Summer shooting sports

The month of June holds innumerable opportunities for the outdoorsman. Most notably for me is the hot bass fishing action that can be found in lakes and rivers throughout Vacationland. I have spent quite a few days on my deer stand in November day dreaming about monster June smallmouth, planning the casts and lures I’d use to put those lunkers hiding in the weeds in my boat.

By now the mud season should be all but over and I’ll be spending a lot of time scouting logging roads by ATV, looking for game and sign for the upcoming hunting seasons. Some days will be spent on a quiet float through a slow winding stream, fly casting from a canoe.

By now you are probably thinking, ‘What does this have to do with guns? This is a gun column, right?’

Yes, you are right and that is exactly the point. This time of year we all see increased demands on our time and with the bulk of the hunting seasons still months away, we often neglect our most dedicated hunting partners…our guns. Here are some fun summer ideas for keeping the rust off of both you and your guns.

For shotgunners, the obvious choice is busting clays. I don’t think there is any more fun to be had than to set up a clay pigeon thrower where you have room to safely shoot and invite a few buddies over for some simulated grouse or hare hunting.  You could opt for something as simple as the handheld thrower or go all in for a battery operated, auto feed trap machine. These have become very popular and many companies now manufacture them at affordable prices for the non-commercial market.

The handhelds are particularly well suited for skipping a clay pigeon across the ground through the woods to simulate a darting snowshoe hare. With an automatic thrower, the possibilities are endless. You can make up as many games and contests as you can with a deck of playing cards. With the average cost of around six dollars for a case of clays, you can fire up the grill and shoot all afternoon.

Dueling trees are arguably the most fun to shoot when you want to break out the handguns. A typical tree has a set of targets mounted one above the other on each side of the center post. The targets are usually painted a different color on each side and the idea is for two shooters to clear their side before the other shooter.

While mostly used by pistol shooters, you could use rimfire rifles as well. I feel I must warn you though, if you own a lever action .22, this will quickly become an addiction. You could even build a single sided tree that holds clays to be used for timed events.

If you have the room on your property to shoot full size centerfire rifles, the rage these days are the AR500 steel gong circle targets. If you think shooting paper is fun, wait until you see the bounce of a gong and hear the satisfying ring when your shot finds its mark. Like all reactive targets, you get instant feedback and spend less time heading down range to check paper.

The only drawback for these gongs is that it can get pricey if you want to hang a few of varying sizes. In this case, treat your spouse to some new frying pans and make good use of the old ones that have seen better days. In case you are wondering, yes, I did that.

As you head outdoors this summer to enjoy the sun and warmer weather, don’t forget to spend some quality time with your (gun) buddies. They need the exercise too.

John is a Registered Maine Guide, an NRA Certified Instructor and an NRA Certified Range Safety Officer. He is a former Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army and is the owner of Tucker Ridge Outdoors in Webster Plantation, Maine. He also works as a freelance outdoors writer and is the author of “Life on the Ridge” for the Outdoors section. He can be reached at or on Facebook @tuckerridgeoutdoors

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