A buddy of mine, his wife, my son and I were returning from yet another fun day of sporting clays when his wife relayed that she felt like everything was chaotic and that she didn’t feel confident. To be fair, she hadn’t shot in almost 10 years and had borrowed the shotgun she was using so the gun wasn’t familiar to her.
The most important comment here that she made was that .. she felt things were chaotic. If you are doing all of your thinking after calling “pull”, it will feel like you have far too little time to hit the pigeon, rabbit or whatever comes out of the trap. That’s why I believe that shooters should have a pre-shot routine. Golfers do it, baseball players do it why shouldn’t shooters?
My pre-shot routine may not work for everyone, but I hope it gives shotgunners something to think about. I combine a skeet pre-shot routine I’ve learned with the shot-planning that sporting clays requires.
With Skeet, you know exactly how the targets will fly and muscle memory is critically important for high scores. With sporting clays, you most-likely will not have had a ton of repetitions at the mix of angle, speed and target presentation at a given station. So that variability is where I add in the shot planning.
So here’s my pre-shot routine:
- Assess the target type, angle, presentation and speed
- Figure out which target I will shoot first, and where
- Mount the gun, pointing at the point I intend to kill the first target, set my feet for that break, then swing back towards where I know I will be able to first see the target clearly
- Move my eyes to the point where I first see the target – albeit not clearly (near the trap/thrower)
- Imagine the first clay being launched, visualize breaking the clay (imagine the lead, and see the target break) then the second
- Adjust feet if necessary if second shot will be akward
- re-do steps 3 and 4
- Un-mount the gun and switch the safety to the fire position (this being in the same part of my routine each time reduces the possibility of me forgetting to release the safety and losing a bird to it)
- Take deep breath and recite “relax, laser focus on target, steady lead, kill it, follow-through”
- Call for the target
This pre-shot routing is a blend of techniques I have read about, learned from other shooters or seen in videos such as this one from Mike Yardley’s on his “Positive Shooting Method”
You see golfers and baseball players go through these routines. If you watch professional skeet shooters, you will see the same. This helps get your brain in the game so it can do the hard stuff for you without you having to over-think it. You will only have a few seconds to see, lead and break the target, there is no time to think during the shot, get that out of the way before you ever call for a target.