With the decline in hunting land, wild quail and the longing for a good dove hunt, sporting clays has become one of the fastest-growing sports in America. With its fancy clubhouses and the shooting fields laid out like golf courses, no wonder it is often referred to as "golf with a shotgun." It lets everyone, young and old, go into the great outdoors and enjoy hunting and shooting all year round.
Safety is the No. 1 priority for shooting sports. Never load your gun until you are in the shooting box, and the gun must be pointing down-range at all times. Make sure your gun is unloaded and the action is open before turning around and stepping out of the shooting box. The action must stay open until you get to the next shooting box. Never load more than two shells in the gun at one time for sporting clays. Never take safety lightly!
Your choice of a gun and ammunition are also very important factors in the sporting clay shooting arena. I like to use a good quality 12- or 20-gauge gun with light recoil and a comfortable fit. A good ammunition is a 3 1/4- gram, 1-oz. load in a No. 7 1/2 or 8 shot, with lots of speed and light recoil.
Another important factor in sporting clays is choice of choke. A cylinder choke is great for targets less than 20 yards. A skeet choke is used for targets 20 to 25 yards. An improved cylinder is great for targets 25 to 35 yards. A modified choke is used for targets 35 to 45 yards and a full choke is used for targets beyond 50 yards. Because most U.S. targets are thrown inside 35 yards, I like to shoot a skeet or improved cylinder. You should find that this works very effectively for any target presentation.
Targets come in a variety of sizes and are thrown from many different angles and at many speeds. You must first view the target and pick out the breakpoint. Each target has a point where it is most vulnerable to be broken. You must establish the breakpoint to start your set up chokes, shot size and foot position.
The correct foot position should be turned toward the breakpoint. Never underestimate the importance of foot position. Your front knee should be slightly bent and your weight distributed 60/40, with the 60 on the front foot. You are then ready for the muzzle-hold point.
The muzzle of your gun should be halfway back toward the trap, from the breakpoint and slightly below the flight path, so you can see a clear view of the target and start your swing accordingly. The most important part is the focus point, where you see the target closest to the trap and stay focused on it. You should stare directly at the target. If it looks like a comet then you are not focusing hare enough on the target. You should see a clear target when you make your shot. With the correct breakpoint and your feet set up in the right position, muzzle hold halfway back, eyes focused on the target, you will start seeing most of your targets break.
Most shooters seem to miss behind the target. The best way to see the lead is to think of a window between the target and the barrel. Small lead, small window; medium lead, medium window; large lead, large window and so on. You should always miss the target in front.
If you miss a target one foot in front of you will still break the target, but if you miss the target one inch behind, you will have a lost target. So always make sure you miss in front. Next issue, I we will discuss the different types of shooting methods, to include: the sustained lead, the swing through, the pull away and the Churchill method, and when each should be used and the ups and downs of each.
If you have any questions or comments please contact us at Shotgun Sports and Outdoors (256) 235-2780, Anniston, AL or email us at shotgunsportsandoutdoors.com.
Remember, sporting clay target are not hard to hit, they are just very easy to miss. So get your safety glasses, ear plugs and that old dog, and take a youngster out and enjoy the camaraderie of this great sport!!