Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Growing Popularity of Shooting a Clay Pigeon

Skeet shooting is taking off as a favored western Pennsylvania hobby.




photos by timothy cox

 

As I loaded a yellow shell into the bottom barrel of the borrowed, over/under-barrel shotgun in my hands, I briefly wished I had paid more attention in algebra. 

At the moment, an equation was running through my head: If a target 4 5/16 inches across and 1 inch thick is propelled at an upward angle (starting 4 feet off the ground) over a hillside at 48 miles per hour, can a person (with no meaningful shooting experience) wielding a 7-pound, 20-gauge shotgun hit said target before it reaches its terminal height of 15 feet at a distance of 62 total yards?
 


 

Miraculously, without the benefit of math, it happened twice in 16 tries. That one-in-eight success rate took a fair amount of coaching from Nick Sisley, a member of the Pennsylvania Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame — as well as luck.

Sisley escorted me through the basics of skeet on a visit to the Tarentum District Sportsmen’s Club, a woodland retreat on hilly acreage in Sarver featuring a newly built lodge-style clubhouse.  
 


 

Skeet is one of the major disciplines of the sport of clay target shooting, along with trap shooting and sporting clays. Skeet came along in the 1920s, originally developed as a way for grouse hunters to hone their craft; it has since become a sport with international competitions.  

In each discipline, a competitor moves through a number of different stations, using a shotgun to shoot clay discs that have been “thrown” at varying levels in the air by machines triggered by remote control from two “houses” located to the right and left of the field. (The number of stations and targets, their locations and other details change between skeet, trap and sporting clays.)
 


 

A focus on safety is apparent upon entering the facility — rules related to gun safety and using eye and ear protection are posted along the roadways and in several locations inside and on the outside of the buildings throughout the property. 

“I tell the people I train here at the club that I have five rules,” says Dan Sanko, a member of five years. “Safety, safety, safety, safety, safety.”

Sisley, one of three accredited skeet shooting instructors at the club, took me through the paces as he prepared the shotgun I’d be using for my lesson. One of the reasons skeet is rising in popularity, he says, is that it has a relatively low cost of entry: For the cost of a box of ammunition and a modest course fee ($4 at the Tarentum club), anyone who owns a shotgun can, accompanied by a member, shoot a round of skeet.

There is the matter of knowing what you’re doing, however.
 


 

If you’ve ever watched a spaghetti western, it’s tempting to think you can swagger out to one of the designated stations (a painted rectangle at the end of a concrete pathway emanating spoke-like from a concrete half-circle), load a shell in your shotgun, raise it to the sky, yell “PULL!,” squeeze the trigger and watch triumphantly as the fluorescent orange clay target (called a bird or pigeon) explodes into hundreds of pieces.

Not so.

After a few failed attempts on my part, Sisley demonstrated key skills involved in successful skeet shooting: foot position, muzzle position, eye position and more.
Not closing your eyes when you squeeze the trigger helps, too.
 

It took two more failed shots, with Sisley standing directly behind me issuing directives (“Linebacker stance!” “Belly out!” “Don’t bend your back!”) before the defining moment every new skeet shooter eventually experiences: the target exploded.

The exhilaration was consuming. I may have even screamed “Whoo Hoo” and pumped my fist a few times.

“It’s really intimidating when you first shoot,” Sisley says, “but once you get that confidence after you break a few birds, it becomes a pleasure.”

The Tarentum District Sportsmen’s Club has experienced a rise in skeet newbies in the past year; their membership, which is open, is nearing 500. There’s a $75 initiation fee and annual fees of $50 (as well as modest per-game fees).  
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Man Donates a Million to College Founded by His Aunt

Entrepreneur Robert M. “Bob” Brownlee’s contribution will allow Seton Hill University to build a brand new mathematics center and establish a new scholarship.

Annihilation Is Challenging, Otherworldly Science Fiction

Reviews of "Annihilation" and "Mute," plus local movie news and notes.

Penn Cove Eatery and The Warren Open Downtown

The collaboration between Penn Avenue Fish Company and Subversive Cocktails contains a wine shop, grab-and-go sushi, a bar with a late-night menu and more.

Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

With the NHL trade deadline looming, the Penguins are increasingly employing more forward-thinking approaches to the acquisition of future stars.

Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

If you play your cards right, the beautiful production from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will dazzle even novices.

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Henigin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Peters Township Native Wins Silver Medal in Speed Skating

After swine flu kept him from competing in Sochi in 2014, short track speed skater John-Henry Krueger finally won a spot on the podium at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Perspectives: A Better Life

A former Pittsburgh television reporter recounts the lessons taught to him by his grandfather who spent more than four decades as a Pullman Porter.

Pittsburgh MultiStories: Phipps Legacy – The Fulton Building

With its distinctive seven-story archway, the Fulton Building (now the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel) remains a beloved Pittsburgh landmark.

Kick Back and Relax with a Baby Sloth

For $150 you can book an up-close hang out session with Vivien the two-toed sloth.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Man Donates a Million to College Founded by His Aunt

Man Donates a Million to College Founded by His Aunt

Entrepreneur Robert M. “Bob” Brownlee’s contribution will allow Seton Hill University to build a brand new mathematics center and establish a new scholarship.

Comments

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Penn Cove Eatery and The Warren Open Downtown

Penn Cove Eatery and The Warren Open Downtown

The collaboration between Penn Avenue Fish Company and Subversive Cocktails contains a wine shop, grab-and-go sushi, a bar with a late-night menu and more.

Comments

First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

PM dining critic Hal B. Klein takes a look at the new Richard DeShantz restaurant ... and he has the scoop on what's next from the energetic restaurateur.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Comments

Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Where to eat, where to go, what to buy –– some of our favorites to make your Valentine's celebration memorable.

Comments


Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

If you play your cards right, the beautiful production from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will dazzle even novices.

Comments

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

The North Shore concert hotspot is the latest inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

With the NHL trade deadline looming, the Penguins are increasingly employing more forward-thinking approaches to the acquisition of future stars.

Comments

The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

They’re still playing hockey at the Winter Olympics, but without NHL players. Which means the guys doing the playing are relative nobodies. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Annihilation Is Challenging, Otherworldly Science Fiction

Annihilation Is Challenging, Otherworldly Science Fiction

Reviews of "Annihilation" and "Mute," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments

Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Reviews of "Black Panther" and "Early Man," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Henigin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Comments

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

We introduce the winner and the runners up for our biannual cookie table contest.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

Comments

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Comments