SPORTING CLAYS IN DIXIE

Alabama facilities offer two very positive experiences

I’m not much of a golfer, so sporting clays is when I get to play on a golf cart, all the while honing my shotgunning skills for dove and duck seasons. Shotgun venues in and around the Birmingham, Ala., area, are many, but, surprisingly, sporting clays isn’t as prevalent as 5-Stand or skeet. To scope out a couple of ranges I had to drive up to an hour from my home to investigate.

 

Range A

A riverside range

The first range I visited was just north of Alabama’s capitol city, Montgomery. I live 30 miles south of Birmingham, so the range was about an hour’s drive from my house.

When turning into the gravel drive of the range I passed through a section of swampy forest, typical of the bottomlands along the Alabama River, which begins its 318-mile journey south toward the Gulf of Mexico less than two miles north of the range at the confluences of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers.

Several hundred yards up the drive I came to the main parking lot, where 5-Stand and skeet ranges were visible and where the pro shop sat. A large covered area connected to the front of the pro shop where there were 10 or more large picnic tables for group events. Montgomery has been listed as one of the top 30 sweatiest cities in Old Spice’s annual rankings, so the shaded tables are a nice feature in a part of the country where the sun’s rays are intense for four to five months out of the year.

Upon entering the pro shop I was greeted by a nice blast of cold air. The storefront is spacious, but not huge. However, the floors are tile and the counter tops made of beautifully polished granite. Everything in the store was well kept and neat. There was also an impressive selection of shooting supplies and products. Everything was beautifully displayed and arranged like a top-end firearms retail store would have it.

The gentleman running the counter was courteous and inviting. He asked if my wife or I had ever been to the range before, and when I told him we hadn’t, he quickly and precisely went over all the rules of the range. He handed me my scorecard and then escorted us outside. He fetched a golf cart and met us at our vehicle with it. He then got on another cart and drove us to the sporting clays range, which was a couple of hundred yards from the office. We got out at the first station, and he showed us the controls and pointed down the road and across a huge field telling us how the rest of the stations were laid out. He hung around for the first couple of shots and then told us to “Have fun.”

The course consisted of 16 stations for 100 rounds total. You could shoot as many of those as you wanted or shoot less and pay for what you shot. The course made a wide circle. The center was a very large, clean field that was bordered by mature hardwood forest.

You begin shooting up the left side of the circle, and the first few stations point toward the woods on your left. Then you begin to shoot stations on the right that point out over the large field. You continue around the circle, swapping stations from field to woods. On the other half of the course, that is, the right-hand side of the circle, you are in a more wooded section, with lots of shade. These stations continue on around until you end up back where you first entered the circle, with the road leading back to the office.

The range has a nice mix of crossing shots, clays coming at you and going away, along with some sky-high clays, and a couple of “rabbit” style rollers thrown in for fun. There were one or two elevated platform stands where you were above the targets, but everything else was from ground level shooting up or out in front of you. All the throwing machines worked flawlessly.

The facility also offers Continental Style pheasant hunting.

 

Range B

Woodland hills

That first range visited was flat. This next one, located 50 minutes southeast of Birmingham, was the opposite. Sitting along the very southern end of the Appalachian Mountains, this range features flat open fields to rolling wooded hills.

The terrain makes for some excellent shooting, too. With the varying terrain you have a wide variety of shots with clays dropping in on you from hilltops above, clays crossing wooded valleys, clays below you, clays above you, etc. The other half of the course is flatter, with some wide, open fields, which offer nice crossing shots, long-range clays, rabbit-style clays, high-flying clays and an adjustable tower platform that launches clays from near-ground level all the way up to 45 feet or so above the ground.

This range has been in business since 1990 and is a well-oiled machine when it comes to hosting large events and everyday shooters. It sits on a historical farm that was in operation from 1834 until the sporting clay’s course was opened. The rustic house that sits on the property and serves as the base of operations has a full-service kitchen for events and a dining room. The squeak of the hardwood floors and assortment of wildlife taxidermy carry the ambiance of an old hunting lodge, where the stories seem to live eternally along with the wood-smoke smell infused into the timeworn walls.

The owner and operator of the range is very friendly and welcoming and goes over shooting course rules with each guest. The pro shop sits directly across the gravel drive from the house and features gun rentals, ammo, apparel and more.

Besides sporting clays, this range also offers pheasant and quail hunting with well-trained dogs on 800 acres of managed upland habitat as well as a Continental Pheasant hunt. Guests for sporting clays or hunting can stay the night on site, too.

Undercover Shooter Scorecard

Range A Customer Satisfaction Rating

Signage and Visibility: 4
•    There is a large sign at the entrance letting you know the range is there, but its general location is slightly off the beaten path and the range sits hidden from the road.

Layout and Setting: 4
•    I liked the simple layout of the course. It was essentially a large loop, with stands on the left and right-hand side of the cart path. Stations on the left were typically in the woods, while stations on the right were in a very large open field. Terrain was completely flat.
•    There are a number of varying shots that offer a fun and challenging course.

