbling. Good eye and hand coordination is a must to obtain high scores. Normal sized clay birds are fast, but the smaller sized clay birds, which are about one half the size of the big ones, are even faster. These simulate quail. Hitting them with a spread of pellets is not easy.

Safety is important in sporting clays. Proper ear and eye protection are mandatory. Firearms’ actions must stay open until at the firing post. All the common sense elements of safe gun handling have to be followed. Once familiar with these safety practices, a hunter’s action in the forest, marsh or grassland help insure accident-free outdoor hunting experiences.

The Marshall County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League has an 85-acre tract of land available for a number of outdoor-related and conservation-oriented activities. The site is located two miles south of Iowa Ave. on Smith Ave., on the southeast side of Marshalltown. Experienced shooters, novice shooters or spectators are welcome to attend the Sunday, June 2 shoot. For details call Ruth Dolash at 641-751-1121.

WILD TURKEY season ended May 19. The reported harvest of this big game bird statewide was 10,546. Locally, Marshall County area hunters took 39 birds. The top five Iowa counties are as follows: Jackson, 443; Clayton, 419; Allamakee, 344; Decatur, 260; and Warren with 255. The lowest five counties were Audubon and Calhoun tied at seven, Grundy and Ida ties with four each, Pocahontas two and Osceola at zero.

BALD EAGLES nesting at Decorah, Iowa relocated to a different tree this year. For whatever reason eagles do these things; it just happens. So the camera equipment in place at the old nest has nothing to look at. There is still camera coverage but from a long distance. Eagles are known to be somewhat sensitive to human behavior. What may seen innocuous to humans may disturb an eagle. Eagles are protected by federal law in two separate acts, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Protection Treaty.

The new Decorah nest is still within the territory of the eagles that received so many visits to the website last year. The new nest is about 300 feet away from the old nest. New nest building started last October. In February the site became “home” to the noted pair of raptors. Observers know three eaglets hatched in late March. By now, the young are almost adult sized.

This fall, camera crews plan to relocate video equipment to the new nest. That way, hopefully, the nest in 2014 can have close up and personal details in the life of eagles, egg laying, hatching and survival of a new set of eaglets. Stay tuned.

MEMORIAL DAY weekend is always a big event for people and the outdoors. Three days off from work means travel for some to area state or county parks, a local river, lake or pond for some relaxation or fishing. Recent rains in some parts of the state have made rivers full or overflow. Do not go boating, canoeing or kayaking on waters at these high levels. It is too dangerous.

If one does go to an area lake where boats can be launched, do be aware of hitchhikers, the invasive species types, both vegetative or animal. The motto for boaters is to clean, drain and dry the boat trailer and the boat. Of particular concern is the little animal, the Zebra mussel, a small clam that can attach itself to anything. Unknowingly to the boat operator, it can survive travel to the next body of water if it is still moist. Drying a boat trailer and boat will kill the critter. On the plant side of the equation is Eurasian milfoil, a plant that can take over and smother native aquatic vegetation.

Starting July 1, a new law will take effect, impacting outdoor sports. It is already illegal to posses or transport aquatic invasive species in Iowa. But after July 1, it will also be illegal to transport any aquatic plants on water-related equipment. Boaters must drain all water from boats and equipment before leaving a body of water. They must also remove all drain plugs and keep them open during transport. It will be illegal to introduce any live fish, except for hooked bait, into public waters.

FREE FISHING weekend is in two weeks, June 7, 8 and 9. No license is required in most cases. There are exceptions to this. Call John Steinbach, our local game warden, at 641-751-5246 if you have any questions. Free fishing is designed to help people realize how much fun fishing can be. If they like it enough to pursue it, then the cost of a fishing license is the way to go. Funds from license sales go toward fish and wildlife management, research, fish stocking programs and law enforcement.

For your FUNNY BONE: A guy went fishing one morning in a southern state. But after a short time, ran out of worms as bait. He then spied a cottonmouth snake with a frog in its mouth. Since this snake is poisonous, he had to be careful. Knowing frogs work well as fish bait, the fisherman grabbed the snake right behind the head and carefully removed the dead frog. Now the dilemma … how to release the snake without getting bit. So the fisherman grabbed his bottle of Jack Daniels and poured a little whiskey into its mouth. The snake’s eyes rolled back and he went limp. The release was easy after that. A little later the fisherman felt a nudge on his foot. It was that darn snake in the boat! Only this time the snake had two frogs.

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.