Visiting Northern California in early fall turned out to be an extension to our limited Wyoming summer. People in Sacramento area are still enjoying warm temperatures and us, Wyoming residents, more than enjoyed the daily supply of fresh fruit and vegetables at local farm stands. Our daughter competed at a horse show just few miles southeast of California’s Capital. The main competition did not go on until the later part of the week, so I took this opportunity and visited couple of Sporting Clays Ranges within reasonable driving distance of Sacramento. I’ve never visited the area before so I really enjoyed learning more about it. There is many things I noticed, but will mention only some. There is a significant difference between the landscape, people’s attitude and overall atmosphere in what I called the “Heartland of California” compared to Southern California. Once I realized that and talked to people on the phone at the respected clubs/hunting preserves I really looked forward to breaking some and hopefully lot of clays.
My preparation started before we left home. I looked up Sacramento Sporting Clays on the internet. Names, phone numbers and addresses of many clubs popped up on my screen. Two days of time and driving distances initially limited my research. Upon learning people have reviewed many of their experiences my focus narrowed even more. My clubs of choice ended up being Raahauge’s Pheasant Hunting & Sporting Clays and Bird’s Landing Hunting Preserve & Sporting Clays.
I started my drive heading northwest of Sacramento in mid morning to avoid infamous California traffic. I realized the Capital is not a major metropolis and found myself in the open country in less than 30 miles. The landscape turned into rolling hills of irrigated or dry farm fields. Pretty country. The direction I was given by Terry Raahauge were to get off the interstate and head west for few miles to the end of the road. I arrived at the club during midday. Many shooters were wrapping up their day, mingling and talking in the clubhouse. Of course I showed up in my CZ-USA team gear and initiated conversation that I’m not their professional shooter but a spokesperson who loves shooting and is here to practice. Handing out catalogs and signing few pictures helped explain things. To my surprise there were some hockey fans in this non traditional hockey market. I was kind of glad the midday heat “chased” most of them away as I needed to get the “rust off”. The quality quiet time on the course helped me to utilize the fundamental skills I gained
from Tom Mack and CZ-USA’s Dave Miller. I warmed up on a five stand with just a few singles and headed out on the course. The Sporting Clays like many other sports or activities is a matter of rhythm and I had none that day. Focus of the first round was to refresh all the basics of the sport. There was no score keeping, there was attention paid not to let bad habits creep in… Very hot day made it more challenging. That was in my favor, because I’ve never shield away from a good challenge. Some stations I spent more time on than others. There was station number 13 giving me the hardest of times. Every time I got in trouble, I could feel Tom Mack breathing down my neck and breaking it down with hockey analogy.(check out my blog about lessons with Tom Mack). During my first day I reached deep down into my limited well of sporting clay knowledge to get better. And better I got. The second round consisted of only the more difficult stations and as the title of the blog says practice does make better. Terry and Donna could not be any nicer or more accommodating. The great reviews on the Internet are correct. They have a great facilities for beginner or the most advance shooters. Their remote controls worked flawlessly on every station, giving shooters opportunity to practice in their own pace. I highly recommend visiting this club.
The location of Bird’s Landing Hunting Preserve & Sporting Clays is about halfway between Sacramento and the Bay area little bit off the beaten path. Once you get off the interstate you drive through town of Dixon and not much else. If you like seeing cattle ranches and sheep farms you will enjoy the drive. Do not forget to have at least half a tank of gas, otherwise it will be the first thing you ask for arriving at Bird’s Landing. I did. My second day of practice did not start much better than the first but quickly improved. It showed I was far more comfortable after shooting over two hundred shells the day before. I decided on similar strategy from a previous day. Sacrificing the first round for the benefit of practice. I did not need the pressure. Some people wonder why I do not handle pressure well after the career I had. It was never outside pressure from fans, media or anybody else. It is a pressure from within, I also like to call taking pride in what you do. These days I do not want to go out there and just waist shells. I want to do the best I can
even when it comes to my new hobby, shooting. The thirteen stations were set up in a great layout. Allowing you to walk through the course and cross paths with other shooters to discuss the day’s performances. I decide to shoot all doubles in the second round. Remote control with time delay worked perfectly. I had no misses until station number seven,the most challenging of the day. The rest of it went well. Well enough I stayed for round three. I felt pretty comfortable to start making choices what clay to hit first. Not always the most traditional choice, but my experience of spending two days on the course with Dave Miller at CYO gave me the confidence. People at Bird’s Landing were joy to meet and work with during my short time there. They are licensed CZ dealer and another great option for sporting clays in northern California.
I have shot close to six hundred shells over the two days, without feeling any recoil due to the well built and well balanced CZ Sporter
O/U. Some would say too many, I disagree. All that practice in a great environment gave me the confidence to feel more comfortable to enter tournaments or charity events and be competitive. I have a long way to go, but this was a really great step forward for me.
The drive from Wyoming to Sacramento took us through southern Idaho and northern Nevada. This website is giving me the platform to express my thanks to all the farmers and ranchers who work so hard in making sure we have a plenty of food in our grocery stores. I saw Idaho’s potato farmers harvesting and loading potatoes without stopping for the night or bad weather. Same can be said about ranchers in Nevada working their fields on the last cutting of Alfalfa to feed the cattle or Timothy hay for us horse owners. So every time you sit down to a steak and baked potato dinner think how much hard work goes into it. I love driving through this country and I have plenty of opportunities with horse competitions all over. One thing I always notice is the disrespect the truckers get from the “regular” drivers. These guys are far more important to our way of life than any government agency other than law enforcement and military. So I am asking to appreciate their work and respect their space. They are just people trying to provide for their families like everybody else.