I recently spent an enjoyable day shooting sporting clays with some friends at a popular course in York, Pa. Sporting clays is a clay target game conducted on specially designed courses and the closest thing to actual field hunting that you will find. Depending on the course design, a typical round features 50 to 100 targets simulating a great variety of shots actually encountered by the upland game or waterfowl hunter.
Though this shotgun game has been popular throughout Europe for close to a century, it never reached our shores until 1984. I was introduced to it the next spring during that year's Outdoor Writers Association of American (OWAA) annual conference in Harrisburg, Pa. We shot a rough course assembled by Remington, Winchester and Federal. The next day a group of us accepted an invitation to shoot the then recently completed course at the Prince George's County Trap & Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, which at the time was being put back on its feet by Beretta. To my knowledge, this was the first course of its kind on the East Coast.
Since its introduction a decade ago, the National Sporting Clays Association claims that there are no less than 750 courses in this country at the start of 1994. Fifteen of those courses are located in Maryland and many are within easy reach of Anne Arundel County residents.
They are: Caroline County Shooting Preserve, Denton (410) 479-1015; Chesapeake Clays, Bridgetown (800) 787-0037; Del-Mar-Va Sporting Clays, Mardela Springs (410) 742-2023; Tom Dodd's Sporting Clays, Queenstown (410) 758-2534, Gunsmoke Sporting Clays, Willards (410) 835-2324; Hopkins Game Farm, Kennedyville (410) 348-5287; IWLA/BCC Chapter, Poolesville (301) 972-8913; J&P Hunting Lodge, Inc., Sudlersville (410) 438-3832; Maryland State Sportsman's Assn., Hydes (410) 668-5135; Millington Sportsmens Assn, Pasadena (410) 360-1013; Native Shore Hunting Preserve, Centreville (410) 758-2428; Prince George's Co. Trap & Skeet Center, Glenn Dale (301) 577-7178; Singletree Sporting Clays, Sudlersville (410) 0` 438-3479; Top Gun Sporting Clay, Inc., Vienna (410) 376-3394; Tuscarora Gun Club, Frederick (301) 874-2620.
Typically, a course will encompass many terrain features and each station will have its own surprises. Different types of targets simulate, with uncanny accuracy, different types of game. You thus are likely to encounter targets that slant into a gully or climb steeply from thick foliage, or scamper rabbit-like across a field. Clays may angle in or out, rise to the left, flare to the right, or come from behind you and flash through small openings in the tops of trees.
Use any repeating shotgun when you shoot sporting clays. In fact, your open choked birdgun is ideal. Serious competitors use the 12-gauge, but it's perfectly OK to use a 20, 28 or 410 and usually more fun. You will break more targets with a skeet or
improved cylinder choke.
AREA FISHING REPORT
Bottom fishing throughout the Bay is great. Lots of spot and 9- to 14-inch croakers are being caught in Eastern Bay and the mouth of the Choptank River. Bloodworms are the hot bait for spot, while peeler crab is doing the number on the croakers. Croaker, spot, weakfish and flounder are hot at the mouth of Patuxent River, Buoys 74 & 76, Point No Point Light, Cornfield Harbor, and at the mouth of the Potomac. The flounder are taking live minnows. In the same area, chummers are doing very well on 2- to 6- pound blues. You also can hook these small, tasty blues near Love Point by trolling red or natural surgical hoses or by casting spoons or Rattle Traps. The white perch are going crazy near the mouth of the Magothy River, at the Bay Bridge pilings, the Key Bridge, Craig Hill Light, 7 Foot Knoll, the Susquehanna, Northeast and Chester rivers. The perch are favoring grass shrimp. Catch and release rockfishing is sizzling in the Choptank.
If you are going to Ocean City this week, the flounder fishing is really hot behind Assateague Island, at the thoroughfare and the piers near the Inlet. Weakfishing on the South Jetty is also good with live spot.