Movement – Part II of the Focus-Movement-Faith series (Sporting Clays)

Updated: Aug 16

In Part II of this well-known series, which later evolved into Amazon’s highest rated sporting clays DVD, Don introduces the basic principles of MOVEMENT with particular emphasis on pre-shot planning, ready position and synchronization with the target.

(Appeared in the April-May issues of ClayShooting USA, p. 72.)

By Don Currie

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In the last issue, we introduced the “Holy Grail” of sporting clays and wing shooting: The three principles of Focus, Movement and Faith. In these three basic interdependent principles lie virtually all of the possible reasons for a hit or a miss. The principles of Focus, Movement and Faith must all tie together for successful execution of a target, pair, station or covey rise.

The elements of good Movement can’t be learned in an arm chair. While reading this article or “Move, Mount, Shoot” by John Bidwell is a good start, perfecting ones mount and movement takes time, practice and repetition under the watchful eye of a qualified coach.

Robert Churchill contends that, “a good shot doesn’t move his gun on to a bird; he turns the whole body and head, the gun moving rhythmically with, not independently of, the body. In fact, the secret of good shooting is to point yourself, not the gun, at the bird. ” A century later, views from the experts on the fundamentals of good movement are remarkably similar to Churchill’s. John Woolley, a practitioner of “Move Mount Shoot” to whom I once turned for help with my own mount challenges, describes the key to Movement as “getting the flow right with the target.” Wendell Cherry similarly believes that “The gun has to be in perfect rhythm with the target at both the muzzle and the heel of the gun with the front hand and back hand working equally and together.” With this kind of consensus among the sport’s upper echelon, both past and present, the path to perfect Movement has been well marked. Yet many shooters remain plagued by poor gun mount and jerky, inconsistent or out-of-sync movement to the target, which affects their scores.

In this article, we will identify and very briefly describe the key elements to achieving effective and consistent Movement and, ultimately, higher scores. These elements of Movement are not just my opinions, or some new-fangled method. Instead, they are a merging of ageless concepts I have gleaned from writings, research, practical application and lessons from some of the top instructors in the sport and proved out through a process of trial and error over countless hours of practice and instruction.

At their core, the “Instinctive Method”, Move-Mount-Shoot and even Focus-Movement-Faith, are all derived from Churchill’s theories and methods of instinctive game shooting. I advocate, am a student of and instruct the instinctive method of wing and clay shooting and believe it to be the best method of engaging both clay targets and upland game. Coincidentally, I find that it is also the method to which beginners and novices most quickly adapt and with which they achieve immediate results.

The three elements of Movement are: 1. Planning (or visual mapping) 2. Stance 3. Mount & Synchronization

Why are planning and stance being discussed in an article about Movement? Because set-up is essential to successful execution. Once the gun mount is practiced and learned to the point that the shooter is able to perform it without conscious thought, the effort of Movement becomes 90% planning and orientation of the body to receive the gun, and 10% execution.

PLANNING While the ultimate test of sound Movement is a fluid gun mount executed simultaneously with synchronized motion to the target, planning is a mandatory prerequisite. If you don’t possess and execute a plan each time you step into the box, you can’t expect to be a consistent performer. If you start on the right path (the hold point), and stay on the path (the target line) throughout your move and through the break point on each target, consistency and higher scores will result.

Your plan must consist of a target pickup-point, hold-point and break point. When you step up to a station, survey the terrain. While observing the flight of the target, visualize two or more landmarks through which the target flies, visually mapping the target line across the background terrain, vegetation or sky. Identify your pick-up point – the area on your target line closest to the trap where you are first able to clearly see the target after it emerges from the trap arm. Identify your break-point – the area in which you are most comfortable breaking the target. Ideally, the target should be moving at a fairly constant speed and direction (not in transition) at the break point. The hold point is positioned along the flight path of the target between the pick-up point and the break point and is where you orient the barrel of your gun just prior to calling for the target. With a crossing target for example, the hold point should be about 2/3 of the way back toward the pick-up point from the break point. On a close quartering away bird, as another example, your hold point should be farther out toward the break point. Exactly where you place your hold point will greatly depend on the character of the target you are engaging. For the second target of a pair, identify a point where your eyes and muzzle will go immediately after discharging the first shot. This will allow you to effectively pick-up and engage the second target. Prior to calling for the first target of each pair, your barrel should be oriented on the hold point and your eyes on the pick-up point. This planning routine, practiced and faithfully employed, will become second nature to you and as natural as pulling shells out of your pouch without looking.

