Can you? Should you? What do you need to know about legally? And which clay traps would suit?
Q: I live in the country and I have some land on my property. Now that we’re all having to stay at home and socially isolate from others I thought it might be a good idea to set up a clay trap on this land for shooting clay pigeons to keep my eye in. I know it’s illegal for pellets to cross over onto a neighbour’s land but what else do I need to know about?
A: Think carefully about your neighbours. If they are farmers bear in mind this comment. “We generally don’t mind people shooting over our land as long as permission has been granted. On the other hand they are not allowed to shoot over vegetable crops because if shot is found in the head of a plant the supermarket will reject the entire field. Which costs us a lot of money.”
So you need to think carefully about the placement of the trap when shooting clay pigeons. Do you really have enough land? You need to make sure that no shot and no broken clays will fall on anyone else’s land around you and remember that you are not allowed to shoot over a right of way.
Finally remember that at the moment you cannot invite your friends and neighbours around for a spot of clayshooting if you set up a trap. You must restrict your outings on your land to those living in your home at the present time. When restrictions due to the COVID-19 eventually lift then things should be different.
Safe ranges shooting clay pigeons
The expected distance a shot can travel is 300 yards, but this depends on wind strength and direction, pellet size and whether it’s steel, bismuth, lead or Hevishot. For example, Hevishot fired downwind in a strong breeze could go more than 300 yards.
Noise and safety
Think about the noise you will cause. If your neighbours are near enough to hear and be disturbed then they could complain to the council about noise pollution. Get them onside before you begin and remember hats, ear defenders and eye protection are a must when shooting clays.
Tips and advice
- The safety zone of 300 yards away from buildings, footpaths and any boundary is a recognised parameter.
- If using a manual trap and trapper, agree a clear stop and start signal for shooting. The trapper should operate the trap from a safe location and have a flag or signalling device to signal a problem (so that they don’t walk into a potential danger zone.)
- You must have sufficient space so that no shot or clays pass over boundaries.
- Your first priority should always be safety procedures.
- Noise is a real issue, but good communication with those that could take offence can help to solve this. Let neighbours know when and for how long you will be doing shooting. Check in after you have shot and get some feedback.
- Communicate with everyone taking part so they know what is going on. For example, I will shoot ten straight driven targets then stop shooting, or I’ll call for each target then shout stop to let you know I’m done.
- Make sure no one can walk into the middle of your clay shoot and put themselves in danger, rope off access or put up signs with your phone number on.
Which type of clayshooting?
Are you wanting to practise for game shooting, Sporting clays or just some all-round fun? This will determine the different angles that you will need to replicate and in turn will help you make the right decision on which clay trap to buy.
- For replicating pheasants and partridges, a sloping bank to launch your clays from is ideal. This will allow you to practise the three main shots for driven game: the straight driven, a right-to-left crosser and a left-to-right crosser. When firing the clays from a bank, it is important to make sure that the clay will travel well beyond the position of where you intend to stand.
- For replicating grouse, you will need to be careful in the initial set-up. Because the clays are coming in lower it can be dangerous — broken pieces of clay can fight back and cause some serious harm. Remember to consider your shot fallout here; the more you can move around your trap the more angles you can replicate, from your going-away birds to your straight driven, your quartering-in and your crossers.
- For Sporting clays, it is best to wait until you can go to your local shooting ground to practise due to the volume of traps at their disposal, but there is nothing to stop you practising on a particular target that you have been struggling with.
Manual clay traps to consider
The main advantages of the manual trap are their versatility and the variation of clays they can present for not a huge expense. You can throw standard, midi and mini clays off one arm. Simply by moving the clay along the throwing arm you can cover a huge area in front of you. With all manual traps, the closer you place the clay to the pivot point the more power will be transferred to the clay and the further distance it will cover. With one decent manual trap you will certainly be able to provide three Guns with plenty of sport.
Bowman SuperTrap 3
This trap comes with a sledge stand and is easy to operate. You simply pull the arm back to cock it, then load your chosen clay into the position you require. To release you simply nudge the throwing arm. The trap has two arms attached and can accommodate a pair of clays and fire them up to 95m as a single standard clay. You can alter the height of the trap by using the proprietary Bowman locking lever. At a mere 13kg including the sledge stand you can manoeuvre the trap with ease. You can also buy an elevating and tilting base if required. All Bowman traps come with a three-year warranty.
Bowman SuperTrap 2000
This is the Formula 1 of the manual trap world. The SuperTrap 2000 can be supplied with Bowman’s stiffest spring, which can throw a standard clay up to 150m — perfect if you are trying to throw a clay from a bank and it is quite a distance to your shooting position. A cocking lever is built into the trap, which makes the cocking process much easier on the arm of the trapper; it is also safer as you will not have the throwing arm of the trap coming back round if it slips out of your hand while attempting to cock it. There is
a catch that you press which releases the clay when you have loaded it on to the arm.
The trap comes on a tripod stand that provides a seat for your trapper to work from. They are manageable for one person to pick up and move around if needed and again provides you with lots of versatility. There are two throwing arms as standard with the SuperTrap 2000 and it can easily punch out some fantastic pairs to shoot at, though as soon as you put two clays on to the arm the distance they will cover will be significantly reduced.
This trap was designed and built by Ferris Whidborne with simulated game days in mind. It is a manually operated but electric-powered trap. It can fire up to four clays a second and fire a clay, arguably, as far as — if not further than — any other trap on the market today. It operates by a throwing arm that is constantly rotating within a housing.
By hand you release the midi clay from the hopper into the centre of the trap, which then spins the clay on the arm for one-and-three-quarter rotations on the arm and releases the clay in the direction that you are pointing the trap. The trap sits on a tripod base and gives you the freedom to point it in any direction you desire. You really can turn the sky black if so desired.
Looking at automatic clay pigeon traps
Automatic clay traps allow you to practise your shooting on your own, but they do tend to be more expensive than manual traps.
Bowman Supermatch One
RRP £793 plus VAT
Weighing just 24kg, this trap can be manoeuvred with ease. A super-fast recocking time of 0.9 seconds will allow you to throw two targets as close to a pair without the need for a second trap. It comes with two carousels for midi or standard clays with a capacity of up to 100. The elevation from the trap allows you to throw a low horizontal bird through to a springing teal. The Supermatch One can throw a midi up to 90m. Optional extras include a foot release pedal with a 50m cable and a quad barrow.
There is also an acoustic release that allows you to call “pull” to launch the clay and an oscillating DTL base which moves the trap left and right automatically. This can be paired with a remote or you can use the 50m cable that comes as standard. The Supermatch One comes with a three-year warranty.
This trap has been designed with the novice in mind. You can purchase four of these to dot around your land for a nice amount of variation. They have a capacity of 50 clays and throw a clay 65m. They have a recocking time of 1.5 seconds and elevations of 10° to 30°. They come with a 5m foot release pedal that you can extend if required. You can buy the Pigeon key fob for around £90, which will control the release of the trap at the press of a button. The Promatic Pigeon comes with a 12-month warranty.
Promatic has been producing traps for more than 25 years and is synonymous with clay shooting. It has a huge reputation both in the UK and abroad.
The Super Hawk is designed for the home use market but to replicate traps used at commercial grounds. It comes with a midi and a standard carousel that can hold up to 65 and can throw a midi up to 100m. With a one-second recocking time, a following pair would be an easy task for this trap. A wobble base can be added to the trap and this comes with a trolley. This trap comes with a three-year warranty.