The first shots of the fall calendar ring out on the grounds of Camp Yocona Aug. 20 and 21 as the Boy Scout Clay Classic, Corporate Shoot and Elite Eagle sporting clay competition events take place. Organizers are again creating a completely COVID-friendly environment, employing every precaution in the gathering’s already-outdoor venue.

Entering its 27th edition, the yearly shooting event that helps support the Yocona Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America has become an important opportunity for fun and fellowship, and for business networking as well.

Open to individuals, groups of casual friends and corporate teams, the Boy Scout Clay Classic, Corporate Shoot and Elite Eagle events, presented by Winchester Ammunition, punctuate the divide between summer and fall for wingshooting enthusiasts across northeast Mississippi.

This year’s events will be held Aug. 20-21 on the grounds of Camp Yocona, located south of Highway 278 between Pontotoc and Oxford, at 878 Boy Scout Road in Randolph. Shooters may learn more and sign up at the Boy Scouts of America office at 505 Air Park Rd., in Tupelo, or by calling 842-2871.

Each year, the event’s organizers seek to add something new and different to the sporting clays course, whether an unusual target presentation or a competitive offering or something else. This year’s innovation is the “Pull-Again,” which will sell for $5 each or 5 for $20 and may be used like Mulligans would in a golf tournament.

Success curve

Nearly three decades ago, the first Clay Classic drew two dozen shooters and raised $1,500. In recent years, the event has regularly drawn more than 200 shooters and raised nearly $30,000.

As participation has increased, its demographics have broadened, and competitive categories have been expanded to reflect and welcome the growth.

Recently-added features include a category for female shooters and recognition of the top female shooter overall.

Other innovations include the Friday-morning flight for corporate contenders, the Corporate Shoot, for those who prefer to gather with business guests on a weekday.

All of the money goes directly to the Yocona Area Council, a Boy Scouts of America zone that supports more than 3,900 scouts in a dozen Mississippi counties.

The event is a key part of the local scouting year, both from a financial standpoint, and from the connection it creates and strengthens between Scouting and those who support its ideals.

“Scouting shapes boys and helps them become fine young men,” Robert Magers, of Tupelo, says. He’s been involved with the event’s organization for many years. “Important qualities are taught and leadership opportunities are offered in a wholesome environment through Scouting, and at Camp Yocona in particular, that I don’t think you can find anywhere else.”

“People just keep coming to the table and the Classic just keeps growing,” said Greg Burks, of Tupelo, one of the event’s founders. “It’s really been the sort of thing that people come out and see once as participants or sponsors and just really fall in love with.”

“I have a friend I grew up with from the time we were two years old,” Magers said. “He lives in Jackson now, but he takes vacation time every year to come up and help with this event because it’s so much fun.”

Three in one

The sporting clay competition is actually three separate events in one.

The Elite Eagle is a 60-target, two-shooter team competition that comes with ammunition supplied and a lunch afterward.

The Elite Eagle event will be held on Friday afternoon, which this year is Aug. 20, commencing at 1 p.m. Elite Eagle entry fees are $350 per two-shooter team.

The Clay Classic and Corporate Shoot welcome individual shooters or four-shooter teams, who use their own ammunition in a 100-target match. There, the entry fee is $125 per individual shooter or $700 per corporate team. In the past, the Clay Classic has been spread across two flights on the Saturday of the event. As in the past few years, however, corporate teams may now choose to take part in the Corporate Shoot on Friday morning or in the Clay Classic Saturday morning, Aug. 21. On both days, shooting starts at 9 a.m.

“As we’ve grown the event, we’ve tried to make sure we were always providing a top quality experience,” Magers said, “from the challenges and rewards of the course to the camaraderie of the event itself. Many times, we found the Saturday event conflicted with other events, particularly those involving kids and family, and the last thing we wanted to do was interfere with that.

“Plus, the opportunity for businesses to send employees or bring customers on a weekday offered a lot of appeal, so we moved the traditional Saturday afternoon flight to Friday morning. Clay Classic participants can choose the day they want to shoot.”

A wide variety of sponsorship packages are available, offering combinations of entries and advertising. Call 842-2871 for more.

Kevin Tate is a freelance writer. Email kevinmtate@gmail.com.

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