The sporting clays facility at Dorchester Shooting Preserve in Midway, Georgia is tournament caliber. They’ve carefully built the course station by station to make great use of the vegetation and terrain. With the controlled burning of the undergrowth underway while we were there and the landscaping to come it will soon be both beautiful and challenging.
For use by daily customers Dorchester is set up for shooting to be user friendly. Every station has independent electric traps. Each is hardwired to release buttons that hang on a peg adjacent to the shooting station. You walk up, a shooter moves into position, and another of the party grabs the buttons to release the birds on command. It’s an infallible system until either the trap runs out of targets or the deep cycle battery runs low.
To operate a commercial range of this caliber it takes this level of reliability and simplicity. Yet it’s definitely expensive to build and maintain. The initial cost of the traps is a couple thousand a piece.
So when the North American Hunter TV team showed up at Dorchester to tape tip segments for the upcoming season on Versus. One of the new pieces of equipment we brought didn’t get much respect – at first. Our sponsor Federal Premiumn Ammo is part of a much larger company known as ATK. Another consumer product division of ATK is Champion which markets all kinds of shooting accessories and targets … including a new portable trap called the WheelyBird.
Because of all the gear we have to bring to make quality television, we’d asked Champion to ship the WheelyBird straight to Dorchester. So when we arrived we had to assemble the trap. While we were putting it together on the front porch of the lodge, our hosts offered up some good natured ribbing about us Yankees bringing our own trap when the sporting clays course has dozens of them.
Now, if I can’t be hunting real feathers, there’s nothing as much fun as shooting sporting clays. And there’s no better way to sharpen the shooting eye for when bird seasons roll around than shooting at a well-built and meticulously maintained sporting clays range like Dorchester. It truly is the equivalent of country club golf with a shotgun. I’d do it every day if I could afford it.
But especially for new shooters such a place like this can be intimidating. They may think of it as “shooting in public” and decide not to give shooting a try at all. That’s not good. First introductions to shooting are best done informally with a lot more fun and a lot less competition.
It used to be for those “back 40” sessions we had to rely on birds thrown by hand or from a weak, rickety cock-on-load-one-throw-one trap. Well, as we proved to the guys at Dorchester, the Champion WheelyBird is a much better way to go. It allows you to load a stack of targets and start throwing – up to 3000 from a single charge on a 12 volt deep cycle battery. And it makes quality throws out to 55 yards or more. Both the angle and elevation of the flight are easily adjustable.
More importantly the WheelyBird lets you put your full attention to seeing that the new shooter gets the right start and has F-U-N during those critical first impressions. It really doesn’t matter if they don’t hit anything as long as they are being safe and having a good time.
The WheelyBird is as light and mobile as automatic traps get. That means you can move it to any safe shooting location to create more and more challenging shots and shooting games as skills advance. And if you have a safe place to shoot, the WheelyBird even provides an economical alternative to the commercial sporting clays range.
While we were taping with the WheelyBird, the guys from Dorchester came by to watch and they were impressed by what this light weight, easily transportable trap could do. In fact, when Champion generously allowed us to offer to leave the WheelyBird rather than ship it back the Dorchester folks jumped at the opportunity. The following weekend they used it at a diabetes fundraising shoot and raffled it off to raise money for the cause.