Trap and skeet are the most popular shotgun target games. Both are fun, reasonably inexpensive, easy to learn but endlessly challenging. Most importantly, they teach novices shooting basics and keep the pros in tune.
I guarantee you that if you shoot skeet or trap regularly, your success this fall on doves, waterfowl or whatever winged game suits your fancy, will dazzle your friends.
Trap is the oldest of all the shotgun target games. Trap targets simulate the flight of game birds flushed ahead of the shooter and, in fact, in the original version of the sport, live birds were released from holes in the ground covered by silk top hats.
Today, trap uses clay discs, and the sportsman's club without a trap range is a rare club.
There are three basic types of trapshooting -- the 16-yard event (which is also the most popular), handicap and doubles. Most trap shooting involves informal events.
Formal events are called registered shoots. To shoot registered targets, you must be a member of the Amateur Trapshooting Association, which has 55,000 members who shoot an estimated 82.5 million targets a year.
In the 16-yard event, shooters stand on a line that is 16 yards behind the trap house. The trap throws targets that will fly from 48 to 52 yards from the shooter. Most targets are shot when they are about 36 yards from the shooter. Targets are thrown at varying angles within a range of 45 degrees to left or right of straightaway.
In handicap, the shooter stands anywhere from 17 to 27 yards behind the trap house, depending on previous scores. The better the previous scores, the farther back you stand.
Trap doubles is also shot from the 16-yard line. Unlike the regulation 16-yard and handicap events, a pair of targets are thrown simultaneously.
Double targets follow a set course, usually 35 degrees to the left and right of straightaway. The shooter has one shot for each target. A standard round of doubles represents 50 shots, whereas in handicap and 16-yard events, one round consists of 25 shots.
The typical gun is a 12-gauge with full, improved-modified or modified chokes and a 30- or 32-inch barrel. The standard load contains three drams of powder under 1 1/8 ounce of No. 7 1/2 , No. 8 or No. 8 1/2 -sized shot.
In 1926, Gertrude Hurlbutt, a Dayton, Mont., housewife, won the unheard of sum of $100 for entering the best name for a new shooting game sponsored by National Sportsman magazine. Her suggestion was skeet, the Scandinavian equivalent of "to shoot."
If you aspire to gun for quail, grouse, woodcock, doves or preserve pheasants, this is the game for you.
Two trap houses are required in skeet, a high house at the left of the field and a low house at the right. Both traps throw targets at fixed angles. The high-house target starts at a point about 10 feet above the ground, moving to the right of the shooter. Low-house targets move in the opposite direction, starting from a point about three feet off the ground.
Skeet, like trap, is usually shot in squads of five shooters. A field has eight positions, seven of which are numbered consecutively from left to right in a semi-circle. Station No. 8 is located between the trap houses, offering a very close, fast and challenging target.
A round of skeets consists of 25 targets thrown as singles or doubles. There are 16 single targets, two from each station and eight shots fired at four doubles from stations 1, 2, 6 and 7. The first target missed is repeated. If no miss occurs in the round of 24 shots, you may take the 25th shot from the station of your choice.
Skeet is shot with different gauges -- the 12, 20, 28 and .410. Obviously, as the gauge gets smaller, the game gets harder.
Most skeet is also of the informal variety. Registered skeet is governed by the National Skeet Shooting Association. Studies have concluded that the average hunter shooting skeet for the first time will break 11 of the 25 targets.
To participate, you will need a gun capable of delivering two fast shots. It should have a skeet or improved-cylinder choke and have a barrel no longer than 28 inches. The same trap load as mentioned above, except in No. 9, shot is just the ticket.
The Loch Raven Skeet & Trap Club is located off Dulaney Valley Road in Baltimore County. Two other facilities that have both trap and skeet fields that I am familiar with are IWLA/BCC Chapter, 6300 Walholding Road, Bethesda and Prince George's County Trap & Skeet Center, 10400 Goodluck Road, Glendale.