Keep your eye on the target

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SHOOTING SPORTING CLAYS PROVIDES FUN, BUILDS SKILL

While working the sporting clays course at Spring Island Club, Christian Pollitzer has seen just about everything from experienced shooters to novices who have never held a shotgun.

One pre-teen boy was having a tough time hitting targets, so Pollitzer suggested closing his left eye. The boy’s aim improved, but then it regressed.

“Did you have your left eye closed?” Pollitzer asked.

“I had them both closed,” the boy responded.

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Clay shooting is a popular social sport offered at private clubs and resorts around the Lowcountry, including Spring Island, Palmetto Bluff, Brays Island Plantation and Turkey Hill Plantation in Ridgeland. It’s also catching on at the area’s private schools: Hilton Head Christian Academy, Cross Schools and Thomas Heyward Academy all field teams.

At Spring Island, where Pollitzer is the outdoor pursuits director, shooters range from experienced hunters looking to sharpen their skills to, well, kids who shoot with their eyes closed. The busiest shooting season runs from Thanksgiving through Easter, though the course is especially popular during Thanksgiving week as members bring visiting family and friends out to shoot. Pollitzer compares clay shooting to golf, not only because of the social aspect but also in the sense than even the most experienced shooters can benefit from a lesson and need plenty of practice to stay sharp.

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Spring Island has a five-stand shooting station for practice and lessons, as well as a 10-station course with two machines per station providing multiple angles and targets that mimic different game from rabbits to quail. Pollitzer also changes up the course every four to six weeks to keep the regular shooters guessing — like changing hole locations on a golf course.

“We try to mimic a hunting situation as much as possible because a lot of our members are quail hunters and want to simulate that situation,” Pollitzer said. “The guys who live here and shoot a lot come every week or a couple of times a week, so we like to keep it fresh for them.”

sporting clays4Clay shooting isn’t just for the avid hunter, though. The club offers a 28-gauge shotgun with a cut-down stock and reduced-recoil ammunition to cut down on the “kick” that often leaves an inexperienced shooter with a bruised shoulder and little desire to try the sport again. In fact, it’s the newcomers who Pollitzer enjoys working with the most because they’re open to instruction and keep things interesting.

“My main goal is just to get them to hit targets,” Pollitzer said. “People get really excited when they see that target break. It’s a great feeling when you shoot a target and it blows into smithereens, especially after you’ve missed a bunch.”

It’s a sport for anyone. Just keep at least one eye open.

BUFFALO BLAST SPORTING CLAYS TOURNAMENT

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Jan. 19 @ Palmetto bluff Open to the public, this 100-target, 13-station sporting clays competition is for all levels of shooters and benefits the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy. Following the tournament will be trick shooting demonstrations Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club instructors. $175. Register at www.fieldandfirepalmettobluff.com/events.