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t’s a magnificent cool, crisp, and sunny Fall day in Bucks County. That early morning hearing that you planned to take the whole day suddenly resolved amicably in a way that left both parties happy. (Does that mean it couldn’t be a good settlement after all?) Driving back to your office with the rest of the afternoon free, you remember the shotgun in your trunk and decide to take the back roads that pass by timbered plots and reaped fields that are not plastered with “No Hunting” signs. Stopping the car alongside the road, you know that even without a dog you won’t have to walk very far before you can fire the gun and bring down a pheasant or two. Dinner tonight will be featuring wild game birds.

Today a shooter has her choice of a wide variety of clay target games to test her skill and endurance. Harking back to the days when a pigeon was released from a box or “trap,” the machines used to launch a clay target are known as “trap machines” and the sport became known as “trapshooting.” For the last century, American-style trap has been dominant. In this game, a shooter fires at a round of 25. There are five “posts” 16 yards behind the “traphouse” that holds the machine that launches the target. The targets fly away from the shooters within regulated angles. A shooter occupies each post. Each shooter fires at one target in turn until each has fired at five targets. The shooters then rotate one “post” to their right with the number five shooter moving to post one. This is done until each shooter has shot 25 targets, five at each post. Variations on this game include “doubles” in which two targets are launched at a time and the shooter must shoot both in succession. And there is “handicap” shooting where a shooter is assigned a handicap that requires him to shoot the target from as far back as 27 yards behind the traphouse.

Alas, while we can still expect once in a while to amicably resolve a contentious case, it has probably been almost 50 years since you’ve been able to hunt like this in Bucks County. While there are game preserves in the county where they will place pen-raised birds in a field for hunters to shoot, the avid shotgunner today has to satisfy herself with clay targets. Fortunately, there are lots of ranges throughout Bucks that offer a variety of clay target games on almost each day of the week and in the evenings, as well.

“Clay target shooting took over the public’s imagination and by the end of the 19th century it was not uncommon for thousands to watch clay target matches.”

Three excellent facilities to shoot trap span the county. In Perkasie, on Rt. 563 south just down the road from the Pennridge Airport, is Branch Valley (branchvalleyfgfassoc.org). Shooting takes place there every Wednesday from about 3 p.m. and continues well into the evening under the lights. It is not unusual at Branch Valley to be sighting out onto the field and have a skydiver or two, or three, suddenly appear as they miss their mark for the airport and land on the grounds of the club. Whenever this happens, stop shooting.

All clay target games developed from shooters’ desire to simulate field shooting under conditions where multiple, repetitive targets shot in a single location not only allowed hunting skills to be honed, but made for competition. The first targets were live birds, most often pigeons, released from traps. Into the 20th century the targets used in Olympic shotgun competition were pigeons. But because live birds were becoming more expensive and the objections of animalists were becoming more vocal, the pressure was on to develop an alternative. Originally, glass balls were used, some even filled with feathers. Targets made from pitch constantly improved and could be had very inexpensively. Clay target shooting took over the public’s imagination and by the end of the 19th century it was not uncommon for thousands to watch clay target matches between the country’s best shooters, including Annie Oakley.

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FALL 2015

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The WRITS, Fall 2015  

The Official Publication of the Bucks County Bar Association of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Published quarterly, Bucks Writs is mailed direc...

The WRITS, Fall 2015  

The Official Publication of the Bucks County Bar Association of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Published quarterly, Bucks Writs is mailed direc...

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