A look ahead to the Clay Shooting Classic

Ahead of the Clay Shooting Classic 2019, infamous target setter Steve Lovatt outlines his plans for the event

Steve Lovatt set up the Clay Shooting Company in 2004 and has been setting unforgettable targets ever since

When Steve Lovatt set up the Clay Shooting Company in 2004, he aimed to replicate live sporting quarry as best he could. Fast forward 15 years and Steve has firmly established himself as an infamous target setter who revels in the opportunity to catch shooters out time and again. 

As a master at the “art of flinging clays”, Steve set several of of the leading sporting competitions in 2018, including the CPSA British Open Sporting – where his impressive scaffolding shooting platform was the talk of the circuit. In addition, he runs popular Sporting, Compak and Fitasc events at grounds like Westfield and Garlands – and now he is preparing for the 2019 Clay Shooting Classic. 

“If you are coming to shoot the Clay Shooting Classic in 2019 (and you should!) don’t be nervous,” Steve advises. “My one big tip would be, at every stand, block out the background, focus on the clay and – most importantly – watch it break.

“And remember to enjoy it. After all, that’s why we all took up Sporting clay shooting in the first place. Sporting is my big passion. One of the things I love about it, is that it’s what you make it – there are no hard and fast rules about where the traps are or what the target angles must be. 

“Yes of course the game has changed. Sporting has evolved into a more technical discipline with the advent of new clay trap technology, but the principles stay the same: you’re presenting targets that are basically imitating a teal, a crow, a driven game bird, a rabbit, or whatever,” adds Steve. 

Over the years, Steve’s targets have attracted praise from all levels of shooter, from club shots who enjoy the challenge, all the way to the very top shooters who say that he manages to build in a technical twist that keeps them on their toes.

At a time when competitions are sometimes criticised for being too easy, Steve’s shoots buck the trend and often see experienced shots scoring below their average – and yet you don’t hear shooters grumbling his targets are too hard. 

“Cynics might say that setting a Sporting course is easy,” Steve explains, “They think you just drive round the ground and tip the traps off the trailer at random spots – that’s far from the truth, though. The way I see it, my job is to provide entertainment to the clay shooting world. I set out to dream up a series of interesting, challenging and exciting combinations of targets to provide a balanced round of clays, whether that’s on a flat field, among rolling hills or in a steep open coombe.

“I study the ground from every direction, not just from the shooting positions. I’m looking for little hidden dips, strategically placed trees, bushes, ditches, and any other feature that I can use to add interest and a little bit of cunning to my targets. And yes, I’m looking to trick you, to catch you out so you misread a target and come away scratching your head wondering what you did wrong!”

Steve has an almost inherent knack of making his targets interesting, fun and challenging, all at the same time. But whether he is plotting a full-face battue over the top or a crosser that dips behind a tree, his traps are designed to deceive competitors while encouraging them to come back for more. 

“Of course there isn’t always a handy tree for me to play tricks on you with, but I’ve plenty more up my sleeve,” he explains. “In an open, featureless landscape I might fall back on the old favourite of a fast clay followed by a slow clay, or vice versa. It’s not rocket science, but it will take all your powers of concentration and gun control to make that a successful stand.

The ‘art of flinging clays’ is designed to provide each course with a range of interesting and challenging targets

“So much for the features and landscape, but that’s just the beginning. I can tinker with the mechanical elements of clay flinging – modern traps allow for almost infinite adjustment of pitch, yaw, angle and power.”

Steve and his team will be running the Clay Shooting Classic 2019 at Garlands Shooting Ground  near Tamworth from 28 May to 2 June. The event promises to be one of the highlights of the clay season and Steve is already plotting how he can catch the competitors out. 

“Personally I favour Promatic traps, as I’ve found the build quality, reliability and versatility are second to none. Using these machines I can do so much to make the clays quite literally three-dimensional to shoot. For example a long incomer can be curling, dropping and either fast or slow, all at the same time. That all goes towards making it quite a technical target. You’ll need to make a conscious decision on how you’re going to shoot it – and probably have to think out of the box a little!

“The use of speed is a massive part of good target setting, and of course the modern traps allow me to play with speed as I like, switching between different power springs in the trap and then adjusting the tension until I get just the result I want. That means I can come up with some really interesting combinations,” Steve says. 

One to look out for at the Clay Shooting Classic is the high standard crosser that’s fast but looks slow, followed by a standard in front of trees or a hedge that’s slow but looks fast. 

“That usually catches a few people out!” Steve says. “There are so many options, so many choices, and so much fun to be had!”

But while Steve may get his kicks from stumping shooters, he always works to specific criteria to give everyone the chance to overcome his courses. He explains: “Before you get the idea that I’ve got horns and a pointy tail, and I’m setting out to spoil your day, let me just state that on every stand I set I ask myself three questions: Can people of all heights see the clays? Can people shoot the clay where they want to shoot it? Do I consider it to be totally visible and an entertaining stand to shoot for all abilities?”

Should the traps tick all three boxes then they are set and primed to snare their next victim. 

“I seem to have gained a reputation in the Sporting world for throwing some of the most challenging clays around,” adds Steve, “To be honest I’m proud of that. I love to keep pushing the boundaries and moving this wonderful sport forwards in the right direction.”

Trade stands are available at the Clay Shooting Classic; please contact Toni Cole on toni.cole@futurenet.com or 01225 687368 for further information.

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