Retail Product Availability: 5
•    First impressions are important, and as soon as I walked into the pro shop I was favorably impressed. The tile floors and granite counter tops were a very elegant touch. The roster of top-name-brand equipment (custom Oakley shooting glasses, shooting vests, hearing protection, Benchmade knives, Yeti coolers, ammo and more) was equally impressive, and the arrangement and display of everything was very eye catching. You immediately get the feel that this is a well-run, well-kept range when entering the pro shop for the first time.

Rental Availability: 5
•    The range carries both adult and youth shotguns for rent.

Staff Friendliness: 5
•    The owner/operator of the range was working the day I came by, and he was extremely helpful. He was courteous and genuinely wanted us to have a good time while shooting.

Safety: 5
•    I was asked right away if I had ever shot at the range, and when I said I hadn’t, he immediately went over all range and cart rules with us.
•    The range operator then escorted my wife and me out to the first stand, showed us how everything works, watched us shoot a couple of clays to make sure we were responsible and safe and then left us to shoot the course.
•    All stations are safely positioned, and everyone that I observed shooting that day was safety conscious.

Programs and Memberships: 5
•    This range is a members-only range. However, the public is welcome through a day-membership program. You can utilize the day membership if you only shoot a couple of times per year. If you shoot more, then you can purchase an annual membership or a military membership (if applicable) with member-only benefits. There is also youth pricing.
•    A number of shooting events are held throughout the year at this range, with member’s-only events, too.
•    If you become a member, you can piggyback your order off of the range when buying shells or shooting supplies and not have to pay shipping.
•    It also offers professional shooting lessons.

Cleanliness: 4
•    The range and pro shop were extremely clean and well kept. Grass was cut, parking lot was well maintained and there are garbage cans at each station. The  bathroom connected to the pro shop was a bit untidy. The trash needed to be taken out and toilet paper picked up off the floor. All of this could have been done in a few minutes, and that was the only knock I saw as far as cleanliness.

Comments/Impressions:
I thoroughly enjoyed my round of sporting clays at this range. With easy access from the Interstate and close proximity to the state capital, it’s a great place to take the family and friends for an afternoon of sporting clays. It’s a well-maintained facility with a simplistic design and fully automated target-throwing machines, which makes it easy for a visitor to jump right in and start shooting.

 

Range B Customer Satisfaction Rating

Signage and Visibility: 4
•    This range is also off the beaten path, but does have a large sign at the entrance on the highway that it’s located off of. The range and facilities are not visible from the highway, and if traveling eastbound toward the range, which visitors from Birmingham and Montgomery would be doing, you could easily pass the entrance because it is just on the other side of a short hill, and the sign pops out of nowhere when traveling 55 mph.

Layout and Setting: 5
•    This course sits mostly in mature oak forests that offer lots of shade for summer shooting, but also has five to six field stations, too.
•    The best part of this course is the undulating hills that offer a number of unique shots that wouldn’t be possible without that topography.
•    All machines operate off of a wireless remote, which is housed in a mailbox at each station.

Retail Product Availability: 5
•    The pro shop is across the drive from the main house and is a simple block building. However, it carries a full line of shooting supplies, shells and apparel from Beretta and Wiley X. It offers fleece-lined vests and carries T-shirts in youth, women and men’s sizes.

Rental Availability: 5
•    It offers a variety of shotguns for rent.

Staff Friendliness: 5
•    The owner/operator of the range is extremely friendly and enjoys joking around (in a friendly and fun manner) with guests. Employees reflect the same courtesy.

Safety: 5
•    Rules are clearly written and must be read before shooting. Employees or owner go over rules with the shooters if they are new to the course, too.
•    All stations are positioned shooting out into the non-used portions of the property and, with the exception of only a few of the field stands, you can’t see other shooters at the next station.

Programs and Memberships: 5
•    The range is open to the public and offers memberships with member-only benefits.
•    Being the first sporting clay’s course in the state, this range hosts a number of shoots and large events, annually.

Cleanliness: 5
•    The range, pro shop and country house were extremely clean and well kept. All the grounds were well maintained with the grass cut and gravel parking and walking paths. Bathrooms were clean, too. This course also has magnetic staffs/wands for shooters to use to clean up their empty hulls and easily place them in a garbage can at each station.

Comments/Impressions:
The wooded hills and maintained grounds make this a relaxing and enjoyable place to shoot. The country house and staff are very welcoming and both make you want to hang out for a while, even after shooting.

 

Preferred Range

This was an extremely difficult call. Both facilities are professional, clean, safe and inviting, and I wouldn’t hesitate to revisit either one. However, the hilly terrain of Range B made for some unique and fun shooting and the feel of the country home makes you want to relax and rest in the shade of the towering oaks when finished shooting.

 

Range B

Selwood Farm Sporting Clays and Hunting Preserve

706 Selwood Rd., Alpine, Ala. 35014

800-522-0403●www.selwoodfarm.com

Related Articles

Share

About Author

admin

(0) Readers Comments

Comments are closed.