He was shooting in a hilly area and says the majority of the shots he took were at targets below where he was standing.

He went on to say that he’s usually pretty good at bolting bunny clays at his local ground, so wondered why it all went wrong this time out.

Following this poor experience, Ian even visited a couple of his local clay grounds to see if they had a stand where the targets were presented in a similar fashion so he could practice, to no avail unfortunately.

And this is why I’m not really that surprised to hear of Ian’s poor hit rate in the field.

I think it’s probably got a lot to do with not having shot at many targets presented in this way, irrespective of whether they’re live or clay.

There aren’t that many shooting grounds in the country that have the natural terrain to enable the course designer to include a stand where targets are shot below foot level. As such, the chance to practice regularly is usually limited.

It doesn’t matter how good a shooter is – or even at what level he normally shoots – when presented with a target that’s a little out of the ordinary the mind-game gremlins can start to override technique and the misses on the scorecard become greater than the hits.

As always, just remember that it’s simply a target like any other.

I know I’ve said it a million times before but try to remember that all you’ve got to do is arrange a collision between the stream of shot and the clay.

On odd targets such as these, though, it’s crucial that you watch the clay’s travel before you shoot and make sure you know the pick-up and your chosen kill point.

BASICS

So what do we need to consider when we’re shooting low clays? Irrespective of whether it’s a rabbit bowling along the ground or a flying target presented below where you’re standing the technique is similar.

Long before you even think of pulling the trigger there are three basics that need to be addressed – stance, position and style.

As with any target you’ll obviously need to give it a bit of lead (forward allowance), but your initial stance is considerably different from shooting birds that are up in the air.

The important thing to remember is to keep your weight on the front foot and lean slightly forward from the waist.

By doing this you’ll find that your head stays firmly on the stock when you mount the gun.

If you’re standing too upright you’ll inevitably end up missing the clay by shooting high.

Your ready position must also be a little different to normal. Make sure you keep the muzzles of the gun low.

You’ve watched the flightline of the target (I say ‘flightline’ even if it’s a rabbit clay rolling on the ground) so make sure that you’re on, or slightly below the line of the clay’s travel before you call for the bird.

Obviously it’s still important to achieve a good parallel gun mount.

Skip these essentials and you’ll find you snatch down onto the target and you’ll almost certainly end up playing catch-up with the bird.

Now the style of shooting you adopt for low birds, be it swing through, pull away or maintained lead depends upon the target and how comfortable you are with shooting in that style.

I’d generally opt for maintained lead, simply because I feel I can get onto the birds quickly but if you’re happy using a different technique it’s probably best to stick with that style.

Let’s look at how to tackle a few typical low targets.

CROSSERS

This is the commonest low bird seen on sporting layouts, and probably the easiest to master.

In fact, you shoot them pretty much the same as you would a high bird.

rabbit shooting.

I’d even venture to say that because the clay is travelling quite close to, or on, the ground, its speed and flightline is easier to assess.

All you’ve got to do is judge the amount of lead necessary, swing through and fire.

For traditional rabbit targets the old saying ‘shoot its front feet off’ has never been truer. A typical mistake is to shoot high and miss over the top, so it’s really important you keep the muzzles just below the line of the bird.

Also remember the target’s line of travel might wander/deviate a bit as it loses momentum so be ready to allow for this, particularly if you take the bird late.

INCOMERS

It’s the low incomer that invariably causes problems and that’s because the shooter still tries to use the ‘swing through’ style.

If you’re behind at the start of the swing, the muzzles of the gun will hide the clay from view until you get ahead of it. A common tendency at this point is to lift your head off of the stock to try and see the target; this will normally result in a miss high and behind.

If you really must shoot this way try and treat the bird as a driven in reverse.

Come from way behind, make sure the muzzles are moving slightly faster than the bird and when you obscure the target pull the trigger.

This is obviously not an exact science, however, so the best way by far is to employ ‘maintained lead’.

By keeping the muzzles of the gun ahead of the target, from the moment you call for the bird until after you’ve pulled the trigger, the clay is always in sight.

It’s also important to choose a kill point a sensible distance away. Because the clay is coming towards you it’s either going to drop out of sight or hit the ground somewhere in front.

If you let the bird get too close – because you think it might be easier to hit – there’s a risk of slowing (or even stopping) the swing of the gun, resulting in a miss behind.

GOING AWAY

Remember to focus on the bird and not the barrels – don’t aim! Just like you’d shoot the crosser, keep the muzzles on or just below the line of the bird during your swing.

rabbit shooting 1

Swing through or pull ahead shooting styles are preferred; if you shoot maintained lead with this type of bird your muzzles will obscure the clay as soon as you mount the gun, so why make things difficult for yourself?

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Nine times out of ten when you’re dry mounting and practicing your swing at home, the tendency is to ‘shoot’ high birds, but there’s no reason why you can’t do the same for low targets.

Instead of following the line where a wall meets the ceiling, simply mount the gun and trace the line where the floor meets a wall.

Try it. I bet you’ll find room for improvement!

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  • Pierre Montebello

    Dear Sir,
    First of all I would like to congratulate you for your (international) publication which is extremely informative and well put together. I have been regularly reading Sporting Gun for these past few years, actually eagerly awaiting the next issue each time I buy the current one. Recently I was also able to borrow a good number of back issues through friends of mine who share my same passion.

    Although I am very much aware that, apart from game shooting, the ‘Sporting’ discipline is the most followed in the UK, in Malta the story is a bit different. Apart from hunting, which is ‘in the blood’ of many locals but unfortunately very limited, and has been restricted further during these past few years (but this is a story to tell some other time), the discipline most sought is Trap, in the form of (the equivalent of) DTL and Olympic Trap. Skeet and Double Trap have a good following as well. Sporting, though, is very limited, also due to the limited number of ranges. In fact there is only one that I know of and that is regularly open on weekends, in the South of Malta. Other set-ups are only created on occasions or specifically for on-off groups and are not regular.

    For Trap we have at least three different ‘professional’ set-ups (North, Central and South) with a number of other ‘localised’ ranges spread all over the islands. But, the Trap disciplines do not seem to feature much in Sporting Gun, which as the name implies does ‘specialise’ on the Sporting discipline/s. Even adverts of gun distributors or resellers seem to focus on Game and Sporting guns.

    Coverage of Trap would, I deem, be very much welcomed by us Maltese and am sure UK and other readers. As with Sporting and Game shooting, a specific area can be set-aside covering Trap shooting tips and expert advise; set-up and stance of shooting, tuition, in-depth explanation of international regulations, choice of guns and reviews, and the like. Such coverage would indeed be especially appreciated also by ones, who like me, would like to take the discipline/s to a more serious level.

    Thank you very much indeed and keep up the good work.
    Kind regards
    Pierre Montebello