This often entails lowering the stock from the shoulder briefly between shots, and the same applies to clay targets, irrespective of the direction they are travelling.

At this time of the year most shooters are probably thinking ‘pigeons’. In fact, as far as live quarry goes there’s little else to occupy our minds.

Although roost shooting is traditionally confined to February, experience tells me that the next few months will also offer fantastic opportunities for pigeon shooting, and decoying in particular.

This is where you need your wits about you, good technique and you need to make sure that every cartridge counts. (As a farmer I know how much damage pigeons do to my crops, so I might be just a tad biased!)

With this in mind I’d like to look at achieving the magical, sometimes elusive – and always downright frustrating – right and left. We’ve probably all managed to shoot a bird with each barrel, probably on numerous occasions, but why is it some shooters seem to succeed more often than others?

Now’s the time to get down to your local shooting ground and hone your skills on left and rights, and doubles of every variety. Who knows, in the next few weeks when you’re out decoying, all that practice may pay dividends in terms of bigger bags.

For us out-and-out clay shooters, though, it’s still worth a look at why the second shot of a left and right is always the one that’s likely to drop a point on our scorecard. As I’ve said many times before, generally it’s the second bird of any pair that’s the one we miss, especially if the shooter is a novice.

So why is it so tricky to hit the second bird?

I reckon it’s not always because the second bird is any harder to read than the first. To be honest, I think most of the time they’re generally easier. The most probable cause of missing is that the shooter is often so wound up after firing at the first bird he’s sure he’s going to miss the second even before he’s pulled the trigger.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Preparation is the key to hitting pairs of birds on any stand. It’s crucial you know exactly where to ‘visually’ pick up the second bird. (As an aside, and I know I’ve said this loads of times before, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard shooters, when talking about the second bird, say ‘ha, now I know where they’re coming from I can hit them!’ Inevitably they’re right… but why did they have to miss a target to find out!)

clay shooting instruction right and left

As always, you’ve got to concentrate if you want to succeed at this sport – and that means studying the flight path of every bird before you shoot. Don’t forget that on a sporting layout half of all the targets you’re going to see will be right and lefts (doubles) of some sort, irrespective of whether they’re presented on report or sent simultaneously.

There are a few things you need to remember when you’re trying to nail left and rights, so here’s a few ideas on how to hit a couple of typical targets you might encounter on the average sporting layout.

THE ONE-EIGHTY

This is the standard right and left; two birds coming from either side and crossing somewhere in front of the stand.

Let’s assume in this case the clays are going to be on report. First off this pair might seem quite tricky, but it’s important to treat each target as though it was a single. That said, you must be prepared for the second target before you call for the first.

On their own these birds are simple, straightforward crossing targets. It’s important not to rush or get flustered, though, and you need to know exactly where the pick-up point of the second target will be so you can alter your stance and get the muzzles on the flight line of the second bird as quickly as possible.

Bear in mind that if the birds are on report you’ve got the edge over the trapper – he doesn’t know when you’re going to fire the first shot and even then there will be a slight time delay before he releases the second bird. Use this slight delay to your advantage and prepare yourself for your next shot. Also, to give yourself that extra bit of time it’s often advisable to keep the gun ‘up’ for the second shot.

SIDE-BY-SIDE

Typically this is where you’ll be presented with two simultaneous birds, coming from the same or a similar direction.

Watch the flight of both clays before it’s your turn to shoot and decide in which order you’re going to take the birds.

Whatever you do, don’t change your mind after you’ve called ‘pull’.

clay shooting instruction right and left

As such, never call unless you know the order in which you’re going to kill the targets. Make sure your stance is correct – generally based upon the second of the two targets.

If you’re positioned okay for the second bird, and they’re fairly close together, it’s odds on that you’ll be correct for the first. As ever, treat each bird as a single.

Shoot the first, steady yourself and don’t rush the second – I guarantee you’ll have more time than you think! Only move your feet/stance if it’s absolutely necessary.

The ideal scenario is to simply swing through the first target, fire, and then repeat the process for the second bird.