The Empire State shows its rural side to two shotgunners
New York state offers abun- dant opportunities for shotgun enthusiasts. For this assignment, a friend and I picked out two comparable sporting clays courses in central New York we
had never visited. In the spirit of this great game, both of these sportsmen’s clubs were friendly, welcoming, fun and safe. In the end, it was difficult to choose one club that we preferred over the other.
A challenging woods course
Located in the rural rolling hills of central New York dairy farm country, a 1930s cut-stone club house is home to this historic sportsmen’s club, which was originally founded in 1907. The club facil- ities include fields for skeet, trap, black powder, sporting clays, 5-Stand, rifle, archery, pistol and 3-D archery. Shooting instruction, as well as hunter education courses, is offered at the club house.
A specific staff person was not in charge, but we were greeted by a friendly and welcoming club member who helped us get signed in. The gentleman was patient and informative. We saw that the club house had a full dining hall and bar facilities; however, they weren’t open for service on the morning we were there. The clubhouse did offer the basic neces- sities, however, and the bathrooms were clean.
The cost of a round of clays included a complimentary shuttle in a pick-up truck, custom fitted with bench seats in the bed, to the summer “Woods Course,” which lies at the bottom of a steep, wooded ravine. The short ride to the first station was fun and definitely would be welcome for seniors or other shooters with somewhat limited mobility. Once down the hill, shooters are on their own to walk from station to station.
Most of the stations were set with manual traps that were operated by a trapper who guided us through the course. The woods course was challeng- ing with many realistic field shooting scenarios and some deceiving shots over the ravine. I would have liked to have been offered a little more variety in the types of targets presented, but the course was exciting nonetheless.
In the winter months, the sporting clays course is moved out of the woods to the top of the hill, next to the clubhouse, where it is more easily main- tained. The other shooters in our group had positive things to say about the relatively more open “Top of the Hill,” course, but I can’t comment on it from experience.
The staff, club members and our fellow shooters were all very friendly and helpful. Before we left, a staff member went out of his way to come over to us and thank us for coming and welcome us back anytime. I was impressed by the level of courtesy at this shooting club.
A fun course with a variety of targets
The second sportsmen’s club I visited was located in the rural countryside, just south of Auburn. We arrived on this weekend morning to find a small crowd of shooters gathered in front of the clubhouse socializing and watching fellow shooters. The porch of the clubhouse offered a good view of the 5-Stand and skeet ranges. There are also two trap fields, one of which has a new wobble trap. I noticed that flood lights would allow evening shooting in the fall and winter months. Another feature was a 40-foot-high tower for practicing high overhead or crossing targets.
The aroma of hot coffee wafted from the clubhouse, which was serving hot breakfast from the kitchen. A friendly staff member helped us sign-in for the sporting clays course and explained that there would be a short wait before we could get on the course.
While we waited I used the restroom, which was clean and tidy, but unfortunately the toilets were having some septic problems. I suspect this could be a common problem at many of these long- established clubhouses as their infrastructure gets older, but it was only a little bothersome.
Without too much delay, we met our shooting squad partners, another man and woman who were also new to the course. As a female shooter, I appreciated the opportunity to shoot with another woman. That was a welcome surprise.
The sporting clays course was set with a 50-bird menu and 20 possible stations. However I think we shot only a dozen of those stations. I found the course exceptionally fun to shoot, and I appreciated the variety of targets thrown both manually and some mechanically. There was a good mix of quartering and crossing targets, as well as rabbits, springing teals, chandelles and midis. There was even a station where the clays were bounced off a trampoline, creating a fun, arcing target. The course offered a variety of challenging shots, yet I felt that novice to intermediate shooters would still find it very doable.