After 26 years in business, Elk Creek Hunt Club remains No. 1 with Kentucky’s sporting clay enthusiasts
BY MOLLY HAINES RIDDLE
Sweet Owen Editor
Nestled among the rolling ridges and hillsides of KY 227, Elk Creek Hunt Club’s location is unassuming to passersby, yet for those who are “in the know,” its sprawling 1,200 acres serve as a sort of paradise for an ever-growing population of sporting clay enthusiasts.
Described as “golfing with a shotgun,” sporting clays is the closest thing to actual field shooting of all shotgun sports. Rather than having clay birds thrown from standardized distances and angles as with skeet or trap, sporting clay courses are designed to simulate the hunting of ducks, pheasants, other upland birds, and even rabbits. Since there is no set season and it can be shot at any time, many hunters shoot sporting clays to further their wing-shooting skills during the off-season.
“Sporting clays is still one of the fastest growing sports, and when COVID hit, everyone was encouraged to get outside,” Elk Creek Hunt Club Manager Shadoe Aldridge said. “It’s one of those activities that anyone at any age can do. We teach beginners, as well as advanced shooters.”
Initially owned and operated by Curtis Sigretto, Elk Creek Hunt Club opened in 1997 with the purchase of a 250-acre farm approximately four miles from Owenton. Since then, the business has expanded to offer three courses with various target presentations from novice to apprentice. Each sporting clay course can be shot as 50 or 100 targets per person, consisting of 12 to 16 stations with two to three traps per station.
As one of Kentucky’s premiere sporting clays facilities, Elk Creek Hunt Club plays host to a number of events throughout the year, welcoming guests from as far away as Russia, and recently hosted the 2023 State Sporting Clays Championship, bringing nearly 300 visitors to Owen County from across 21 states.
Sanctioned by the Kentucky Sporting Clays Association, the event takes place at one of the state’s seven clubs each year in August.
“This year we had shooters from 21 states, and we had several visiting Elk Creek and Kentucky for the first time,” Aldridge said. “Our reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Some were amazed by their surroundings—the rolling hills and curvy roads. Our target presentation is unmatched with the terrain we have.”
Such an event can serve as a boon for the economy of a rural community and its surrounding areas, a fact not lost on Aldridge, or Elk Creek Hunt Club’s director, Holly Bowling, who also serves as executive director of the Owen County Convention & Tourism Commission.
“We had our facility booked for lodging, plus all of our RV hookups,” Bowling said. “A local food truck came in for three days, and many of our participants visited local shops, Elk Creek Vineyards, and restaurants over the weekend. It was great for our surrounding counties as well, since we don’t have a great number of lodging options, several stayed about 30 minutes away from us.”
For Lexington’s Dalton Oliver, the winner of this year’s championship shoot, Elk Creek Hunt Club is a home away from home.
“I shoot at (Elk Creek) usually once a month at the minimum,” Oliver said. “I try to make most of their local shoots they have there on the weekends.”
Sponsored by Zoli USA, Oliver’s love of the sport has taken him across the U.S. and to the National Sporting Clays Championship in San Antonio, Texas, where he placed in the top 10 overall shooters in 2019. Still, Oliver remains dedicated to Elk Creek.
“It is, hands down, Kentucky’s premiere sporting clays resort,” Oliver added. “There’s Jefferson Hunt Club in Louisville that I shoot at, but Elk Creek’s just got the best terrain, the most beauty, and the most widespread genre of targets you can find. They cater to everyone—people like me who shoot the big shoots and people who just want to go out and have fun with their buddies on the weekend.”
The staff’s willingness to assist all levels of expertise is an added draw for many visitors.
“We take anybody from beginners to the guys who shoot in tournaments,” Elk Creek Outside Manager Craig Bowling said. “If we get a visitor that’s not comfortable with a gun, we’ll go out with them, show them the proper techniques as far as gun safety and how the machines work to get them started. Our club’s more unique than most clubs; I’ve got three different courses to shoot on, so I always keep one as a beginner-style for those new to it. The targets are a lot easier, and they get a feel for what’s going on. I always keep that course open, as well as an intermediate style and a tournament-style course for those guys that are really into the sport and want to keep practicing.”
One of the club’s most popular attractions is its upland bird hunts, which begin Nov. 1 and can continue through February, depending on bird supply.
“(Upland bird hunts) mainly consist of pheasant and chukars, and we offer quail when they’re available,” Craig adds. “We do guided hunts, but we also do à la carte hunts where a hunter can come and buy the birds from us. We set the birds, and they go and hunt with their dog. The birds we hunt are not native here, so they’re all placed birds.”
The European Tower Hunt provides a respite for hunters seeking a more relaxed shoot.
“We’ve got an 80-foot tower out here that we’ll throw anywhere from 250 to 300 pheasants off the top of,” Craig said. “The Central Kentucky Retriever Club comes and accommodates us. The dogs pick up the birds so the hunter can enjoy his experience in the stand.”
Out-of-town guests can extend their visit at Elk Creek Hunt Club by booking a room on the grounds.
The Lodge Cabin can accommodate 15 guests with rooms booked individually or the lodge as a whole, complete with a continental breakfast and the option of a free tour of nearby Elk Creek Vineyards.
Whether you’re interested in delving into the world of sporting clays, participating at an expert level in one of its many annual events, or looking for a quiet stay in the country, Elk Creek Hunt Club is a must-visit for not only the avid outdoorsman but those seeking a new adventure.
Learn more about Elk Creek Hunt Club by visiting elkcreekhuntclub.com.