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The Presentations

No, weíre not talking about the Oscarís, Emmyís or Grammyís. Itís the target presentations you see at sporting clay events. Every presentation entails different problems, be they visual or mechanical. The problem is, if you donít set up properly, youíll make the shooting of the presentation harder for yourself than it has to be. The knowledge of how you are to set up for each presentation to make it easier is whatís important to remember.

Often, Iíve been out at a course seeing people shooting at a station knowing not what to do or how to set up for that particular presentation, or any other station for that matter. Iíve shown, demonstrated and talked to people about what they were doing wrong and how to do it properly, and seen them make the change and start hitting targets hard. Two weeks later, at the next shoot, Iíd see them making the same old mistakes again by not setting up properly and feeling frustrated again. It appears that people donít seem to retain information for a long period of time, especially if they are out on a course supposedly having fun. In reality, they arenít having fun. They are flustered, frustrated and not happy with what they are doing. Why these casual tips donít seem to be retained I think stems from the fact that the shooting environment is not part of a classroom session where certain information is reinforced with other information, which helps the student retain the information given. In other words, classes and coaching really make a difference in the learning process rather than casual tips in the field which never seem to be retained

Iíve seen many a shooter go out to the local trap and skeet range and blow hundreds of dollars on targets and shells and rarely ever hit a target. They would never think of taking a lesson. They are either too macho, proud or think people would think them pretty stupid or incapable if they had to take a lesson. But thatís life.

Setting up properly includes how and where you place your feet, how you stand, the direction you face with your body, the direction you face with your head and the location of your eye focus, and the hold point of the gun along with the elevation and angle of the gun. Every station and/or presentation requires something a little different from the last. Knowing this and making the necessary changes will determine how well you will shoot the course.

Two of the most typical mistakes I see made most often is where the person faces, looks, and holds the gun. Most people make the bad mistake of facing the direction of where the target is coming from with their body their face and gun hold point. That always puts them behind the target; they never seem to catch up with it, and they also will run out of lateral gun movement before they have a chance to shoot the target. Most of the other shooters face and look approximately where they expect to break the target. Either one of two things happen. Either they bring the gun up when they see the target coming into their visual area and shoot at the target without any or little lateral gun movement (they poke at it), or when they first see the target coming into their visual area (lets say on a right to left crossing target), they swing the gun and their head to the right, passing the target, moving in the wrong direction, then play heck in trying to catch up to the target, after they realize they did something wrong. In some cases they never realize they did something wrong, because they keep doing the same thing again and again. In both cases, they almost always shoot behind the target, never getting in front of the target in order to smoke it. And they almost always set up the same way for just about every station.

There are some very basic rules for shooting sporting clays, and if you remember them and apply them well youíll be a much better and happier shooter. Since we canít cover all the different presentations and all the subtle differences, weíll concentrate on some of the more common presentations your likely to see at a sporting clays course.

The Feet
It all starts with your feet and where and how you plant them. You should stand in a natural relaxed position, just as though you were talking to someone. You feet will naturally be splayed apart ever so slightly. The area between where your feet are pointing is where you should be planning to smoke the bird, directly in front of you. You should not bend over, crouch, or create any exaggerated body position. Stand comfortably and naturally, and then you wonít find yourself so tired at the end of a day of shooting.

The Superstructure
The upper body should be erect, no bending over or hunching of the shoulders. Again, the arms should be relaxed while holding the gun. Obliviously, most targets come from one side or the other. This entails that you may have to rotate the upper body at the waist to enable yourself to see the target as early as possible. The degree of rotation depends on the presentation and your flexibility. If the body rotation isnít enough, then you can rotate further at the neck with the head. Or you can rotate at the neck as far as you can and then rotate at the waist. Do whatever is comfortable for you, but make sure you can see the target as early as possible, and always end up facing where your going to break the target. Now if the trapper and trap is visible, never look at them. Look at an area in front of the trap and at infinity. If you look at the trap and/or arm, you may miss the release of the target because of its initial speed.

Always make sure the barrel of the gun is below a point of where youíll first see the target. The gun should come up into and in front of the target on its flight path. The length of the gun should be somewhat level, never hold the gun at too steep an angle, as this may cause you to overreact/overpower the gun with the right hand.

The Eyes
Not enough can be said about the eyes, as nothing can happen properly without their proper use. The two most important things are: Never be looking at the rib or bead on the rib when you call for the target, if you are youíll never see the target or youíll see it late. With low gun shooting (not pre-mounted to the shoulder), you canít be looking down the rib to start with, a definite advantage. The eyes should be soft focused at an area more distant or beyond where youíll first see the target.

If you are looking at an area that is closer to you (the rib or bead) than where the target will appear, the human eye will have a more difficult time seeing or picking up the fast moving target. When your eyes are soft focused beyond where they will first see the target, the human eye only has to make one movement coming in to the target. When the human eye is soft focused at an area that is closer than where the target will first appear, it has to make two movements to get to the target. That is why many people say they never saw the target, because they had their eyes focused on something or an area, which was much closer to them than on an area that is beyond where the target will appear.

