Greene County sporting clays class focuses on teaching women
Rita McMillen has hunted deer and rabbits for “a good long time,” in her words — more than 20 years.
Because of the limited time of hunting season, however, McMillen was looking for something to fill the void. She found a more-than-adequate substitute in sporting clays while taking an introductory course for women last year at Hunting Hills in Greene County.
“Deer season only comes so often, and rabbit season so often,” said McMillen, 50, of Rices Landing. “It's nice to try something different.”
Sporting clays, a version of clay pigeon shooting that involves several different stations laid out over a course, has grown in popularity since its introduction to the United States in the 1980s. More than 75 gun clubs in Pennsylvania offer the sport, according to claytargetsonline.com.
That includes Hunting Hills in Dilliner, which manager Roy Sisler said was one of the first in the country to begin offering sporting clays in the mid-1980s.
“I have seen tremendous growth in the last 10 years,” said Sisler, whose parents, Roy and Sally, founded Hunting Hills in 1967. “This area is actually a hotbed for sporting clays because of the number of facilities.”
Hunting Hills and Greene County partnered in 2009 to begin the Hunting Hills Hawkeyes, a scholastic sporting clays team. The team, which includes more than 100 students, won 40 medals at the Pennsylvania Scholastic Clay Target Program Sporting Clays Championship in June.
Seeing the success of the Hawkeyes program, which is partially supported by a grant from the Friends of the National Rifle Association, Greene County applied for a grant in 2011 to offer an introductory sporting clays class for women. The three-week class is in its third year.
About 25 women are participating in this year's class, which began last week.
“We actually had people on the waiting list,” said Pam Blaker, Greene County Parks and Recreation manager. “We held the first class, and everybody seemed to enjoy it, so then we went ahead and applied for a grant for the following year.”
Blaker said many of the women who participate in the class are older and are wives and girlfriends of men who shoot.
The class teaches gun safety and the fundamentals of clay target shooting.
“It really is a lot of fun to shoot,” McMillen said. “I think all women should learn how to shoot.”
Unlike other shooting sports such as trap or skeet shooting, which feature stationary or repeatable targets, sporting clays attempts to replicate hunting.
“You go through the field or the woods or combination of field and woods on a trail, and every so far — 50, 75 or 100 yards — there's a new shooting position,” Sisler said. “The targets may be thrown from left to right, (then) you go to the next one and it might be right to left, you go to the next one and it might be incomers, (and) you go to the next one and it might be overheads. They even make rabbits that run on the ground.”
Some people enjoy that complexity. Others prefer the consistency of skeet or trap shooting.
“If you're a trap or skeet shooter, you're basically shooting the same target all the time,” said Dave Yurko, owner of Chestnut Ridge Sporting Clays in Derry. “When you get into sporting clays, they're all different presentations. I think it humbles a trap shooter — scares them a little. They don't like to miss.”
Sisler compares the activity to golf because of the number of stations — 17 at Hunting Hills — and its popularity among individuals and companies. Hunting Hills hosts “Wednesday Night Steak Shoots” during the summer. Between 150 and 200 people attend each week for clay target shooting followed by a steak dinner.
“It's a social gathering,” Sisler said.