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How to deal with the different clay targets

Shooting grounds may all differ, but the way in which the clay targets are presented is usually not too different

shooters out in the field wearing ear defenders

Already mandatory on the clay ground, hearing protection is seen increasingly in the field as Guns get the message

Maybe you’re new to clayshooting or maybe you’re looking at honing your technique after some months off.

Whatever the aim, knowing how to deal with the different clay targets and how they are presented to you is key. Read our guide and you’ll not only understand the terminology, but you can visualise your action so that you achieve greater success.

Type of clay targets

Single: One clay is presented when the shooter calls pull.
On report: A second clay is presented immediately after the gun is fired at the first.
Simultaneous (sim) pairs: When the target is called for, two clays are released and they’ll both be in the air at the same time.

Dealing with different clay targets

Driven singles, on report

  • Both birds are quartering in towards the stand, the first is higher and from 10 o’clock, the second from 2 o’clock.
  • Adopt a neutral stance; weight slightly on the front foot which is pointing towards the flightline of the bird. Be ready to transfer your weight to the back foot if you’re going to take the bird later when it’s closer, and nearly above you.
  • There’s no need to rush these particular clay targets so shoot ‘gun down.’ If you try bird gun up, you’ll often end up aiming at the target, resulting in a miss behind.
  • A smooth, unhurried gun mount is necessary. Get on the bird then pull away in front. When the muzzles obscure the clay pull the trigger.
  • Take the gun a little out of the shoulder, adjust your stance for the second bird then re-mount the gun.
  • Although the second bird might look faster because it’s nearer the ground, it’s actually travelling at exactly the same speed. As such, don’t rush your shot, simply repeat what you did on the first bird, pull away slightly ahead of the bird and fire.

Crow type, simultaneous pair

  • Birds appear above the tree line slightly to the right, they then apex in front of the stand and then drop to the left.
  • One bird is roughly ten feet above the other when they’re both at their peak.
  • Golden rule, kill them when they’re both still under power, not as they’re dropping.
  • Gun up. Keep the weight on your front foot that should be pointing towards the apex.
  • Have the muzzles ready on the flightline and take the lower bird as quick as you can.
  • Keep the gun moving, pull away and fire.
  • Like every pair, treat each bird as a single. If you miss the first, simply ignore it and concentrate on the second. Come back onto the second bird and repeat the process.
  • If for some reason you’re slow on the first and have to take the second bird on its way down, give it a lot more lead than you think.
  • Watch the target closely and be aware of any deviation in the flightpath because of a side wind.

shooting with shotgun

Taking a left-to-right crosser with the lead cartridge

Fast crosser

  • Right to left bird, low and fast. The false ground line can give the unwary the impression that the bird is dipping in flight.
  • Stance should accommodate your chosen kill point, bring the muzzles halfway back to the trap, this should be somewhere just after the visual pick-up point.
  • Because it’s a really quick bird the window of opportunity to kill it is limited, so gun up is needed here.
  • Shooting ‘maintained lead’ style is best. Try to swing through or pull away on this type of bird and the target will probably be out of shooting distance before you’re ready to pull the trigger.
  • As soon as you pick up the bird visually start your swing, always keeping the muzzles ahead of the bird.
  • To a certain degree, let instinct take over – when you feel the lead is correct pull the trigger and let the shot string do the rest.
clay targets

Teal targets

Away and over

  • Fast going away ‘teal’ type bird followed, on report, by high overhead target from behind the shooter.
  • Treat both clay targets  as singles.
  • Weight forward, muzzles just above the trap (or where you first see the bird), gun up, face on stock.
  • Smooth swing up onto the bird, when the target is resting on the bead of the barrel pull the trigger.
  • Keep the swing going after firing.
  • Transfer weight onto back foot.
  • Keep the gun up but take your face off the stock to look up – and behind – to pick up the second bird.
  • Swing the muzzles onto the bird, smoothly but as quickly as you can, track the target before pulling the muzzles ahead of the clay.
  • Pull the trigger but remember to keep the gun moving after you’ve fired.

Sim pair

  • Simultaneous pair, quartering away to the front of the stand from the left.
  • One bird, slightly slower out of the trap, is a little bit higher than the other.
  • Determine the pick-up and kill points, and adjust your stance accordingly.
  • As the birds are going to cross in front, speedy reactions are not necessarily required, so gun down is probably best (if you pre-mount the gun you’ll probably ‘aim,’ and miss behind.)
    * Note that the tendency is to try and hit the first bird you see, rather than think about the process logically.
  • As both birds are basically travelling left to right, wait until they’re each in view before mounting the gun.
  • Don’t be tempted to rush your shots. Take the ‘bird that’s behind’ first. (If you shoot the leading bird first, you’ll have to stop your swing and then get back onto the trailing bird). The only rider here is that if you shoot maintained lead, you will take the leading bird first.
  • Continue and adjust the swing – vertically – to get on, then pull away in front of the second bird. Pull the trigger and that’s another two hits on your scorecard.

Some key clayshooting terminology

Gun up: This is where you have the gun stock already in the shoulder pocket as you call for the bird, i.e. pre-mounted. This doesn’t always mean your face has to be on the stock. For some birds you need to be able to look around to visually pick up the bird in flight before lifting the stock to your face.

Gun down: The gun is out of the shoulder as you call for the bird. Shooting under FITASC rules, for instance, the heel (top) of the stock has to be not less than 25cm from the top of the shoulder when you call for the target. You can’t start to mount the gun until the target is visible.