Last month we looked at how a shooter’s stance can influence the way they attempt to hit targets and, correspondingly, how using this factor to your advantage can dramatically increase your scores.
Within the last article I briefly mentioned the ready position, but this month I’d like to take this theme one step further – simply because it’s one of the most important aspects of hitting clays on a consistent basis.
Get this simple thing wrong and you’re on a hiding to nothing.
You’ll always be playing catch-up, metaphorically and (probably) in real terms.
I’m convinced that getting to grips with the appropriate ready stance will push your scores up above your average.
You’ll note I emphasise ‘appropriate’ in the last sentence.
This is because what works for some people – albeit generally the majority – might not necessarily work for others. To recap on one of my favourite coaching expressions, ‘why make things difficult for yourself!’
Sure, you might be able to hit a certain type of bird when shooting with a completely inappropriate ready position, even shooting from the hip for that matter – but in the long run the shooter who has a sensible, planned, approach to addressing the target will always be the winner.
Shooting is all about consistency, so let’s make this our golden rule for the month. Make no mistake; ensuring you’re in the correct ready position is as important as, say, mounting the gun correctly.
ADDRESSING THE PICK-UP POINT & KILL ZONE
– For any target there’s going to be the ideal kill zone. This is the perfect place to break the clay during its flight.
Depending on the way the bird is presented this can be simply a matter of a few feet of travel – in heavy woodland, for instance, to several yards on an open, crossing target.
– Then there’s the pick-up point. This is the point on the flight path where your brain actually acknowledges the fact that the target is visible. Note that this is not the point where the bird comes into view; it’s slightly after this, as it takes a split second for your brain to comprehend the fact it can now see the clay.
Obviously with a fast-moving target the bird will have travelled a certain distance even before you’re ready to pull the trigger. This is why it’s crucial to know exactly from where the bird is going to appear. Otherwise you’re going to be searching the sky, wasting valuable time looking in vain for the clay. When you know where the pick-up point is you can then set your muzzles accordingly.
– We’ve ascertained why you need to have the gun in, or just out of, the shoulder pocket as you call for the bird – but what’s the point of getting this all correct only to have the muzzles pointing at the ground ten feet in front of you – especially when the target in question is a high driven bird?
It’s nonsense. In an ideal world the muzzles must be positioned just under the flight line. Having the muzzles too high above the path of the bird will obscure the bird with the barrels.
This in turn means that you’ll have to falter, lower the gun a fraction and then carry on with your swing. Hold the muzzles too low, however, and you’ll end up with an up, up and away swing – almost a guaranteed miss on your score card as you’ll be playing catch up from the moment you start.
– Make sure the gun is not canted over at an angle at your ready position. If it is you’re really making things more difficult. The gun will have to be straightened before, or during, its short travel up to your shoulder.
The reason I mention this is because it’s an incredibly common fault. Fortunately, though, once this style mistake has been pointed out to a shooter they rarely make the same mistake again.
– Not only does the position of the muzzles need to be correct with respect to the bird, but they also need to be correct in relation to your foot position. To be honest if your feet are okay the muzzles should naturally find the ideal position.
You’d be surprised how many shooters get one of these factors wrong – and then wonder why they’re missing the targets.
– In this first case the shooter has got it all wrong. He’s called for the birds – high, right to left crossers on report – and he hasn’t even closed the gun. Maybe he’s assuming that the clay will be in the air for so long that he’ll have plenty of time to get himself sorted out before he pulls the trigger! He’s also looking at where the bird is going to end up rather than where it’s going to appear. To make matters worse he’s adopted a stance that certainly won’t allow him to swing onto, and through, the clay.
The second is much better. After missing the first pair our shooter has decided to concentrate. Now he ‘knows where they’re coming from’ he’s decided to get his weight more onto the front foot, close the gun and get the muzzles up near the flight line. In an ideal world he’d be looking back a little so that he could pick the bird up in the air a bit earlier, but I’ll assume he’s using his peripheral vision beneath those dark shooting glasses.
– Once a game shot, always a game shot! But when we’re trying to hit clays and get a high score, this approach is really only making things difficult for your self. Faced with a driven pheasant or partridge this guy usually has a better than average kill-to-cartridge ratio. Shout ‘pull’ on a clay ground, however, and with this style things often won’t work out quite as well as expected.