The Undercover Shooter — 03 June 2013


South Texas Sporting Clays

A visit to both a scenic rural club and an urban country club

Undercover Shooter: South Texas Sporting ClaysPerfect days–those when schedules, weather, and reunions align–are as precious as they are rare. We usually have to plot and plan and coordinate to make it all work out. Every once in a while, however, an opportunity jumps up like a rabbit off a fencerow, and it’s a snap shot or nothing.  Such was the case when a dear friend from Colorado announced he’d pay a last-minute visit.

I had to find something memorable for us to do, something that would set up a little good-natured competition—and I had to find it fast. Within moments, WhereToShoot.org revealed just what I wanted: Two sporting clays clubs within 50 miles of Houston that were open to the public on Sundays.

 

Range A 

Scenic rural club

The roadside sign marked our turn, but it was the Spanish moss and hardwoods that told us we were in the right place. For the two-mile dirt-road journey from the highway to the shooting facility signs led our way, and the scenery drew us in. At a little before 9 a.m. the place was serene.

The range manager, Luke, welcomed us. I explained that we were new to sporting clays. For the next 15 minutes or so, Luke talked with us about the rules of the game, the course and the remote-controlled clay-throwing system. He outfitted us with shotguns, shells, shooting cards, and a guide: Willie.

Willie helped get us started on the easier of two 10-station sporting clays courses. He covered safety. He worked the Briley Mattarelli iPull wireless target-release system and coached us on shooting clays. After two stations we were rocking and rolling on our own.

The course put us in a shooter’s natural setting: the country. Stations presented shots over ponds, across fields and through cypress stands. Blind spots, interesting angles and tight windows made the course challenging. In that setting, it was easy to imagine feathers in place of clays. As a longtime small-game hunter I would have liked to have a seen a rabbit or two.

When we reached the third station shotgun blasts announced the arrival of the next set of guests. Then the next. We worked through the stations with neither a wait nor a rush.

The parking lot was filling fast by midmorning.  Moms, dads, and yooungsters walked together toward the courses. Groups of gray-haired men turned clays to powder in pairs. One shooter shot repetitions of each pair, refining his rhythm, swing and lead.

My buddy made me look bad that morning. I had work to do at the next stop. We returned our gun and visited with Luke and Willie for a minute. We left having had as good a time as I can recall with a shotgun and an old friend.

 

Range B 

Country club in an urban setting

Traffic pushed us along the six-lane highway. We turned blindly when the GPS sounded. After a moment, we spotted the wallflower of a range sign and found our way toward the range. The manicured green fields, paved walkways, deep-red brick towers and loads of well-geared shooters told us we had found a fine facility.

Shotguns barked at passing clays as we walked to the clubhouse. A red-and-gold Baserri sign hung at the entrance. Inside, a father and daughter paid for a round of sporting clays. Behind them hung animal mounts and display cases for handguns and long guns.

The lone staffer welcomed us with a smile and asked us to register and sign the safety guidelines. I explained we were new to sporting clays and needed all the help she could offer. She gave us a shooting card, a beautiful over/under to share, shells and scorecards. The explanations she offered would not have been enough had we not first been to Range A. One customer offered a few tips about the Briley Mattarelli iPull remotes. Outside, another pointed us to the 13-station sporting clays course.

We stood at the first station for about 10 minutes, awaiting our turn.

“Pull,” called my buddy. I sent a target. It exploded. I hit the button for the second clay. Nothing. Empty. Rather than wait around for more clays, we moved on.

The rest of the machines were sufficiently loaded. We waited a little at each station, but the crowds were friendly and groups redistributed themselves along empty stations accordingly.

The stations offered challenging shots. I got a few looks at that rabbit I wanted. The facility was beautiful. We had a wonderful time shooting–and I squeaked out a win over my buddy, which set up our next outing. Unfortunately, the facility layout ensures shooters lob lead back and forth across a common field. The lead sprinkles to our heads may have been harmless, but they were disconcerting, distracting, and unappreciated nonetheless. When it comes time to shoot our tiebreaker, it won’t be here.

 UNDERCOVER SHOOTER SCORECARD 

Each category is rated on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest score.

Editor’s note: The Undercover Shooter is an experienced recreational shooter but is not trained in technical aspects of range design and operation.