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READY POSITION To a degree, stance is an individualized aspect of one’s shooting technique and style. A single stance that is ideal for every shooter does not exist. This doesn’t mean that achieving a proper and consistent stance isn’t absolutely critical. There is a proper stance for every shooter. It is advisable however that, together with a qualified instructor, you establish the stance that is right for you based on your build, physical flexibility and, to a certain extent, your natural relaxed standing position. These variables will determine the degree to which your stance should normally be more square to the target line with weight evenly distributed, or oblique to the target line with weight shifted slightly to the lead foot. A right-handed shooter of medium to tall height and average build with no physical limitations should stand oblique to the target line with his left foot pointed at the 12:00 position, or breakpoint, the right foot at the 2:00 position and heels about 8 inches apart with weight slightly forward. A stockier individual or someone with flexibility limitations might need to stand more square to the target line with weight more evenly distributed.

Your objective in achieving the proper stance and orientation to the breakpoint is to provide maximum comfort and a minimum of physical tension at the break points and as you move along the target line from the hold point. Pay particular attention to orient your stance so that you don’t over-rotate your body and gun beyond your comfort zone, which can cause you to lose balance or dip your shoulders.

For most target presentations, once you step into the box at a station and the ideal stance and orientation to the break points is achieved, your feet should remain planted until you complete the last pair.

MOUNT & SYNCHRONIZATION While perfecting your mount and movement takes a little time and effort initially, the rewards are lasting….like learning to ride a bicycle. Once you learn, you never forget. Churchill’s method, or any modern-day varietal, requires a low gun or non-mounted ready position as a foundational element (Also see, “Defining the Ready Position”). At the hold point, the shooter should be in the ready position with about an inch of the butt tucked under the firing arm between the inside of the bicep muscle and rib cage with the forearm parallel to the comb. The barrel should be in a “pointing orientation” vis-à-vis the target line. The angle of the barrel should remain pointed at the target line throughout the gun mount and through the break point, and at all points in between. A consistent and reliable stance and ready position is the critical starting point for movement and therefore a key element of overall consistency.


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So, as the shooter is poised at the hold point, calls for the target and the target is launched, the move and mount should simultaneously initiate with the pointing hand or non-firing hand, moving the gun up and out toward the target and the trigger hand moving the gun up to the cheek. Both hands must move together and with equal force. As the body, head and gun move along the target line from the hold point to the break point, visual focus is heightened, the comb of the stock touches the cheek and the gun is discharged.

Mounting the gun while simultaneously moving to and synchronizing with the target may sound simple, but it takes practice to perfect, render consistent and relegate to the subconscious. For targets with a shorter engagement window, use a higher gun position, thus reducing the “draw length” or distance the comb will travel to the cheek. Even in these cases, a fully mounted gun is unnecessary unless dealing with a true trap shot or an occasional teal.

For most report and true pairs, leave the gun mounted after the first shot and, if time allows, raise the head off the comb just long enough to acquire the second target. Once the second target is visually acquired, the head drops back to the comb and the second shot delivered. Don’t dismount the gun between the first and second shot of a pair unless there is a sufficient interval of time between targets to resume the ready position and go to a specific hold point for the second target without rushing.

CONCLUSION Sound and repeatable Movement is every bit as critical to consistent performance as visual Focus. As we will learn in Part 4 however, the first two principles of Focus and Movement are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, are inextricably linked. In Part 3, we will discuss Faith or “trust” as the third principle.

By Don Currie

Don Currie is a certified NSCA instructor, former US Army Infantry School and Ranger School Instructor, Master Class sporting clays competitor and an NSCA National Delegate. He has instructed at the Orvis Wing Shooting School, is an avid upland bird hunter and passionate about shooting and outdoor sports. By trade, Don is an executive recruiter and former CEO of a consumer products company. He lives and works in Central Florida with his wife and three children and instructs clay target sports throughout the state of Florida. To send him your comments or learn more, go to www.DonCurrie.com or contact him HERE.


© 2010 – Don Currie – All rights reserved.

i) From Robert Churchill’s Game Shooting, Robert Churchill, Michael Joseph Ltd., London, England, 1963, Chapter: The Shooting School, p. 225 ii) As far as I know, the term “draw length” was coined by Wendell Cherry as he is the first person I ever heard use it. It refers to the vertical distance traveled by the heel of the comb from the set position to the fully mounted position.

#SportingClaysBasics #DonCurrie #FocusMovementFaithMethodPartsIIV #FloridaSportingClaysInstructor #Currie #Movement

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Question: Where should my eye be during the pre-shot planning, and where should the barrel be in relation to my peripheral vision? How far out from the trap should I set the visual pick-up point? Shou

Question: I’ve always been told to keep my eyes centered in my head to follow the bird (ocular center) and turn my head toward the visual hold point. I see in your video that you say to cut your eyes

Question: You saw me shoot practice at Nationals, and when I asked you why I missed one of the targets you said, “you hesitated at the break point.” I recognize that I do this, but how do I stop? Comm