It’s midsummer and the sound of shotgun blasts are ringing out at sporting clays courses across America.
For some, it’s part of an effort to tune up for the coming fall upland and waterfowl seasons; for others, it’s the best way they know to make the most of the gorgeous summer weather by busting clays and burning through shotshells. No matter what your motivation, make the most of your time behind the buttstock and master each of the most typical shot presentations you’ll face on the course. Here they are with advice on each.
- Crossing Shots
Whether it’s aerially wobbling doves or rocket-fast ducks when hunting, crossing shots at winged creatures, as well as clays, are among the most challenging, a.k.a. frustrating, for shooters to master. Don’t obsess over lead as many shotgunners tend to do. Instead, learn to swing through the target. More specifically, keep your eyes on the crossing target, swing the barrel of the gun along its same trajectory until you have caught up with it, keep swinging past the target along it’s same trajectory and pull the trigger as you pass it. They key is to keep swinging along the line the target is flying even after shooting to ensure it will connect with the target.
- Incoming Shots
This is a common shot presentation when ducks and geese are approaching, wings set into a spread of decoys. It’s also pretty common on the skeet and sporting clays course. It can be easier for shooters to master than a crossing shot since the target is actually getting closer to the shooter, but is still often missed because shooters misjudge whether the shot is still rising or dropping in relation to where they are standing. Take that last part out of the equation and simply raise the muzzle of the gun in a straight line to meet the target. As the line of the barrel passes the target, squeeze the trigger. When you dust the target, just grin and act like “it ain’t no thang.”
Quail erupting from underfoot or pheasants flushing wildly are the most apt field scenarios where shooters will empty shells on birds fleeing directly from their position.
Like the incoming shot, raise the muzzle in a line with the outgoing target and if it’s still rising, swing up and past it just a touch before squeezing the trigger. You don’t need to give it much lead, but you need to give it some or you will shoot underneath the target. More often than not, if the target is already dropping, it will likely be too far. However, in this situation, put the bead just below the clay as you fire.
- High Overhead Shots
Less common in the field than the other three shot presentations, this shot does occur, particularly with dove and passing ducks. Depending on whether the clay is coming in or going away by the time you’ve aligned your shotgun and are swinging on the target, you will want to pass through and cover the clay as you fire if it is still coming toward your position and you will need to swing just a little ahead if it is already going away. For less limber shooters, this can be tricky one as you will have to arch, or bend, your back as you make the shot.
- Crossing/Bouncing Ground Shots
The rabbit, that small rolling, bouncing clay sent horizontally across the ground in front of the station, can give hunters fit otherwise attuned to transforming more aerial targets into dust. Shooter miss this target virtually every time by shooting at it where it was, not where it is going. So keep your feet spread as you rotate your hips to track the shot and swing through and just ahead of the target when squeezing the trigger. Be ready for that “bad hop,” which can send the clay bunny springing into the air and try to follow the arch of its hop to stay on target when you fire.
Photo courtesy of NSSF