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The Gazette
off-season practice on clays • tips and tricks

Clayshooting in the Off-Season

     The clocks have sprung forward and Springtime has most definitely arrived. and the longer days are accompanied by some great weather. We all recognise that an inanimate clay target does not show the same flight characteristics of a live bird, but taking advantage of the longer days to shoot some clay pigeons will keep the rust off mentally, physically and equipment-wise. Practice will keep you sharp and ready for your first test of the next season.
      This month I would like to offer some new ideas for you to try in practice that might just put a finer edge on your shooting.
      Time spent working on the basics at home is never wasted; gun mounting and swing drills are a must. Visual and mental rehearsal is another favourite practice technique that can be honed at home.The combination of these three, when well practiced, works to establish and reinforce muscle strength and memory.

      In particular, I like the use of a small maglite inserted in the barrel of an unloaded gun. This can be used as a pointer, with the beam acting has a visual reference and check to the perfected swing and mount by tracing the joint of wall and ceiling as if they were a target’s flight path.
      When it comes to live firing on the range, most shots consider practice to be simply a 50 or 100 bird round at their local club. However,if this local club is where the bulk of their shooting takes place, they are familiar with the target presentations and very often the targets change very little visit to visit. Often, regardless of how well they are shooting, they will top this off with a round of Skeet or 5-Stand, perhaps even a second go round on the Sporting Clays course. In actuality, all they are achieving is subjecting him or herself to a large dose of recoil with little, if any, learning content or improvement.

     Let me qualify this by saying that if you are going out to shoot for the enjoyment of it, then that is fine! After all, it is a hobby and a sport and you should do it simply for the pleasure it gives you. However, please do not confuse that kind of sport-shooting with meaningful practice.

Here are three accepted practice formats for you to try.
      The Basic Swing Builder: Choose a particular target, it can be anything you like: a rabbit, teal, incomer or crosser. Address the target some 20 yards away and attempt to break it half a dozen times in a row. If successful, move back 5 yards and carry out the same exercise. With each successful run, add an extra 5 yards and continue to push the envelope of your shooting until you fail to shoot 6 in a row. However, if you miss at any time you have to start over at the 20-yard mark.
      This drill teaches you to focus and concentrate on every shot. It is particularly effective when practiced with a friend where a wager can add some extra pressure. I would like to suggest that the full use of a Skeet or Trap field are perfect for this exercise and one or two boxes of shells are a perfect number with which to practice. The emphasis should be on crushing one bird at a time, all the way back to the 40-yard mark.
    The Intermediate Swing Builder:Once again, select a suitable target, preferably one that makes you struggle; let’s say a rabbit directly crossing at about 25 to 30 yards. First, just shoot it in your usual style. When you are breaking half a dozen straight, consistently,

you should attempt to shoot the target using a different technique.
      If you are a Swing-Through shooter, try Pull-Away, if a Maintained -Lead shot then use Swing-Through. You should be prepared to miss when you first attempt this. However, with practice over a few weeks, you will soon be able to tackle any target presentation with the best technique for a better score.
      This improved flexibility in your shooting will gain you extra birds next season. Once again, one or two boxes of shells are all that is required, once a week. The Skeet range is great for this kind of shooting skills practice. I do not know of any top shooter who, when called on to do so by the target presentation, cannot shoot all three of the techniques, regardless of his chosen favourite. They can read the targets, choose the technique and, as if changing gears, they can apply it.

      I would like to mention here that the only differences between the techniques is where the gun muzzle is inserted on the target. Insert behind and you will shoot Swing Through…insert on it and you will shoot Pull Away, insert in front and the result will be Maintained-Lead. The basics are the same regardless of the technique chosen.

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