In sporting clays, unlike skeet and trap, the shooter can encounter five different sizes and types of targets! From “rascally” rabbits to minis and midis, Don gives you a few pointers on how to tackle the most deceptive of the bunch.
Deceptive Targets By Don Currie
With the advancements in trap machine technology, today’s target setters can set traps to throw clay targets that look nothing like a winged animal. Many of the target presentations seen today on the competition field are much more technical and deceiving than the targets of 10 years ago. Sporting clays targets are already dramatically different from those thrown in Skeet and Trap simply because of the variety (five different shapes and sizes versus one in the other disciplines). But why are some presentations more deceiving than others? Because your visuo-motor system (eyes, optic nerves, brain and nervous system) is telling you that the target is doing something different than reality. Under normal circumstances your eyes and your brain are 100% reliable, but there are certain target presentations that will naturally deceive you as you develop your target engagement plan.
Of all the possible types, angles and presentation of sporting clays targets, I’ve identified the three that have proven to be the most deceptive.
Midis and Minis
Your ability to read midis and minis can really make the difference between winning and losing a tournament. Although they normally represent only 3-5% of the targets thrown in a given competition, that’s just enough to send you back to the clubhouse as an also-ran if you fall prey to these nasty little buggers.
The standard American trap and skeet target has a diameter of 110 millimeters. Midis and minis, as their names suggest, are smaller. The midi is 90 mm and the mini is 60 mm in diameter. Both of these targets can easily deceive your perception of speed and distance as you try to break them. While both the midi and the mini seem quicker and farther away than they really are, these smaller targets lack of mass forces them to lose speed dramatically, making them even more troublesome. In either case, you can easily find yourself shooting in front of these targets, thinking they are farther and going faster than they really are.
If your eyes and brain lead you to think that the target is further away, you will naturally add forward allowance. If you see the bird charging out of the trap, you will also add more forward allowance and fail to apply concentrated focus to the target. These targets will prompt you to make a sudden or quick move to the target with a hold point that is typically too far back toward the trap, thinking you need to get a quick start and nail them early.
But here is what you need to know: before stepping into the box, while observing the targets and going through your pre-shot planning process, understand that these targets will take less forward allowance than your eyes and brain will lead you believe. As with any target, pick your breakpoint carefully. Ideally it will be in a spot where the target is moving at a constant speed and direction. Minis and Midis will tend to start transitioning earlier in the flight path than a standard target. Use the arm and finger of your non-trigger hand to test different hold points along the target’s flight path. The most important thing about the selection of your hold point is that it be placed where you can apply the correct amount of gun speed as well as sharp visual focus on the target as you execute the shot. Once you have settled on your break point, hold point and visual pick-up point, simply remind yourself that the mini or midi will require less forward allowance than your brain will lead you to believe. It’s usually sufficient simply to plant the notion in your subconscious that you will need to apply less forward allowance than a standard target; you will need to “tap the breaks” if you will. Now you simply step into the box, run your mental program, go to your hold point and apply your normal hard focus to the target. Your subconscious should give you the proper forward allowance. It sounds like voodoo, but it works.
Showing Belly or Face
The second category of targets that tend to deceive shooters are belly and face targets, including the dreaded battue. With these targets, you’re seeing more of the target than you normally would with an edge-on target. Targets showing more belly or face will require more forward allowance than your eyes and brain will lead you to believe. Just like shooting the mini or midi, a simple conscious suggestion will usually do the trick. Simply tell yourself “stretch the shot”. In other words, continue to apply sharp focus to the target through the breakpoint but feel a bit more lead. Once again, don’t try to “measure” incremental forward allowance, simply apply hard focus to the leading edge of the target and pull the trigger.
The third and final type of deceptive target is that wily rabbit. I’ve saved the rabbit for last because it sort of contradicts everything I’ve said about targets that show belly and face. Even though the crossing rabbit shows a lot of face (or sometimes belly), the above-mentioned strategy on belly and face targets does NOT apply. The rabbit target always appears to be moving faster than reality due to its proximity to the ground. Most misses on a rabbit target are in front and most shooters have their hold point too far back toward the trap thinking that they have to rush to the target. Consequently, the forward allowance shooters tend to apply to a rabbit is one of a fast-moving target. The result is that most novice shooters miss the rabbit in front, even though most squad members will assert that the miss was behind. So for the rabbit, apply sharp focus to the chin of the rabbit (that’s about 4:30 on the clock for a left to right and 7:30 for a right to left). Your muzzle should start behind the rabbit and sweep through the target on the target line at about the level of the rabbit’s “feet” or bottom edge. While maintaining your focus on the chin, pull the trigger as soon as you FEEL the muzzle touching the butt, or trailing edge, of the target. While it feels as though you are going to miss behind, the natural forward momentum of your swing will apply the correct forward allowance. If you apply soft focus, focus on the whole target instead of the chin, or try to measure your lead, you’ll miss the target.
As with any clay target, sharp visual focus, good visual follow-through and FAITH are the keys to success.
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Don Currie is the Chief Instructor of the NSCA, a NSCA Level III instructor, Associate of the Institute of Clay Target Instructors, former US Army Infantry School and Ranger School Instructor and a Master Class sporting clays competitor. He has instructed at the Orvis Wing Shooting School, is an avid upland bird hunter and passionate about shooting and outdoor sports. .
© 2015 – Don Currie – All rights reserved.