Shooting Through Trees

Dear Shotgun Oracle,

Here’s a situation in sporting shoots we don’t talk about much. That is the technique in hitting crossing/quartering targets thrown through trees with multiple tree trunks in front of you. This sort of target is often encountered in UK Sussex wooded shoots. I personally found this a difficult art to master with fear of hitting the trees interfering with a smooth swing.

All I can say is after about a year and half I learnt to ignore the trees and just concentrated finding a suitable gap to shoot the target. I wondered how you find these targets.

Thanks for your work on the website much appreciated. We are still locked down here but live in hope we can resume soon.

Regards and stay healthy.

Dear Steve,

Long before sporting clays took off, I started my shotgunning as an upland hunter here in America. I’ve always felt that our most challenging bird was Bonasa umbellus, our ruffed grouse. They are hunted in heavy cover and have this innate ability to get behind a pine tree as they flush. I learned pretty quickly that if I wanted to dine on some grouse breasts that evening, I’d better learn to shoot through trees. It wasn’t that hard because things happen so quickly with a grouse flush. The bird gets up and takes off, you swing the gun on the line of the bird and fire when the timing is right, even if the bird might be going through tree branches. There really isn’t any time to pick a spot or wait. You would think that the pine branches might protect the bird, but it is surprising how often your dog brings back the trophy.

Of course, sporting clays is different. You know where the bird is going and at what speed, so you can plan ahead. You are so very correct in learning to ignore the trees and just look for a gap. You can adjust your shot timing accordingly. Let’s say that the trees are pretty thick for the first half of the birds flight and then there is an opening. Normally you might shoot your bird quickly, but now you simply index your setup and stance to take the bird later in it’s flight path. This way you can use your natural timing, but just index it a bit further out to take the bird later. This will often require an opening of the stance to maintain the natural swing, but start it a bit later.

The same would go for the opening in the trees being closer to the trap. You simply set your body up for a closer shot and then do what’s natural. You have to think about the trees as you set up near or far, but not once you start swinging on the bird.

Of course, that’s how you do it in theory. It sure does take some concentration not to see big trees when you are looking for a little flying disk. That’s why sporting is so much fun.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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