Sporting clays targets don’t all duplicate live birds and rabbits. Some curl through the air. Others bounce, blast straight up, or cross at ranges you would never attempt in the field. Taking these shots can be nerve-racking. To make them, you need confidence, and you gain that by knowing how to shoot at a particular station. Here’s how to shatter them.
STRAIGHT-UP TEAL Teal go straight up, seem to hang for a moment, then drop, gathering speed as they fall. Even though teal start out fast, they slow very quickly as they fight gravity. Many shooters hold their guns low to try to get a jump start on teal, and wind up moving the muzzles too quickly and shooting over the target.
Instead, begin with your muzzles held high—say, two-thirds of the way between the ground and the spot where the bird will peak. If you’re right-handed, hold the gun to the right of the target’s path. That way you’ll get a clear view.
As the teal peaks, jab the muzzle forward and shoot. The secret? Focus on the bottom of the target, and you’ll center it.
ARCING BATTUES AND CHANDELLES Both of these targets fall. Chandelles are regular standards thrown on edge in a long arc. Battues have no dome and climb edge on, presenting a sliver of a target, then curl onto their sides and fall rapidly.
The temptation is to attack these targets by inserting the muzzle near the top of their flight, chasing them with the barrels as they fall. Instead, as instructor Gil Ash taught me, “Play them as if you were an outfielder playing a fly ball.” That is, move the muzzle horizontally under the target to the break point. The target falls right to your muzzle as if you were an outfielder with your glove outstretched. All you have to do is focus on the clay and shoot.
LONG CROSSERS These targets intimidate shooters more than any others, as figuring out the lead can be hard. And the more you try to measure lead, the more likely you are to slow the gun and miss behind.
Champion shooter Andy Duffy once told me, “There are three kinds of lead: some, more, and a lot. ‘Some’ lead is what it takes for you to break a 20-yard crosser. ‘More’ is twice that, and ‘a lot’ is twice as much lead as ‘more.'”
Decide before you call “pull” if you’re giving it some, more, or a lot of lead. Hold the muzzles far enough out along the target’s path so that you won’t have to chase after it. Call for the bird, focus on the target, and insert the muzzles ahead of it, matching the target’s speed as you do. Pull the trigger.
BOUNCING RABBITS Rabbit targets blast out of the trap in a blur, bouncing unpredictably along the ground as they go.
Two tricks will help you tame the bouncing bunny. As you set up to call for the rabbit, hold your muzzles below the path of the target. That way, you won’t lose sight of it. Second, look at the middle of the target, not the front edge as you usually do with conventional clays. If you try to look where the rabbit is going, it will fake you out with a bad hop. Think of rabbits the way a cornerback treats a juking wide receiver: He looks at his man’s belly button, because the receiver can’t go anywhere without it. Rabbits are usually moving slower than you think they are. Start with the gun low, look at the middle of the target, and shoot right at it.