Thursday, February 17, 2011

Clay Day

Shooting is an essential part of hunting, and good shooting makes for a more enjoyable outing. Second to good dog work, there's nothing I'd rather see. Naturally, to enjoy good shooting one must be either lucky, talented, or committed. I'm neither lucky, nor talented, so I squeak by on a bit of commitment. That commitment is to regular practice days at the fish and game club; Breaking clays or at least trying to.

I'm fortunate enough to be a member of a club that keeps regular skeet and trap hours. If the desire arises I can shoot skeet 5 days out of the week, and trap on 4 of those days. Anyone intent on improving their percentages in the fall would be well served by spending time swinging their gun. While regular clay days are enjoyable in their own right, and watching your scores improve builds confidence in your abilities, I learned a long time ago that your scores on the skeet field have little direct effect on your ability to hit real game. What does have an effect is the act of trying to break those pesky little orange clays. Shooting clays, and shooting birds are different enough that even if one shoots regularly without seeing an improvement in their scores, their percentage in the field will improve. Improved scores don't hurt though.

As much as I like shooting skeet, I've come to think of sporting clays as Holy Grail of clay shooting. It is simulated hunting. Sporting clays present the clays in unpredictable, and varied ways; Much like an actual grouse flush, or a covey rise. Sporting clays courses too, are set up in a variety of ways, many along an actual trail you follow through the woods. Who here doesn't enjoy a nice walk in the woods? Add a gun, and it gets even more enjoyable. However, sporting clays is only half of what draws me to the woods in the fall; Without a dog, or actual game that can be cooked up, and shared with friends it will remain just something to be done in the off season.

While regular shooting is something I believe anyone can benefit from, don't ask me how I do it. I have read some books, and watched some instructional shooting videos, but I can't impart an Yoda type wisdom on the subject. I find shotgunning to be visceral, something I feel, and experience, and once I've found the sweet spot I instinctively know it. Like a good day of Judo training, I shoot best when my mind is clear, and I have a feeling of centeredness, my arms, legs, head, eyes, and core all functioning together as one unit.

I do believe there are a few things that shouldn't be over looked by any shooter. Gun fit is one of them. A properly fitting gun will shoot where you are looking. Period. Also, know your eye dominance. I struggled with this some years ago when I got my first double gun. Though I'm not cross dominant, I do have almost equal eye dominance, which allows my left eye to pick up too much rib on the gun; Something that doesnt happen when I shoot over-unders, or single barrel guns. I also believe that one should practice their gun mount. In fact, I've found this so helpful, that I believe that even if you don't have time to shoot regularly, or find yourself unable to shoot for a while, practicing your gun mount a home will help to improve your percentage afield. And of this I speak from experience. Like I said, I squeak by on a bit of commitment.

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