Last weekend I took a National Sporting Clays Association class for my Level I instructor certification. It was a wonderful experience, I learned a ton, and I’ll be writing a column about it in the magazine in the future.
However, since this blog space is supposed to contain “rantings and ravings” let me take the only complaint I have about the class and run with it. We did not learn to teach students how to shoot from a low-gun, unmounted start. Sporting Clays–once called “Hunter’s Clays”–used to be about hunting practice, just as skeet (another game that has abandoned the low-gun start) was. American sporting clays rules now allow a premounted gun as in trap and skeet. Unless you shoot international skeet or FITASC which do require a low-gun, there is no need to learn how to mount a shotgun.
Obviously if, like me, you shoot clay target games primarily as hunting practice, you can shoot with a low gun if you feel like it, and I do for skeet and sporting clays. The problem is, learning to mount a shotgun efficiently often takes teaching.
The first time I had a shooting lesson I had just turned 40 and had been hunting for a long time. The instructor watched me mount the gun, shook his head in a sad but kindly manner, and started me over from the ground up. He taught me how to move the muzzle to the target as I raised the gun to my face and shoot as the butt touched my shoulder. It’s a very efficient way to shoot birds, and I am grateful for that lesson, which made me a much better shot on game. My concern is that fewer and fewer people will receive such lessons if all the emphasis among shooting instructors is teaching sporting clays.
One of the best things about sporting clays has been that it has popularized shooting instruction, but now, because of the change in the rules of the game, those instructors no longer teach one of the most important skills of field shooting.