Clay Shooting

Shoot­ing State­side

Ben Cartwright takes a de­tour from his reg­u­lar col­umn to share his re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences of clay shoot­ing in the U.S.A.

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Ben Cartwright jets off to the Amer­i­can East Coast

Carpe Diem! Once-in-al­ife­time op­por­tu­ni­ties sel­dom come along. This sum­mer, my son Matthew turned thirty and within the Cartwright house­hold, or Fort Ban­quo, as it’s af­fec­tion­ately known, we were kick­ing around ideas of how to cel­e­brate this mi­nor mile­stone.

We soon fell upon the idea of a road trip down the East coast of the U.S.A – from Bos­ton in the north to Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia in the south. It was a once-in-a-life­time ad­ven­ture for fa­ther and son which we dubbed ‘Dad and the Big Lad’s U.S. East Coast Tour 2019’. Through a friend in the mu­sic in­dus­try we even had tour passes and caps made up.

The itinerary was packed, but we thought we might be able to shoe­horn in one or two rounds of English Sport­ing – or Sport­ing Clays as it is called in Amer­ica. Given our joint his­tory with the New World,

it’s per­haps not sur­pris­ing they’ve re­moved the ref­er­ence to Eng­land. In the end, we man­aged three – one in the north, one in the mid­dle and one in the south. The shoot­ing ground in the mid­dle we de­cided upon was De­witts in North Carolina – a ground Matthew had shot at pre­vi­ously with his U.S. Marine Corps friends.

But what of the other two? I scratched my head and got googling. I’d never vis­ited a shoot­ing ground in Amer­ica. Time to get cre­ative – oth­er­wise known as ‘clutch­ing at straws’. I was aware of Chris Batha from his books and Youtube videos. By pure co­in­ci­dence, he lives near Charleston, South Carolina, which was our fi­nal desti­na­tion. So I emailed him. In no time at all, I was in cor­re­spon­dence with Sara, his P.A. Chris kindly ar­ranged for us to be hosted at For­est City Gun Club in nearby Sa­van­nah. Iron­i­cally, he was go­ing to be in the UK when we were in the U.S. Two down, one to go.

The Pre­serve, Rhode Is­land

This just left a lo­ca­tion in the north. I re­ceived a What­sapp mes­sage from Matthew. ‘Dad, you’ve got to check out this place in Rhode Is­land. It looks amaz­ing!’ And in­deed it did. The Pre­serve in Rhode Is­land is a 3,500 acre pri­vate sport­ing Early suc­cess on stand one was a es­tate that aims to pro­vide the ul­ti­mate con­fi­dence booster, but there were sport­ing and res­i­den­tial ex­pe­ri­ence. As my tougher tar­gets to come Greek friend Costas says, “It’s not for the riffy-raffy”.

So once again, noth­ing ven­tured, noth­ing gained – I emailed The Pre­serve. A few days later I was on the phone to Chris Mi­hailides, the Op­er­a­tions Di­rec­tor,

dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of shoot­ing their world-class Sport­ing Clays course. No doubt be­mused by this re­quest from a pair of Brits, he ex­tended the hand of friend­ship and of­fered to host us for an af­ter­noon.

A month later, on day 3 of the tour with the heat in­dex sit­ting firmly on 98 de­grees, we rolled up at The Pre­serve. Chris bounced into the enor­mous sport­ing goods shop to warmly welcome us and swiftly bun­dled us into a Po­laris for a quick tour of the es­tate. You’ve no doubt heard the sto­ries of the way the Amer­i­cans do things – big­ger, bet­ter, etc. Well it’s true.

The fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment and at­ten­tion to de­tail that has gone into The Pre­serve is phenom­e­nal. This is pos­si­ble, in part, be­cause there are an es­ti­mated 13 mil­lion ac­tive clay shoot­ers in the U.S.A. This fig­ure does not in­clude hunters. Fur­ther­more, given the size and rel­a­tive wealth of the U.S.A, it’s there­fore pos­si­ble to seg­ment the mar­ket, as The Pre­serve has done, to pro­vide an of­fer­ing to high net-worth in­di­vid­u­als (HNWS). Their client base in­cludes Acad­emy Award win­ners, NFL stars, CEOS and celebri­ties.

The es­tate boasts all man­ner of ac­com­mo­da­tion, in­clud­ing lodges, yurts, tree­houses and Airstreams, from which you can par­tic­i­pate in the ex­haus­tive list of ac­tiv­i­ties. In ad­di­tion to the shoot­ing lay­outs, there is an 18-hole golf course, fish­ing, riding, archery, Nordic ski, snow­mo­bil­ing, hik­ing, zi­plin­ing and moun­tain bik­ing. There is even a Hob­bit house with a fire pit to re­lax in af­ter­wards.

Re­turn­ing to the lodge af­ter the Po­laris tour, Chris showed us the in­door shoot­ing range. At 150m, it’s the long­est in­door range in Amer­ica – and air con­di­tioned too. Next to it is the FATS tac­ti­cal firearms sim­u­la­tor that’s used by vis­it­ing Po­lice and mil­i­tary units. In­vited to have a go – and de­spite the 30 years since I last used a 9mm semi-au­to­matic – I am pleased to re­port I put all the rounds into the cen­tre mass of the tar­get.

Down in the gun shop, Chris, the head coach and course-set­ter, kit­ted me out with a Beretta Sil­ver Pi­geon. Of­fi­cials from Beretta vis­ited a year ago and stated “The Pre­serve is the best shoot­ing fa­cil­ity we’ve ever seen, bar none!”. High praise in­deed. Ar­riv­ing at the first stand in our golf buggy, I could see why.

The large tim­ber-framed stand with roof cost around $8,000 – $10,000 to con­struct. There are 19 of these in var­i­ous sizes. Most face out to­ward a sunny glade of mixed pine trees, each hous­ing 4-6 traps. Across all the lay­outs Chris man­ages 300-350 traps.

The pre­sen­ta­tions are sim­i­lar to the UK and are of easy to mod­er­ate dif­fi­culty – but that’s un­der­stand­able given their client base. In time, they in­tend to build up the gun club and youth acad­emy, and can eas­ily ad­just the tar­gets to be more chal­leng­ing.

Due to time con­straints, we didn’t get a chance to shoot the 12 sta­tion Com­pact course, which is peren­ni­ally pop­u­lar. We did pass by it, as it’s ad­ja­cent to the walked-up quail fields on the way to the 210ft tower.

My favourite stand, though, was the hunt­ing lodge sit­ting atop a small hill over­look­ing the es­tate. The tra­di­tional tim­ber and stone cabin has a 10 sta­tion Com­pak lay­out you shoot from the ve­ran­dah. I could just see my­self hir­ing that for a lazy day with friends. Af­ter the twelfth stand, we’d run out of time so we called it a day. The buggy was a god­send in the heat. If I’d walked the 1.5 mile course I would have melted be­fore I’d got half­way round.

Back in the club­house, we had just enough time for a cold drink and a chat with our hosts be­fore head­ing off to New York. The Pre­serve isn’t for ev­ery­one, but it is some­thing spe­cial – pro­vid­ing you can af­ford it. If you want a lux­ury life­style ex­pe­ri­ence like no other, and the chance to rub shoul­ders with Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters, then Carpe Diem!

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 ??  ?? Fancy re­lax­ing in a Hob­bit hole af­ter your round? Yes, they can cater for that too!
Fancy re­lax­ing in a Hob­bit hole af­ter your round? Yes, they can cater for that too!
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 ??  ?? The Pre­serve’s op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor, Chris Mil­hailides, showed Ben and Matthew around the es­tate
The Pre­serve’s op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor, Chris Mil­hailides, showed Ben and Matthew around the es­tate

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