Greetings from Zimbabwe.
I started clay shooting about two months ago, and have been firmly bitten by the “bug”! I started off with ATA, and have become fairly good at that, then moved onto skeet, which I am starting to get on top of, shooting in the 20’s fairly consistently.
I come to pieces on Sporting Clays and Compak. The ‘skeet’ type birds are no problem, but I am having huge problems judging the longer shots, ie. high tower birds, battues, teal loopers etc. Obviously ATA and Skeet are more consistent and you can groove yourself to certain extent, but I wouldn’t have believed that I could be reasonably good at these disciplines and so bad at another!!
Is there anything you can suggest in the way of practice methods etc that may help me on the judgement of longer shots? My gun fits fine – I’ve got a 30″ Ultra and use 1/2 chokes and 28 or 3-1 No. 8’s. Should I try different chokes/shot combinations, or persevere with this until I get the basics right?
Yours in frustration
Isn’t the Internet great. Along with your Email from Zimbabwe this morning, I also received some questions from a goose hunter in Norway in addition to my usual mail from the Americas. Shotgunning truly is an international brotherhood. We all seem to have the same concerns and questions. I give out the same bad advice and misinformed opinions no matter where the writer is from.
As to practicing for sporting after coming from trap and skeet- The only thing that I can really recommend it to shoot more sporting clays. I know than that it sounds trite and simplistic, but sometimes it is best to actually practice the game that you want to get good at.
I have found a couple of techniques useful during sporting clays practice rounds:
1) If I am having problems with a particular shot and IF IT IS SAFE TO DO SO with the permission of the range operator, I make arrangements to move closer to the trap and take the bird as a closer shot. I moving forward to a spot where I can hit it consistently and then start moving back a yard at a time. If I reach a point where I am missing, I move forward a bit. Sooner or later, you will move back to the original stand and will know the best way to deal with the target.
Obviously, moving forward to shorten the shot isn’t possible in all practice venues, but when you are shooting alone or in a small group it sometimes is. Obviously, you want to exercise extreme caution when shooting from some place other than the designated stand. Make sure to get permission.
2) Another practice technique I have found extremely helpful is to shoot singles where possible, particularly on Compak (or Five Stand as it is called in the US). The sequence at each post usually gives you one single and two pairs. Ask the trapper and the rest of the shooters on your squad if it would be all right for you to take those pairs as two separate singles. It isn’t that you don’t need to practice pairs, but you will find that you can concentrate on a single bird far better and “learn” it quicker.
Since I also enjoy FITASC, I take two shots on my single birds. If I hit it with the first shot, I take my second shot on the biggest piece. This is like getting a second target for free and it also is marvelous practice for keeping your head down on the stock after the first shot. Besides, you get to blow up more ammo and that’s the point of it all, isn’t it.
Some Five Stand squads find that having one of their members shoot singles in place of the pairs is disconcerting. Be sensitive to their wants and don’t insist on it. At my club, I found that the shooters generally have more fun shooting their Five Stand as all two shot singles, but don’t push it. Remember, they are armed.
As to your gun, don’t worry about that part of it. Your equipment is state-of-the-art and ideally suited to sporting. You might consider going to #7-1/2s and Modified chokes for the longer birds, but it really won’t matter more than a couple of birds per hundred. Don’t get too caught up in chokes and shot size at first (can you believe that this is coming from the anal-retentive Technoid?). Concentrate on reading the targets and on your shooting style. Fine tuning chokes and cartridges is the last step, not the first.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC