Summer is just around the corner, and in the shooting world, that means it’s time to bring out those guns and start practicing for the upcoming hunting season. If pigeon season and hunting do not pique your interest, you might be in for simply taking to the field and breaking your first 100 straight. Whatever your relationship with your shotgun is, these clay shooting tips will help you sharpen your skills.
Taking a Stance
A good stance is paramount to a good shot, but do you pause and evaluate your stance as frequently as you should? Maintaining your stance might seem prefatory – and perhaps even redundant for more experienced shooters – but perfecting it is worth its while.
We recommend a weight-forward stance that feels comfortable instead of exaggerated, with almost 60% of your body weight on your front foot. Make sure you are aware and in control of every limb in your body before you shoot. Another key to a stable stance is balance. Make sure you are able to hold the position without any swaying. Also, consider aiming your front foot towards the intended breakpoint. This helps target more clays in one shot.
Finally, once you feel confident about your stance, take a deep breath. It is important to exercise patience before you shoot. Observe any top shooter in action, and you will see how they never rush their calling for their target. It takes almost two seconds for the human eye to settle down and wholly focus on the clays to track up the string and finally hit the balloon.
Now, a poor shooter will call one second after the butt of the gun hits their shoulder. And more often than not, you will see the outcome of the haste: missed targets and a waste of a shot. We suggest you forget all about the rhythm of the squad, stop focusing on how evenly spaced your calls and shots are, and just take your time to first perfect your stance and then make your call.
How to Hold Your Shotgun Properly?
If you, too, have found yourself wondering why you keep missing your target or simply just want to improve your shooting game, try following this outline.
- Swivel away from the trap. For example, if you are right-handed, slightly rotate your stance – this includes your entire body – to the right. This repositioning helps increase the depth of the pocket between your neck and your shoulder, which, in turn, helps increase your chances of correctly mounting the gun. In addition, it straightens your head, enabling you to focus your eyes on the target fairly better.
- Slightly open up your stance. In order to have more balance and increase stability, increase the distance between your feet by an inch or two. This will give you an improved sense of control.
- Raise the butt of the gun on your shoulder. This helps to straighten your head, which helps your eyes focus better on the target. Just make sure you are not over-doing it. If you lift it way too up at your shoulder, you are risking the muzzle jerking up and hitting you in the face when you shoot.
- Firmly press the butt of the gun against your shoulder. If you make sure to hold your gun butt back very firmly against your shoulder, you will feel less recoil and have much more control as you swing your gun. This trick will also help you center-punch your targets more often.
- Shift your cheek. Consider moving your cheek farther forward along the comb of the gun. This way, you are far less likely to raise your head as a reflex response when you shoot and the gun jerks. Naturally, this gives your head a much more stable and safer relationship with your gun.
- Firmly press your cheek against the gun’s comb. This serves the same purpose as shifting your cheek forward along the comb. The more you press against the gun, the more you are in control of your head. In fact, you are also pinning the gun down to an extent. Therefore, when you shoot and the gun jerks, your head is more likely to stay down, and the gun offers much less recoil. You might think this is all about safety and stability, but these tactics can actually directly boost your score as well.
- Make sure your gun is not tilted sideways. More commonly referred to as canting in the shooting world, the tilting of the gun can wreck your shots. A lot of shooters have fallen into the habit of unconsciously tilting their guns, so it is very important to evaluate this. If you want to do shooting right, you have to have your gun perfectly perpendicular to the ground. You will need a friend to help you out on this one, though. It’s almost impossible – both logistically and physically – to figure out on your own whether you are holding the gun slightly canted.
- Adjust the height of your holding point. If the wind is lifting or depressing your targets or the trap is set wrong, adjusting the height of your hold point will make things workable again. Merely moving two to three inches up or down as needed makes a huge difference if the target heights are less than ideal.
- Be patient. This is the essence of clay shooting, and we cannot emphasize it enough. Shooting the moment that you see the target is a rookie mistake. Hold your horses (or your trigger, in this case), wait for at least a second and take into account the height and direction of the target, and then shoot. The more patient you are with calling and shooting, the higher a score you will bag.
- Dump all distractions. This may seem obvious, but it’s a real tough one. You simply cannot focus on the clays if you have other things on your mind. The rule is to think of nothing but the target as you call and shoot.
Work these tips into your shooting routine one step at a time. Pick one tip, practice it, make it a habit, and only then move on to the next one.
Shooting Range Safety Rules
Safety comes above all else in any sport, but even more so in a shooting sport. To start off with, acquaint yourself with the fundamental gun and shooting range safety rules.
- Even those who have never seen a gun must have heard of this one: always treat a gun as if it’s loaded.
- Keep the muzzle aimed in a safe direction at all times.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- Never load your gun before it’s time for you to shoot. Similarly, always unload your gun once you are done shooting, and make sure to do it before you even step away from the shooting line.
- Carry and wear the recommended eye and ear protection gear at all times. Invest in a good pair of fitted shooting glasses; they come cheap but provide invaluable protection. There are a variety of options available for ear protection as well, like ear muffs and earplugs. You need to choose the type you are most comfortable with because distractions and discomfort are a big no when shooting.
- Don’t run or jump around at the range, especially not while carrying a shotgun. In the event you have to go over a fence, ditch, stream, or any other such obstacle, make sure your shotgun is unloaded. You also have to comply with proper gun-carrying etiquette, which would be shared with you by the shooting range you are at.
- Instantly stop firing when someone calls “Cease Firing.” Unload your gun and put it down.
- Shoot only while the range is declared ‘hot.’ This means that the range has been cleared for shooting, i.e., there is no one downrange, and it is safe to shoot at the target. While the range is deemed ‘cold,’ you are not supposed to handle your shotgun or even stand at the shooting line.
Becoming a great clay shooter takes patience, passion, and practice. And with these tips and tricks you just read through, the first – and most important – step of the journey is already past you! Stay safe, have fun, and score big!