Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Sporting Clays in the Valley

If you enjoy shooting a shotgun and want to get out and have some fun, here is some good news for you.

The Valley has a couple of great sporting clay courses where you can really enjoy yourself.

Sporting clays started in England, but really took off in the United States in the 1980s.

The targets are thrown by machines, called traps, and replicate the flight of game birds like pheasants, grouse and ducks. Good courses present these targets in natural surroundings. Each course is laid out in a series of shooting stations.

Each station offers the shooter a challenge similar to one you might find while out hunting and can test the limits of shooting ability. You might see targets crossing in front of you, going through openings in the trees, going over your head, coming toward you or running and bouncing along the ground.

This past weekend I had the chance to visit two operations, the Flying Rabbit in Mount Crawford and Quail Ridge in Lexington.

My good friend John Alexander and his partner Rick Hill took over the operation at the Flying Rabbit last year. The course is located on Route 11 about one-and-a-half miles north of Route 257.

Alexander and Hill started working on the improvements to the Flying Rabbit in November. They changed the layout, added new stations and modernized the course by adding all electronically controlled traps.

Unlike many courses using mechanical traps that require an operator to accompany the group, at Flying Rabbit each group of shooters is given an electronic device that allows them to throw the targets.

“We are most proud of our control box,” said Alexander. “You can throw your own targets and shoot at your own pace.”

They will be expanding the operation with plans for both a five-stand course and wobble trap setup. Alexander told me the five-stand should be ready by March.

Flying Rabbit is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until dark. They are open by appointment, Wednesdays through Fridays, call 574-2529. A round of 50 targets costs $20, a round of 100 targets costs $35. You can buy ammunition on site or bring your own.

There is a shooting league in the works and they have plans for fun shoots and tournaments as well.

Quail Ridge, open for sixteen years, is located at 336 Murat Road in Lexington. The sixteen-station course winds along a half-mile path along a wooded hillside.

All shooting is by appointment only so you need to call 463-1800 before you go. They are open from 9 a.m. until dusk Thursdays through Saturdays and noon until dusk on Sunday.

A round of 50 targets costs $20 a round of 100 targets is $30. You can buy ammunition on site and they have some basic accessories like glasses and hearing protection as well.

Quail Ridge is open to shooters of all ages.

“I started shooting trap competitively when I was 10 years old,” said Chris Salb, the owner of Quail Ridge. “There is no reason to stop youngsters from shooting.”

Quail Ridge hosts corporate events, charity shoots and tournaments.

Both operations offer instruction. If you are a bird or small game hunter and haven’t tried sporting clays, give it a try. If you just shoot trap or skeet, you may find sporting clays a welcome change of pace.

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