HERNSHAW — “Pull!”
From Scott Sparks’ right, a bright-orange disc comes flying across the field. With practiced ease, Sparks swings his shotgun to match the target’s trajectory and pulls the trigger.
Up until a few weeks ago, Sparks would have made a shot like that on the adjacent West Virginia Clays Inc. skeet range. Now he makes them on the club’s spanking-new five-stand sporting clays range.
The five-stand range, built during the winter, allows shooters to make shots that more closely imitate real-life hunting situations than the routine, stylized shots required for skeet or trap.
One station, for example, might throw a clay bird straight up into the air to imitate a teal springing straight up off the water. Another might send a different type of clay target bouncing along the ground, like a rabbit running from hounds. Yet another might start out on one trajectory, but peel off in mid-flight and turn in another direction, like a dove swerving erratically over a cornfield.
“There are five stands, or stations, where you wait for the targets,” said Phil Parsons, the club’s president. “Right now, we have seven possible targets, and we’ll soon be adding an eighth.
“You get five shots at your first station, then you rotate to the next station for five more. Moving from station to station gives you a different angle on each of the targets. You rotate until you’ve shot at all five stations, a total of 25 shots.”
Since the five-stand range opened a month ago, club members have spent most of their time playing with their brand-new toy.
“Other than one person who didn’t do very well, everybody who has shot it has liked it immensely,” Parsons said. “The shooters we’ve had lately mostly seem to be using the five-stand. Fewer people are using the skeet and trap ranges.”
It isn’t hard to figure out why. The West Virginia Clays five-stand range is only the third public-access facility of its kind in the state. Parsons said the nearest one to the Charleston area is at Stonewall Jackson State Park, 90 miles to the northeast.
On standard sporting-clays courses, shooters walk from station to station much the same as golfers walk from hole to hole on a golf course. “Golf with a shotgun,” that approach has been called.
Parsons said he’s heard five-stand courses referred to as “sporting clays in a condensed area.” His club’s five-stand range is a case in point, encompassing about two acres.
“That’s good for our members, because a lot of us are a bit older and might not want to hike through the woods.”
Club leaders kicked around the idea of a five-stand range for more than a year and a half before they started the project.
“We got it built during the winter,” Parsons said. “They finished up the roof on the pavilion about a month and a half ago. One of our club members, Joe Taylor, along with his wife, Jill, and his dad, Mo, constructed it by themselves. They did one whale of a job.”
The pavilion, essentially an elevated wooden platform with a metal roof, has room for shooters who aren’t on the firing line to sit and chat with one another, as well as a rack to hold their shotguns.
Parsons said the club has about $45,000 in the facility so far, with one bird-throwing station yet to be installed. “By the time we’re finished with everything, I think we’ll have about $50,000 in the project,” he added.
The gun club is private, but its shoots are open to the public.
“We shoot every Wednesday and Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m.,” Parsons said. “A 25-shot round on the five-stand range costs $10 for nonmembers and $8 for members, ammo not included.”
He said the club’s $75 annual membership fee entitles members to discounted range fees for skeet, trap and sporting clays, as well as discounts on purchases of shotshell reloading supplies.