A guide at Contentnea Creek Shooting Preserve in Snow Hill, N.C., Walter Claybrook has some advice for hunters visiting a shooting preserve for the first time.

“Shooting sporting clays before you shoot (birds) is great practice,” he said.  “Make sure you’re practicing with the same gun you’ll be using to hunt quail, and make sure you’re using the right gun and the right loads for the hunt.”

Claybrook said a lot of hunters bring their long-barreled waterfowl guns to preserves. He suggests shotguns with 26-inch barrels rather than 28- or 30-inch barrels, with chokes at improved cylinder or modified.

 “Most novice hunters shoot too quickly and don’t give the bird time to get out there so the choke can do it’s job and let the shot pattern open up,” he said. “If they do hit the bird, it’s such a tight pattern it destroys the meat.”

Claybrook recommends nothing bigger than No. 7½ shot, with No. 8 being the most common and on occasion, No. 9. He also recommends hunting parties consist of two hunters per guide and nevermore than three, so each hunter gets ample but safe shooting opportunities.

“Another thing I suggest is hunt with a guide who will let you go back and hunt the birds you missed,” he said. “Some clubs only allow one try at each bird. You want a guide who will remember what’s left on the field and will work back through for a second try at the birds that didn’t get killed the first time around.”