The awful weather we had smack bang in the middle of harvest meant that I had more than a few hours hanging around doing nothing, literally kicking my heels waiting for the rain to stop.

Time tends to drag when you’re powerless to get on with important jobs, so rather than sit and mope I put my mind to a question I’d been asked recently.

Naivety can be a godsend to the young, and it was one of my son’s mates – an up and coming shooter – who innocently asked: “What are the best things I can do to improve my shooting?”

To be honest, I don’t think I’d ever been asked that question before.

Generally speaking, people come to me either as complete novices or as competent shots wishing to improve their averages by brushing up on a particular aspect of their technique, or maybe wanting to hone their skills on a specific type of target.

So, what would be my tips for guaranteeing improvement?

Let’s have a quick look while it’s still too wet to combine…


I’m a great believer in instinctive shooting. If asked to do so, even an average shooter can mount the gun (within a split-second), subconsciously assess the amount of lead required, pull the trigger and powder the clay.

If asked, none of them will be conscious of how much lead they gave the target, or why. All that they know is whatever they did produced the correct result.

Instinct plays a huge part in shooting and it could be the defining factor between the good and the great.

To shoot instinctively a shooter should be able to vary their technique, thus being able to employ every style of shooting – pull away, maintained lead or swing through.

In fact, if you’re competent with all these styles, you probably won’t even know how you’re shooting – all that will be evident is that you’re breaking the clays while your fellow competitors are missing.

Practice shooting in a different style and in time your averages will increase.


I know that for some shooters with an eye dominance problem it simply isn’t possible, but you should always try to shoot with both eyes open.

Using all of your peripheral vision enables you to pick up the target earlier than it would if you close or dim one eye.

Gaining these few extra moments means that your gun mount and swing will be less hurried and smoother – an essential element in the clay dusting process.


Stance is all-important. If your feet are pointing in the wrong direction when you call for the bird you’ll inevitably find that you struggle to hit the clay.

You’ll simply run out of swing because you physically cannot turn your body any more!

The golden rule is to ensure that the toe of your leading foot is pointing at the (intended) kill point.

Get this wrong and you’ll always struggle to be ahead of the game (and the bird for that matter!)


With very few exceptions, always keep your weight on your front foot as you pull the trigger.

Your balance and swing will always be second-rate if you’re in a neutral, neither one thing nor the other, type stance.

Possible exceptions could be when taking a high, driven bird when it’s virtually above you, for instance.

Then you’re going to need to be able to transfer your weight onto the back foot so as not to impede your upper body movement and the swing of the gun.