Clay-Target Shooting Facilities

Daniel Burden, Program Coordinator International & Special Projects, AgMRC, Iowa State University, djburden@iastate.edu
Revised July 2015.

Introduction

So, how does a clay-target facility factor into value-added agriculture? Actually, it does nicely if one considers that it can use land used for agriculture, augments an on-farm or on-ranch hunting-preserve or bed-and-breakfast operation, or simply creates another stand-alone farm or ranch-based operational profit center.

Many rural bed and breakfast operations, lodges, hunting preserves, retreat centers and even some wineries have offered clay-target shotgun-shooting sports, events or master-class shooting-school options for their guests. Also, this is a way by which some rural-business ventures, like hunting preserves, can extend their operational seasons and customer services with, depending on the complexity of the endeavor, anywhere from a minimal to substantial outlay in equipment costs and time.

Marketing Channels

This activity is about developing a strategy to create and capture value based on time and capital investments scaled to fit a particular sport.  This business, large or small, is a participatory “experiential product” service; that also makes a positive contribution to the community by providing a new family-oriented sporting outlet. These venues frequently are sites for educational activities that include the ever-increasing number of high-school trap and skeet teams, Teachers in the Outdoors, Becoming an Outdoor Woman, 4-H Shooting Education and similar programs.

Production

There are a lot of things to think about when planning to establish a “clays field” venue. These include a safe venue for the event that includes a proper shot-fall zone, throwers and thrower-housings suited to the “game,” and adequate liability coverage for the participants, event or events, and event staff. Large events may require subcontracted employees or independent contractors, food caterers, etc.

Landscaping and range design are important considerations and lighting (systems can be very expensive) is critical for any higher-volume venue. The environmental implications of lead-shot “shot fall” is a controversial issue and must be considered a part of any prudent risk-management plan. State and national organizations including the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) and National Rifle Association (NRA), and nationally recognized private consulting firms offer planning assistance.

Across the clay sports there are several “games,” that include:

  • American Trap: The “field” consists of a series of five pads arranged in a hemispherical line behind a trap “pit” or “house” that houses the thrower (trap machine) and a supply of targets.
  • American Skeet: The “field” consists of a series of eight pads laid out in a hemispherical perimeter and a direct transecting line between the “high” and “low” houses.
  • Sporting Clays: Conducted over a course laid out along a trail where small groups of shooters encounter targets thrown to represent various hunting situations. It is often compared to playing a round or two of golf and is the most expensive and complicated game to produce.
  • Wobble-Trap or Wobble-Skeet: An increasingly popular game that combines both trap and skeet, involves a single thrower (as in trap) and a series of stations that are shot by the group as a group (as in skeet). It has greater variability of target presentation than is encountered in either trap or skeet but can be staged on the amount of land used for a skeet field.
  • 5-Stand: A fast-paced, condensed version of sporting clays. Five or more different target presentations are thrown in challenging combinations with respect to five different shooting positions along a line within a cage that restricts field-of-fire.

For far greater explanation of these games, land requirements and other issues; please see the AgMRC briefing paper on Clay Target Sports.

Management

Other pages within AgMRC Business Development describe feasibility studies and business plans, necessary and crucial steps to successfully develop any business. Any feasibility study should look at all potential profit generators and include realistic estimates of projected sales in terms of customer per-target and per-round figures. Best and worst-case scenarios must be considered with an eye toward break-even points and controlled growth of the venture. Business plans also must include a risk-management plan that reflects operational protocols, employee training, emergency procedures and liability exposure.

Financial

Pricing is an important marketing consideration, especially when trying to establish the business. Value to customer (how “deluxe” are your services), what are the “going rates” in the area and overhead costs to consider (automatic sporting clays courses are expensive to establish and maintain, a simple wobble-skeet field is not). Also, remember that memberships can be sold that guarantee a certain amount of seasonal “up front” operating capital. For example, one Oregon hunting preserve and bed & breakfast retreat center offers sporting clays and 5-stand to both members and non-members. Shoots are by appointment. Member rates are: 5 Stand is $7.50 per 25 targets; Sporting Clays $28.00 per 100 targets. Non-member (walk-in) rates are: 5 Stand is $10.00 per 25 targets; Sporting Clays $40.00 per 100 targets. Annual individual memberships are $175; family memberships are $250. Membership provides other value to the client through breaks on lodging and hunt pricing. Similar examples can be found by simply searching the Internet for hunt clubs and hunting preserves, and then checking their terms and price lists. Other marketing considerations should include league shoots, sale of club merchandise, club discount pricing on supplies, and development grants for building the business.

Sources

The National Shooting Sports Foundation
The National Skeet Shooting Association
The National Rifle Association of America
Developed January 2008 and revised July 2015.