The word of the day seemed to be “pull,” and each time it was uttered, gunfire echoed through the trees, welcoming us all to the McPherson Valley Uplands First Annual Sporting Clay Shoot at the McPherson Valley Uplands Outdoor Life Center 5 miles west of McPherson. The facility sits on 50 acres leased from the NCRA Refinery and is operated by the Pheasants Forever McPherson Area Chapter #510 to provide outdoor activities and education to all area residents, especially kids.
Sporting clay shooting began as a European sport and was introduced here in the U.S. in the early 1980’s. Unlike trap and skeet shooting, sporting clays are shot on a course where shooters move from station to station, shooting clay pigeons thrown from automatic throwers set up to emulate real world shooting conditions encountered on an actual hunt.
The course was designed, set-up and maintained by renowned sporting clay course designer Dennis Linden from McPherson. Linden owns a local electrical business and as a competitive sporting clay shooter years ago, had his own practice course. Although he no longer competes, he designs and builds sporting clay courses all across the country, most permanent, but some only temporary like the course today.
Today’s course consisted of ten stations scattered through the woods and around the pond at the Outdoor Life Center, each with two throwers. Groups of four or five shooters moved through the stations, shooting ten clays from each. The throwers were remotely controlled by one group member while the rest of the group shot. Clays were thrown at different heights and from different angles; one came clear from the other side of the pond and a couple even skimmed just inches above the ground simulating a running rabbit. At three stations both targets were even thrown simultaneously.
Kansas State Senator Rick Wilborn from McPherson shot in the first group. Wilborn is an enthusiastic outdoorsman, and when asked why he was shooting today he told me “I’ve been an avid sporting clays shooter since the sport came to the U.S. and I wanted to come out and shoot today to support what the Uplands Center is doing here, especially for our youth.”
I also found the team consisting of JC Saunders, his wife Susan, their eleven year old daughter Samantha, thirteen year old daughter Jessica and their friend, fourteen year old Logan Oborny, all from Lehigh, Kansas. JC taught Susan to shoot before they were married, and today they are the instructors for the shotgun portion of the Marion County 4H shooting sports program. The family shoots together at least a couple times a month, sometimes competitively, and the whole family hunts deer, turkeys, pheasants and quail. When I asked the kids why they would rather be here today than home doing something else, they all replied in unison “Because we get to be outdoors and shoot guns!”
The fees from today’s sporting clay shoot all go to support a program there at the Uplands Family Life Center known as “third Thursday,” where kids of all ages and their parents are invited out the third Thursday evening of the month, May – August, from 6-8 PM to a FREE supervised shooting event, where each kid is coached in shooting BB and pellet guns, .22 rifles, shotguns, bows and even slingshots, and the hotdogs and chips are also FREE.
This is how God’s Creation and HIS outdoors are meant to be enjoyed, so check out the website at www.mcphersonvalleyuplands.org and visit the Uplands Family Life Center as you continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]