If you donít soft focus your eyes properly, youíll never hit the targets properly. A good thing to practice anytime youíre shooting, be it skeet, trap or sporting, is to soft focus in the proper area when other people are shooting, and catch and track the target with your eyes until itís hopefully smoked by the shooter. Itís the cheapest and best training you can give yourself. When you do that all the time, youíll find your eyes will stay focused on the target more readily, and not jump back and forth between the rib/bead and the target. You have to train the eyes just like the rest of your body. Everything has to become an instinctive natural reaction without any thought involved to become a good shooter. Thatís what makes Instinctive Target Interception really work.

The Rabbit
Lets say the rabbit will cross from left to right at about twenty-five yards from the shooting cage. Itíll come out from behind some high bushes, which are about twenty yards away. There is a fairly wide-open expanse in front of you in which to take the target with some minor obstructions. There are some mixed shrubs and trees at about forty yards out. Your eyes should be soft focused at the most distance area, the trees and shrubs at forty yards, just about a foot or two in front of (to the right of) the shrubs at twenty yards. Donít try and look at the line of where the rabbit will come out on the ground, look beyond it at the distance shrubs. Your gun should be held to the right of where your eyes are, and below the level of where the rabbit will come out from behind the bush. Never hold the gun above the line where the rabbit will come out as two negative things happen if you do. One, you can block the view of the target with your gun barrel, and lose sight of the target and miss. Two, you can end up jerking the gun to your shoulder, because you started with the gun butt to low and the barrels to high. It also causes the gun to seesaw when you are mounting it, which takes longer to correct for and leads to a lost target. One of the worst habits you can form is trying to move the gun to strongly with the right hand. The left hand should do all the work with the right hand just assisting. When the target comes out your eye will automatically go to the moving target. At that moment, you should be starting your gun mount and swing, bringing the gun in front of, and pulling the trigger with the gun barrel moving on a horizontal line in front of the target.

Your exact hold point for the gun to the right of your eye hold point will depend on you. From experience, youíll find your sweet spot for the gun hold point. Every shooter has different muscle strength, toning, reaction times, moment of inertia, etc. So each shooter will have to modify the hold point for their ability. So you will have to try different hold points and see what works best for you. A good place to experiment with hold points is on a skeet field.

The Fast, Close In Crosser
Depending on your natural speed and reaction time there are two possibilities. It will be a fast crosser from right to left. Letís say there are trees immediately to your right extending about three or four feet in front of you. About fifteen yards in front of you are a dense row of trees. Off to your left there are some additional low shrubs with additional high shrubs about thirty or thirty-five yards at the end of the clearing. The target will come out from behind the trees at your right at eye level. Your body would not be facing the trees directly in front of you; it would be angled to the left or down range slightly as would be you feet. You would rotate your body slightly to the right and maybe even your head a little. The eyes would be looking at the trees across from you with the gun pointed down range slightly. The degree the gun is angled down range again depends on your reaction time and speed. If youíre very fast, the gun can be parallel to the trees on your right along with your eyes. The gun should be almost level, with the barrels pointing up ever so slightly, but below the flight path of the target. When the target is first seen, the gun should be swung into the flight path and in front of the target while at the same time the gun is mounted. If you stay focused on the bird, youíll be in front of the target when you pull the trigger and smoke the bird. You must remember, the gun always has to move as fast as or faster than the target in order to kill it, depending on your hold point, reaction time and speed.

The Incomer
Usually, with this presentation you have plenty of time to take the shot, and itís a matter of when you feel most comfortable taking the shot. Obviously, youíll be facing the incoming target. You should not mount the gun until your ready to shoot it. Watch and track the incomer and determine when youíll shoot it. Some people will choose to take it while itís still coming in with some speed, others will choose to take it when it stalls in the air before it starts dropping, and others will choose to take it as a falling target. The main thing is to not mount the gun until just before you shoot it. Never track the target with the gun mounted, as you will have a tendency to slow your gun swing down and fall behind the target.

The Overhead, Going Away
In this case, you canít see the target until it passes over you head going away from you. Again, you want to face where youíre going to break the target. You want to see the target as soon as possible, which means you want to tilt your head back and look up in the sky. The gun should be at approximately a 45-degree angle or whatever is comfortable for you to hold. But never go above a 45-degree angle, as it requires too much movement of the stock with the right hand, which you donít want to develop into a bad habit. I use this same method for shooting high one on the skeet field, and you can normally shoot and smoke the target much quicker than the guys shooting the mounted gun. Because you can see the target earlier, you can shoot it quicker, which generally means itís still a going away target and easier, rather than a falling target and harder. All to often Iíve seen shooters face directly in front of themselves and never look up in the slightest, as if it was cheating to look up, and never see the target until it was way out there and falling and being played with by the wind. Naturally, they missed.

If you learn how to set up properly for each presentation, your going to have much more fun, and smoke more targets and be a happier person on top of it. Remember; think of what youíre going to do and how youíre going to set up before you ever step into the shooters box. And once your in the shooters box, make sure you do set up properly, and if after the first shots you find you miscalculated, change your set up so you can be successful on the next pair.

Author:
Jerry Sinkovec
photojournalistjerry@juno.com