Try Skeet Shooting at Hickory Knob State Resort Park

By:Marie McAden

Date:12/3/2011

It’s not often you find a state park that offers skeet shooting. Hickory Knob State Resort Park in McCormick is one of the few in the country to feature this competitive clay shooting sport — and at a very competitive price.

For $20-$25, you get the use of a shotgun, ear/eye protection, a box of shells and 25 clay targets, as well as supervision by a certified instructor. Participants have their choice of 12- or 20-gauge shotguns in pump, over-and-under or semi-automatic styles.

The range includes two rings, each with eight stations. The clay targets or pigeons are launched from low and high houses at either end of the ring. The angle of fire changes as you move around the ring from station to station. Your score is based on how many pigeons you hit out of 25.

I learned all about the sport from Hickory Knob Park Ranger John Kelton, a certified instructor. After I told him that I had never shot a firearm, he took special care to show me how to safely handle a shotgun and the proper stance to take to avoid being battered by the recoil.

“For most beginners, the biggest fear is the recoil to the shoulder,” he said. “If you place the butt of the gun in the proper spot, the muscles in your shoulder will absorb the recoil.”

He was right. All my worrying turned out to be for naught. The recoil was no more than a friendly push against my shoulder.

Kelton started me out on station No. 7, offering the easiest angle to hit the flying targets. My first shot clipped the clay, sending shards every which way. I was ecstatic.

“It’s very exciting when you bust it in a million pieces,” Kelton said. “It’s a great feeling.”

As I became more comfortable firing the shotgun, I was better able to follow the target, which seems to move so much faster when you’re trying to point the barrel of a gun at it.

Each time I was ready to shoot, I yelled “pull” and Kelton would launch the bird using a remote control. I didn’t make it through all 25 rounds. My arms grew tired of holding up the gun.

Experienced marksmen can make it through a couple of rounds in an hour.

“It’s a difficult sport,” Kelton said. “It takes a lot of practice to get good at it.”

The range is open year-round, but you need to make an appointment in advance. To book a reservation, call the park office at (864) 391-2450.

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