Home On The Range

Dear Technoid,

I have found your site really helpful as My friends and I get into this sporting clays game.

My question – We shoot at my friends ranch. He has a nice trap that will throw app. 100 yards. We are all interested in getting better for our trips to the sporting clays course, and want to improve generally. All of us shot a bit as young men and are getting back into it.

Is there any type of shot that we should emphasize or avoid. I seem to hit a lot of birds presented in a trap or skeet style pattern, but have a lot of trouble on right to left high quartering away or in birds and am not sure where I am missing those.

What sort of presentation, or progression of presentations should we be working on to improve. Are there targets that we should avoid until we are more advanced? Is there a percentage of breaks below which we aren’t learning and only ruining our confidence? Should we be repeating presentations that regularly break?

Thanks to your advice, I do have a gun that fits (Beretta AL 391 SC) and shoots where I point it, and have taken some instruction.


Dear Bob,

Lemme see. Your situation involves one strong trap, lots of space and the desire to practice for SC. Sounds like Paradise to me. You have everything you need to cover a lot of the shots.

We once had a range near us called Big Springs in Sussex, NJ. One of their short SC courses consists of just one trap throwing down a little cut in the woods. They have put a number of shooting stations in an oval around that trap. The trap is locked in place, but between the trees and the terrain, the variety of shots is surprising. There certainly aren’t very many straights there.

Since you use the word “ranch”, a term denoting wide open spaces, I’m assuming that you can shoot around your trap without any shot fallout restrictions.

The shots you take are really up to you and your imagination. If you have a particularly difficult shot, like your quarterers, start close and slow, working back as you hit the bird. This is the best way to learn any longer shot. Set it up so that it is easy, and then move away or to the side to make it more challenging. You can learn anything this way. If you begin to miss, move forward again. This is how the pros do it when the have something that bothers them. It isn’t brain surgery. It’s repetition. Remember, most birds aren’t missed because they are hard. They are missed because you don’t correctly assess the flight path. You would be amazed what you can learn about a target presentation if you could look at if from different angles to see what it is really doing. You have that opportunity.

If you set us a shot and you can’t hit it, don’t beat your brains out. Move somewhere you can hit it and then work back to your original position. That’s how you learn the shot. Having your own trap allows you to do that. Once you feel confident with a shot, go on to the next, but return to the former shot every now and then to reinforce it.

If you have any terrain, make use of it. Put the trap on a ridge and throw down hill. Stand on the ridge with the trap below you and shoot “underneath”. We get quite a few of those in my area.

Don’t always set the trap flat on the ground. Lift up the right front leg of the base to throw a left hand curling target. You will be seeing a lot of those. First generation sporting clays targets from the mid 80s tended to be flat, fast and short windowed. The second generation stuff used more specialty birds like minis, chandelles, battues and the like. The current third generation stuff seems to have cut back on speed and distance, but substituted more curving, hooking shots from unevenly set machines or special arms.

Make sure that you practice some droppers. Many droppers. It is becoming a very popular target. Move away from the machine until the bird drops in to hit the ground 30 yards in front of you. Then move about that point where it hits the ground and shoot it from different angles. I see more droppers on sporting clays courses today than I do rising targets.

Make sure to do your teal, singles and doubles. Practice taking them at different distances and also as singles and pairs. Set some teal straight up and lean others back. They are very different targets.

Make sure to get a box or two of battues. Probably three or four boxes. More. Lots more. Bats are tough targets and you simply can’t practice enough on them. When you figure out how to hit them, please let me know. They give me again.

You will generally run into at least one rabbit station on each course. If you have a rabbit arm, you could spend a day or so practicing those from different angles. If not, well… it good to leave some mystery in the game.

Championship sporting clays is generally a game of “air miles”. By that I mean that the people who do best are those who are able to travel to many different courses and learn a large variety of presentations. A mediocre shooter who has seen the presentation before will generally beat a better shooter who is unfamiliar with that shot. Life is cruel, but there it is. This is perhaps the major difference between trap/skeet and sporting. Trap and skeet ranges are all quite similar by definition. You can get good on your home range and then go to the nationals and expect not to be embarrassed. In sporting, you can’t just practice at one local course and expect to do well at the big shoot. You won’t have seen the variety of targets needed.

As the owner of a “home range”, you can’t keep up with the guy with the American Airlines charge card, but you are way ahead of the usual weekend warrior who can only shoot one or two local ranges. If possible, don’t wait to get good on your ranch range before traveling to shoots. Go away to some shoots right now and keep a note book. People with notebooks have long memories. Practice what you saw when you get home. That’s how your build your target memory “book”.

Speaking of target memory books, I wonder where I left mine…

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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