If I get the opportunity I’ll always try and make each article relevant for game and rough shooters, as well as the loyal, die-hard clay enthusiast.

With Spring just around the corner, most shooters will realise that it’s approaching prime bunny-busting time.

With that in mind I’d like to look at how to clobber rabbit targets this month – and point out some of the reasons why the clay often refuses to break.

KEEPING AHEAD
Given a choice I’d recommend using either the maintained lead style of shooting – invaluable if the window of opportunity to shoot is limited – or the pull away method. For the less experienced shooter the pull away method will be easier.

Bolting rabbit diagram

Whichever style you employ, it’s important to maintain a smooth, unhurried swing before, during and after pulling the trigger.

DON’T AIM
Rifle shooters aim at targets, shotgun users have to be in front as they pull the trigger. There’s a huge temptation to point the muzzles at the clay and pull the trigger, simply because it’s travelling in just one plane along the ground. A rabbit is a target just like any other so make sure you give it some lead.

MOUNTED
On a sporting layout I’d recommend shooting ‘gun up’ for the rabbit stand. Most course designers will ensure that the opportunity to shoot the target is small, and that the kill zone is smaller still!

Mounting a shotgun

Unless you’re supremely confident in your ability to get onto the clay within fractions of a second, mount the gun, get ahead, and then pull the trigger I’d stick with the easier gun up option. Why make things unduly difficult for yourself?

LEVEL PLAYING FIELDS
The problem for both shooters and, of course, the course layout designers, is that of trying to maintain consistency. It’s almost impossible to guarantee that every bird off a stand is presented in exactly the same way, following the same trajectory and at the same speed.

On a rabbit stand it’s worse.

This is where we hear of ‘the bounce.’ Nine times out of ten it’s nothing to do with the trap or the clays used, it’s usually the ground over which the clay has to travel that’s the problem.

Is someone going to sweep the run after every shot has been fired to clear away any debris? No.

Until someone comes up with a foolproof way of ensuring that clays are presented in an identical fashion, the bolting bunny will always be a controversial target.

THE BOUNCE
It’s so, so easy to convince yourself that you’re not going to hit this target… even before you step into the stand. The trick is to assume the confidence you need to clobber the clay – If you think in your mind that you’re going to smash it, then the rest will follow suit and you probably will!

Failing that, the only way to boost your confidence is to practice more often – and especially on these rogue targets.

Confidence is all-important, irrespective of the level at which you’re shooting. I’m sure you’ve had one of those days where simply everything turned to gold. It didn’t really matter where you were pointing the muzzles, it just seemed that the clays would self-destruct as soon as you pulled the trigger.

Confidence in your ability and a positive mental attitude is so important in clay shooting. So if you’re confident as you walk to the rabbit stand there shouldn’t be a problem, if you’re not, then keep on practicing until you are!

Treat the targets seriously, but don’t let one rogue clay – the one that bounced just as you pulled the trigger – spoil the rest of the day and put you off shooting as well as you do normally.

Simply remind yourself that it (the bounce) was beyond your control and that next time the clay will (hopefully) run smoothly.

MOVING TARGETS
It’s just crossed my mind that a lot of live rabbit shooting is often done from the back of a truck at this time of year.

Shooting a running rabbit while you are moving yourself is a tricky business. So how can you practice?

Well, in a nutshell, you can’t.

The only way to become accomplished at this type of thing is to keep doing it. In fact, the phrase practice makes perfect, or at least ‘a lot better than you were before you started’ springs to mind.

The only piece of helpful advice I can offer is keep the gun moving, make sure you don’t aim, and rely on your natural instincts. Snap shooting is the order of the day. Simply let your hand-eye coordination take control and leave the rest to the spread of the shot stream.

QUICK TIPS
• Choosing the best place to kill the target – the kill zone – can help eliminate one of the most common mistakes when shooting bolting rabbits – trying to shoot it too soon after it leaves the trap.

• Rabbit targets lend themselves to shooting ‘gun up’ as speed is of the essence.

• Position yourself so that your front foot is pointing directly towards the kill zone. This will ensure you have no restriction on the gun movement and are able to keep the gun swinging freely, even after the shot has been taken.

• Don’t point the muzzles too close towards the trap before you call for the bird – you’ll invariably find that the clay shoots past before you’re ready, forcing you to chase after it with the barrels.

• Addressing the kill point correctly, then turning from the waist to find the pick up point will greatly enhance your chance of success. Whatever you do, don’t let the target get in front of you.

• Keep your head firmly down on the stock – lifting your head can often make you shoot over the target.

• Keep the muzzles low as you call for the bird. If they’re too high they can obscure the target.

• Anticipate the bounce – but don’t be intimidated by the thought of it.

MARK’S TOP TIP
Always try to ‘shoot at the front feet’ of the clay. Shoot at the ‘ears’ and you’ll invariably miss high.

It’s also worth remembering that rabbit clays are physically tougher than ordinary targets, so consider increasing the size of the shot or tightening the choke before you shoot.