With the introduction of “Clay Day” into our Fall 2014 collection, I wondered, where did clay shooting originate? How did it become such an important aspect of shooting and marksmanship… How would the founders feel if they knew they’re “Clay Pigeons” were illustrated on silk neckties here at Bird Dog Bay. Clay shooting or Skeet shooting has become an American pastime and is practiced around the world… Yet how did it begin. Clay shooting began with British marksmen trying to impersonate birds to work on their shot. The Brits have been doing this since the origins of the shotgun, which his the firearm usually preferred for clay shooting. Sporting clays were created to simulate the unpredictability of live-quarry shooting (birds in flight), offering a great variety of trajectories, angles, speeds, elevations, distances, and targets. The terminology of clay pigeons commonly used by clay shooters often relates to times past, when live-pigeon competitions were held. Many of these competitions were made illegal in England in 1921, but a target may still be called a “bird”, and hit may be referred to as a “kill”, and a missed target as a “bird away”; the machine which projects the targets is still known as a “trap”. The clays are orange for safety and visibility. As seen in our “Clay Day” tie.
From here shooting clays was dived into three different sports with Skeet shooting becoming the most popular for mere in the US. Here is how they are deciphered.
In trap shooting, the targets are launched from a single “house” or machine, generally away from the shooter.
In skeet shooting, targets are launched from two “houses” in somewhat “sideways” paths that intersect in front of the shooter.
Sporting clays includes a more complex course, with many launch points. Skeet shooting as we know it in America was invented by some guy named Charles Davis, hailing from Andover, Massachusetts. Davis was an avid grouse hunter, and was involved in what bird hunting in the 1920’s was called, “Clock Shooting”.
Davis created a course, which was a circle with a radius of 25 yards and its circumference marked off like the face of a clock and a trap set at the 12 o’clock position. The game evolved to its current setup by 1923 when one of Davis’ friends, William Harnden Foster, placed a second trap at the 6 o’clock position and cut the course in half. Foster quickly noticed the appeal of this kind of competition shooting, and set out to make it a national sport.
Foster took it under his hand to make the game a sport. The game was introduced in the February 1926 issue of National Sportsman and Hunting and Fishing magazines, and a prize of 100 dollars was offered to anyone who could come up with a name for the new sport. The winning entry was “skeet”. The word “skeet” was said to be derived from the Norwegian word for “shoot” …
During the second World War, skeet shooting was used in the US Army to teach gunners the principle of leading and timing on a flying target. The first National Skeet Championship was held in 1926. From here it become a national pastime for hunters and marksmen alike.
Now, those bright orange clay adorn our silk ties… Ain’t that something.