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One thing’s for sure, you can have all of the top notch equipment available; the best waders, the most decoys, the newest spinners, flappers, splashers, dippers, a necklace full of calls and a thousand dollar shotgun but the ducks don’t shoot themselves. That would be suicidal. Nothing can give you more of an edge than good shooting skills which can only be learned by practice.

Now since we don’t live in “Argentina” where you can get a thousand shots a day at live birds, you have to do something else to get the practice, namely at the local shooting range; five stand, skeet, trap or sporting clays.

So let me get this straight, trap is where you stand behind a clay bird thrower that flings the clays basically out away from you at various slight angles which mimics birds of the field or upland game taking off in front of you after your trusted pointer sniffs them out. Even though this is the easiest place to start, these shots can be deceptively difficult because although the clay looks like its flying straight away from you, it’s actually rising and moving to the right or left just enough to miss. And once the clay reaches maximum elevation it begins to sink at a downward angle which complicates it even more.

Five stand is when you start at the first position on the left and take a single and then two doubles at any one of about nine different clay bird throwing stations positioned out in front, to the left and right and above your head. There’s even one that rolls along the ground like a speeding rabbit. After your first five shots you move one position to the right and begin again. There are five different positions. It can be quite challenging and humiliating if you are shooting with people who are pretty good when you’re not.

“Is this your first time?”

“What makes you think that, because I just missed fifteen in a row?”

Skeet is when you shoot at clays fired out from two towers, one to the left and one to the right. One is high and the other is low. You move in a semi circle around the different stations. This is great practice for those speeding teal that soar past your decoys when you’re never ready. Depending on where you’re standing you can get a quick passing shot from right to left or left to right, or if you are over next to one of the towers the clay bird from the opposite tower will be coming somewhat right at you.

Then we have the gentlemen’s version of clay shooting called sporting clays. Ah yes, you sit leisurely in your golf cart and drive to each station around a beautiful picturesque setting not unlike a golf course that will feature pretty much all of the aforementioned shots involved. There are two different at each stop. Then you get back in your golf cart, pop a beverage from your cooler, prop your feet up and drive past the poor slobs on a budget like me who are hoofing it to the next station. Think of it as part of the regimen for getting in shape for the season. Like duck hunters need to be physically fit. Hey, I sometimes have to walk a half a mile to my spot with all my gear and then slog through chest deep marsh. That requires some kind of conditioning.

But the beauty of some of these places if they’re not crowded is that you can go at your own pace. That means if you really suck at a certain shot, you can practice it over and over. That’s what happened to me on the skeet range. My son and I were the only ones there and the time before I missed something like twenty in a row. I was ready to get tracers. It was ridiculous. It was the high left to right shot. I just couldn’t hit it. Then I stood in one position in the center and shot over and over, varying my lead. About the tenth one I connected. And then I shattered another one, and another one for something like four in a row. I shot a whole box at that one shot.

I did the same thing on the sporting clays course. I kept increasing my lead on the high overhead right to left until I discovered how much lead I needed. It was a lot more than I was originally shooting. Now I hit that shot fairly consistently.

I shot for a year at the north county federal five stand range where you didn’t have a choice as to where your clay birds were coming from, and I never increased my proficiency as much as concentrating on one shot at a time. I don’t even shoot doubles yet. If I can’t hit one, how am I supposed to hit two? I’m just wasting my shells.

I’m still in favor of being able to use some kind of a tracer in the shells so I can see just what I’m doing wrong but so far the best product out there that isn’t incendiary, meaning you won’t burn your range down, is a product called Fiocchi Cyalume Chemical Tracers. But they don’t show up well in broad daylight, and a lot of ranges don’t let you use them.

Whatever style you choose, it’s still shooting. Shooters shoot. Try all three and become a triple threat. It generally costs about eight to twelve dollars a round plus shells, and if it helps bag a few more birds during the season it’s well worth it.

Now we come to just how are we going to practice. If you can’t visualize what a lead picture on your bird is than you really don’t know what you’re practicing. Some shooters have a natural ability to make the shot without thinking about what they’re actually doing. I was not gifted with that ability, and finally learned about the three main methods of shotgun shooting; the constant lead, the swing through, and the pull ahead method. things to do in Budapest


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