 

Range A Customer Satisfaction Rating 

 

Signage and Visibility: 4 
  • The facility is not visible from the road.
  • One shooting club sign stands on the main road. It is large and stands alone without distraction from other signs. The salvage yard across the road is a good landmark.
  • Signs clearly mark the 2.4-mile path from the main road to the facility.
Layout and Setting: 4.5 
  • The shooting club is located in a remote area amidst a cypress swamp.
  • The club offers an office and rental area, an event and training facility, two sporting clays courses, a pavilion, a picnic area and fire pit, a 5-Stand setup and restrooms.
  • The sporting clays courses are laid out safely. Customers shoot away from one another.
Retail Product Availability: 2 
  • Retail offerings are limited, though there is ample room in its spacious rental area.
Rental Availability: 3 
  • Two 12-gauge shotguns were available for rent.
  • A broader selection of rental guns would be appealing.
Staff Friendliness: 5 
  • The staff was helpful from the first moment and particularly so when they discovered we were newcomers to sporting clays.
  • They took time to walk us through the technology, techniques and other aspects of the game to ensure we had a good, safe time.
Safety: 4.5 
  • Staff briefed us on safety norms while we were signing in and shooting the first station.
Programs and Membership: 4.5 
  • The club is open to the public. Annual membership packages include: Single ($300), Husband & Wife ($350), Groups of 10 ($2,500), Junior & Sub Junior ($150), Platinum Corporate ($3,500) and Family ($400). Each offers discounts on targets and on 5-Stand shooting.
  • The club offers instruction with three Level 1 instructors and one Level 2 instructor.
  • The club offers CHL classes.
  • Various tournaments and shooting events are held on site.
Cleanliness: 5 
  • The facility was spotless and well maintained.
Comments/Impressions: 
  • If I lived within driving distance, I would join without hesitation. The club offers the right technology, quality instructors, excellent customer service and a beautiful rural setting. The course is at once comfortable and challenging.

 

Range B Customer Satisfaction Rating 

 

Signage and Visibility: 3 
  • The shooting club is not visible from the road.
  • The shooting club has one sign on the main road. Although the sign is relatively large, it is overpowered by the collection of signs around it. Moreover, the shooting club sign is confusing and looks like it is part of another business.
Layout and Setting: 3 
  • The shooting club is located behind a carwash and a cluster of small businesses that line a major thoroughfare in an urban area.
  • The 36-acre facility is built around a common field and offers pistol and archery lanes; fields for trap, 5-Stand and skeet; a clubhouse; and restrooms.
  • The setting would earn a 5 were it not for the layout concerns discussed under “Safety.”
Retail Product Availability: 4 
  • A couple-dozen handguns and long guns were available for purchase.
Rental Availability: 4 
  • The staff didn’t quantify their shotgun rental stock, but they said they have plenty to cover the demand.
Staff Friendliness: 3 
  • Staff were friendly but not forthcoming with information or guidance – even in a nearly empty clubhouse.
Safety: 3 
  • We read and signed range safety rules straight away. Safety reminders about proper eyewear and hearing protection hung around the clubhouse and on each station.
  • With safety design, though, the place missed the mark. Shooting areas faced one another, although at a distance. My shooting partner and I were lightly peppered all day on the sporting clay range. Though there is likely limited chance of doing any real damage with the falling pellets, the threat is a distraction from an otherwise beautiful facility.
Programs and Membership: 4.5 
  • The shooting club is open to the public. All annual memberships come with discounted range rates, a 10 percent merchandise discount and a free hat. The club offers an all-inclusive membership ($350) and packages for Pistol ($185), Skeet and Trap ($125), Sporting Clays and 5-Stand ($175) and a Clays Combo ($250). Discounted family packages are also available.
  • The club hosts events and tournaments for skeet, sporting clays, trap, and 5-Stand.
  • The club offers training for handgun safety, self-awareness and CHL. A tactical handgun course may soon be offered.
Cleanliness: 5 
  • The facility was very clean, from the property’s front edge to the shooting stations.
  • Signs asked shooters to clean up after themselves and patrons obliged.
Comments/Impressions: 
  • This is a beautiful facility with a few considerable–though not insurmountable–challenges. The club is nearly inaccessible by telephone. Customer service may be off-putting to sensitive or irresolute patrons. Having only shot the sporting clays course, I cannot speak to the experience elsewhere at the club, but the promise of intermittent lead pellet peppering on the sporting clay course will keep me at bay.

 

 PREFERRED RANGE 

If a shooter wants to experience a laidback club in a beautiful rural setting where the service is as thoughtful as the property design, the choice is:

 Range A 

Clay Mound Sporting Center LLC
2001 Texaco Road
Liberty, Texas 77575
936-334-9200www.claymoundsporting.com  • info@claymoundsporting.com

 

All reports, comments, impressions, opinions or advice expressed in the Undercover Shooter column are solely those of independent, recreational shooting range consumers and do not necessarily represent those of the National Shooting Sports Foundation or its affiliates. Neither the NSSF nor its affiliates make any warranty or assume any liability with respect to the accuracy or reliability of any information provided by Undercover Shooter contributors. Readers are encouraged to and should perform their own investigation of the information provided herein.

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