What is Clay pigeon shooting?

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Clay pigeon shooting, formally known as ?Inanimate Bird Shooting?, is the art of shooting at special flying targets, known as clay pigeons or clay targets, normally with a shotgun. The sport has evolved over the years from its live pigeon shooting roots; through glass balls and feathers; up to the modern day where it is now a respected Olympic Sport. It is interesting to note that the 'target' today is neither clay nor pigeon!

The terminology commonly used by clay shooters often still relates to times past, when live pigeon competitions were held. Although such competitions were made illegal in the UK in 1921, a target is still sometimes called a 'bird', a hit is sometimes referred to as a 'kill', a missed target might be described as a 'bird away' and the machine which projects the targets is known as a 'trap'.

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Who Started It? – Early pioneers

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One the most famous of the early 'sharp–shooters' was Annie Oakley – probably one of the United States? finest 'marksmen'. Born in 1860, Oakley's shooting skills were developed early in her life and when she was age 21 she met her future husband, shooting champion, Frank Butler by defeating him in a match. They toured as a team for some years before he retired to manage her career. She joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1885 and performed as the star of that 19th century show for more than 16 years. She astonished Americans and royalty across England and Europe with her amazing skill.

She was injured in a train accident in 1901 that ended her career with the Wild West. After she recovered she went on to shoot in charity events to help orphans, widows, and underprivileged women. She campaigned for women's rights to hold paid employment, earn equal pay, participate in sports, and defend herself in her own home and on city streets.

Trap shooting

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There are many versions of Trap Shooting including Olympic Trap, Double Trap (which is also an Olympic event), Nordic Trap, and several national versions such as American Trap. The layout of modern trap shooting is recognised by the fact that there is only one house that releases targets and the shooters only move through 5 different positions. Trap shooting has been a sport since at least 1793 when it used real birds, usually the then extremely abundant Passenger Pigeon. Fake birds were introduced around the time of the American Civil War as the Passenger Pigeon was nearing extinction and sufficient numbers were not reliably available. Clay targets were introduced in the 1880's.

Skeet shooting

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Skeet was invented by Charles E. Davies, an avid grouse hunter, in 1915 and evolved to its current setup by 1923. As with Trap shooting it originally used live pigeons but eventually the use of clay targets replaced the more traditional target as a cheaper, humane and more reliable alternative – one reason they are also called clay pigeons. In 1926 a contest was held to name the new sport, and Gertrude Hurlbutt named it skeet, which is derived from the Scandinavian word for "shoot". During World War II, Skeet was used in the American military to teach gunners the principle of leading and timing on flying targets.

Sporting Clays (shooting)

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Sporting Clays is often described as golf with a shotgun and is probably the most challenging of the three types. It differs from skeet and trap shooting in that it involves shooting clays at various locations which are launched at different velocities and angles. The original idea behind sporting clays was to create an experience that more closely reflects actual hunting conditions. Whereas top–tier skeet and trap professionals may have hit ratings nearing 100%, the best sporting clay shooters hit their targets only about 85% of the time!