SKEET SEASON NEVER ENDS

Off-season clay-busting will keep your skills sharp…and it’s a blast with new Hevi-Target™ loads.

Skeet blog pic 1

Burning through a case of new Hevi-Target™ loads on the skeet range on a sunny Sunday afternoon a few weeks back, I bumped into some other bird hunters for once. Talk soon turned to how you just don’t see many hunters out shooting clays. Not like you’d think, for such a passionate group of shotgunners.

That lead to an observation and a laugh, about how we often hear guys say, “I can’t shoot skeet or clays very well, but I am a great shot on birds.”

Truth is, this is because they are not really a good shot, they just manage to hit a few ducks or geese backpedaling into the decoys like a piñata hanging on a string, which is practically a static target.

Proof? You’ve probably never heard a guy say, “You know, it’s the oddest thing, I’m awesome at busting skeet and clays, but can’t hit ducks or geese.” You won’t find a shooter with a reputation for killing 12 doves in a row who can’t hit clay pigeons.

That’s because anyone who can really break clays is a person who can really shoot, and is going to be truly hell on live birds.

Hunting is not all about who shoots the best, but it does feel good to go out and shoot well. For us wild game lovers, it fills that freezer faster too, and your bird dog will love you more if you kill birds cleanly. Practicing with your shotgun before chasing pheasants or ducks with friends is rewarding, fun and will boost your effectiveness afield.

 

GRIP IT RIGHT: For starters, take a good honest look at how you hold your gun. Renowned shotgun expert Gil Ash suggests good form can begin with an unloaded gun inside your house.

At home, practice mounting gun to your shoulder and leaning into it as though it were loaded. Now swing it smoothly along a horizontal line in your house (the line where your ceiling meets the wall in your house is one Ash recommends). He also suggests taping a small flashlight to the barrel allows you to see where your swing is bumpy, and adjust to improve it. Do this again and again until the motion becomes effortless, natural and smooth.  Not just the swinging, but the mounting of the gun.

Keep your head down, your cheek against the stock, both eyes open and don’t aim by staring at your bead on the end of the barrel (some experts advocate removing the bead altogether) and keep the focus of your eyes on the target. Once you have all this down so it is second nature, you’re ready to go practice.

A few things to remember. While there are many keys to shooting a shotgun well, two are probably most critical. The biggest mistakes both beginners and even veterans make are 1) stopping your swing; and 2) lifting your cheek up off the stock as you fire or before you fire (similar to pulling your head in golf just before the ball strike). Even after you pull the trigger, keep that gun moving. If you find you are pulling your head, I learned a cool tip from the father-coach of Kim Rhode (Olympic repeat gold medalist). Her dad Richard saw me lift my head off the stock and miss once, and said, “I want you to count the pieces after you bust the next one. It will force you to keep your head down and continue your swing.”

CLAYS OR SKEET?

Shooting sporting clays courses is the absolute best way to become a good field shot (that and hunting a lot!). Trap and to some degree skeet are too repetitive and allow you to memorize the angles and leads rather than train your brain to calculate them instinctively based on air speed of target and distance.

Many states also run shotgun courses these days too, and that’s a good resource. See if yours does. If you can’t shoot clays, skeet will indeed make you a terrific shot, because it’s so fast you really learn to lead that bird.

Trap? Well, it’s better than not shooting at all, but it’s the worst of the clays disciplines as far as translating to hunting. I like to go out with friends and a good old hand thrower and get creative with the throw too, to make challenging new downhill or uphill shots or “flooded timber” shots—the kind you get out in the field.

Skeet is also a less expensive alternative than sporting clays, which typically cost more per a round (sporting clays rounds are longer). Skeet shooting is tough enough even veterans will miss a few times in a 25-shot round. From the center stations you must lead the clay more than three feet, so it establishes that instinct. If you struggle when getting started, build your confidence by standing beside the low house on the skeet range and shooting a round. This is the easiest clay to hit on the skeet range. Move to the more difficult stations as you feel comfortable and gain prowess. Then transition to shooting a regular round moving from station to station.

 

PRACTICE MAKES NEAR-PERFECT: If you are going to chase terrestrial game like pigs, deer, coyotes or rabbits, hit up a sporting clays course and focus on shooting the bouncing rabbit target station…it’s terrific practice.  Few birds fly as quickly as clay pigeons, and most wild birds are bigger, too, so if you can gain proficiency at clays, you will generally do well in the field.

That way you won’t have to be that notorious claimer, the guy who says every bird that hits the ground was his!

Skeet blog pic 2