Photo: Shooters at Oakwood Gun Club break clay targets for fun and to hone hunting skills.

It’s surprising how many hunters put down their guns at the end of the season and don’t load them again until they are uncased and ready to be carried on opening day the following year. Perhaps in the good ol’ days when rabbits, quail and pheasants were far more abundant a hunter only needed to walk far enough and shoot often enough to eventually bring home some game. Those good ol’ days must have occurred before I started hunting.

It’s certainly not how it is these days. Now, a hunter who can make nearly every shot count is the one who is going to be consistently successful. They are the one who is going to put in the time, walk the miles and finally have a duck fly close enough or eventually flush a pheasant to get a shooting opportunity. That one trigger pull, hit or miss, determines the success or failure of the hunt.

I’ll put my money on the hunter who didn’t clean his or her gun at the end of the season and store it away for next year. The hunters who spend the non-hunting season shooting clay targets in a variety of hunting situations will be ready.

In Northwest Indiana, the Oakwood Gun Club in Wheatfield, IN provides a great place for off season practice and off season shooting fun. Shooting is fun - and every bit as challenging a sport as trying to toss a basketball through a hoop from three-point range or hitting a golf ball onto the green from 100 yards or more out in the fairway. Shooting clays is also great practice for shooting when hunting, so when a person is out on the first day of the hunting season he or she is perfectly comfortable with their shotgun and has the confidence to make most shots count.

Oakwood Gun Club has been in business for over 50 years. Originally opened as a trap shooting range in 1965, when Dave Glissman took over the business from his father in 1980 he added both a skeet shooting range and a sporting clays course.

Any of the three shooting games can be played when the club is open to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays - 10 AM to dark - during the spring, summer and fall. Sporting Clays Fun Shoots are held the first Sunday of each month. All of the clay games are good practice but for the hunter, it’s sporting clays which will best test one’s shooting prowess and provide the best training. For more information about the Oakwood Gun Club check out their Facebook page or call 219-956-4615.

DIY Shooting Practice at NWI Fish and Wildlife Areas

Photo: DIY shotgunning practice is available at NW Indiana Fish and Wildlife Areas.

For those shooters who want a bit more DIY shooting, three of Indiana’s Fish and Wildlife Areas in Northwest Indiana have open to the public ranges where practice with clay targets can take place. You’ll have to bring your own clays and target thrower. Contact Jasper-Pulaski FWA at 219-843-4841, Willow Slough FWA 219-285-2060 or Kingsbury FWA at 219-393-1128.