Trapshooting began as an alternate for the bird hunter. It allowed the wing shooter the opportunity to keep those marksmanship skills sharp in between the hunting seasons. Skeet was also another way to practice shooting, before heading out for a day in the field to hunt birds. The clay from the high house flies out simulating birds coming into decoys while the clays flying out of the low house simulate upland game birds being flushed. Sporting clay courses are set up differently, with clays offering a variety of patterns that simulate actual behavior of game in the field. Even now the theory still holds true. All three clay disciplines offer their own challenges, yet, all share the same goal for the hunter. Prepare for bird season!
Who likes to miss? After all, the preparation of packing up all your gear, getting up early, sometimes in cold or wet conditions, only to miss that shot or find out you have a malfunctioning gun. No more! Go to school early and be ready for success this year.
How do I prepare? First get out your gear, clean your gun thoroughly. A clean gun will be less likely to malfunction, especially if it hasn’t been shot since last spring or even last fall. Those shooting an automatic, check to see the plug is in. Check your choke. If you hunt a variety of birds with the same shotgun, you may need to change chokes. Make sure your bag has all the different chokes you may need. Make sure you have your eye and hearing protection in your bag. A hunter’s eyes are the most common part of the body that gets injured while dove hunting. A good pair of safety shooting glasses is a must. Finally, practice shooting is of utmost importance! You think you can just jump back on the field and pick up where you left off? No, not even the best can do that. Go to the range and PRACTICE!
How do I practice? Find your local gun range with skeet, trap and or sporting clays. Go early and often. As dove season nears, the range will get busier. A round of skeet takes about 30 minutes for a group of 5 to 6 people shooting 25 targets. If you go alone you might ask a group if you can join in or bring someone to “pull” for you. If you are alone on the skeet field you can practice with targets from the high house in various positions to better simulate dove shots. The low house is great for upland bird hunt practice with going away targets, or better yet, shoot trap with all flushing targets in varied angles. Sporting clays is even better because you will find even more variety. Don’t be afraid that sporting clays may be longer or harder targets. It’s a variety, so there will be some of everything. You can stay on a station and get some practice on the targets you want to work on. If the club has a tower, it’s a great warm up for dove and duck. Many sporting clay ranges have a delay device that allows you to go out and shoot on your own, so don’t let lack of a companion stop you from getting the practice you need to properly prepare.
Consistency and frequency of practice makes all the difference in how your season will turn out. Most clubs have summer leagues that employs 50 or 100 targets. Shooting for score helps with the mental game and is a little like going to the gym. It keeps eyes focused, smooth mount and helps with different gun movements. Taking a lesson with a shooting instructor will help if you have eye dominance issues or don’t know why you’re missing targets.
Most issues are easily corrected in as little as one lesson. You may find you’re spending more than a shooting lesson would cost trying to figure it out on your own. If you plan to take a child or new hunter out with you in the field you’ll definitely want to spend time with them on the clays range prior to the hunt.
If you want to enjoy a good hunt in early September, the kind that produces a limit of birds within a box of shells and impresses your fellow hunters, be sure to get out to the shooting range early and often. Go to school on lead, angles and varied clay targets in different types of terrain and surroundings. Join a sporting clay or skeet league. Try out different chokes and shotgun shells. Practice, practice, practice! Even the easy ones… the long ones. You never know what you’ll encounter in the field, so be prepared.
This article is written by: Connie Parker, President of CM Promotions (Shootpromotions) and Event Sales Director at Blackwood Gun Club. With 20+ years in the Shooting Industry organizing, executing and marketing shooting events.