outdoors

One of the scenic shooting stations at Great Guns Sporting in Colorado. The front range of the Rockies can be seen in the background. Courtesy photo

As you travel this summer, you may want to consider taking along a shotgun, not for protection, but rather recreation. Call it a claycation.

There are many shooting ranges across the country, often in some pretty scenic locations. The chance to get off the beaten path and break a few clays while on vacation makes packing a scattergun and a few boxes of shells well worth the extra effort.

That’s exactly what I did last spring while visiting my in-laws in Colorado over Easter weekend. That Saturday, my father-in-law and I drove up to Great Guns Sporting near the small town of Nunn.

Great Guns offers sporting clays, trap, skeet, and 5-stand. The latter is what I was interested in that day. I took my Super Vinci out of its case, assembled it, grabbed a couple boxes of ammo, and shot two rounds of 5-stand sporting clays.

My father-in-law didn’t want to shoot clays that day, so he acted as my personal target puller and cheering/jeering section – depending on how I shot! However, when he noticed Great Guns also had a handgun range, he lamented, “I should’ve brought my pistols.”

Besides shotgun sports, Great Guns also offers rifle, pistol, and archery ranges, as well as preserve hunting for pheasants and chukars. Neither of us realized a pistol range was available, but we quickly made plans to return someday with our handguns.

That day came this spring. On Good Friday, we again journeyed back to Great Guns, this time bringing along an assortment of handguns rather than a shotgun. Our assembled arsenal included a .22 Magnum, .38 Special, and 9mm apiece. We spent over an hour happily blasting away at paper targets until we simply got tired of shooting.

For more information, visit www.greatgunssporting.com.

You don’t have to go out of state to enjoy a claycation. While visiting Nebraska’s panhandle a couple years ago, I packed a shotgun so I could try out Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area’s then new trap field.

Several other amenities have since been added. Today, the Wildcat Hills Shooting Sports Complex offers rimfire, pellet gun, archery, 5-stand, and 100-yard rifle ranges. For more details, visit outdoornebraska.gov/wildcathillsrange.

After shooting a couple rounds of trap, my journey continued up to Alliance, where my uncle and I shot rifles and various handguns at his local shooting range that evening. Shooting was a vital and enjoyable part of this extended weekend mini-vacation.

A few years ago, my family visited Platte River State Park, and when I spotted the lone trap field high atop a hill, I wished I’d brought along a shotgun.

Besides trap, Platte River’s Outdoor Heritage Education Complex also offers an outdoor archery range, indoor pellet gun range, tomahawk throwing, and slingshots. Visit outdoornebraska.gov/platteriver/ for a complete listing of available activities.

As I write this, I’ve just returned from visiting my relatives in St Louis, where my cousin, Paul, organized an informal shooting event. Friends and family spent the afternoon ringing steel targets with various handguns against the humbling backdrop of a very swollen Mississippi River. It was hot and humid, but lots of fun.

Whether you travel near or far this summer, considering packing a shotgun or other firearm and squeeze in some shooting time while on vacation. Many areas have skeet, trap, sporting clays, or rifle ranges nearby, and plinking away with .22s or BB guns is always a lot of fun for the whole family.

Remember to pack plenty of ammo, too, as well as ear and eye protection so everyone can safely enjoy their time in the great outdoors.

Jarrod Spilger writes an Outdoors column for The Independent.

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