If you’ve been to a sporting shoot, you’ll know that a teal is a clay target which is usually thrown in front of the stand and always fairly straight up into the air. My shooting style, in theory anyway, dictates that the gun hold is above the clay before it emerges and then the gun stays ahead of the clay and the trigger is pulled when the gun hits the shoulder. I’ve done it for years and it works but I’ve found a better hit rate using another method. Once again I ask you to watch others shoot; a rising teal looks a simple bird but just see how many people miss because they’ve lifted their gun over the top of the clay and then pulled the trigger. More often than not, a miss on teal means that by the time the shooter has watched, mounted and shot, the clay has begun to slow down or worse still has started to drop – both lead to a miss above when the gun hasn’t slowed in time with the clay. To compound matters, if you slow down your gun in time with the clay you’ll find you invariably stop the gun altogether and miss below.
A further cause of missing above is that the gun starts from too high a hold point and the clay never catches up with it – the only outcome there can be then is a miss above. Even if your hold point is correct and you are sure your lead looks right, remember that the majority of guns is designed to shoot high so that the shooter can always see his target above the rib and over the barrel. The very nature of teal targets means that the clay must be underneath the barrel where it will sometimes not be seen with your dominant eye so you must look around or through the barrel; if you don’t do that, then there’s also a tendancy for someone who is unsure where the clay is to lift the head – fatal, another miss above.
So how do we hit them then? Easy, go back to the old ‘Follow through’ method. Hold the gun at a slightly lower hold point, about a third of the way up it’s line of flight, call for the bird and bring the gun up from below and pull the trigger when you are lifting towards the clay. I use this technique instead of my usual instinctive way of doing things because all the reasons above could compound a lead error, sometimes I can’t see the flight of the teal anyway but using follow through there is more likelyhood of my instinct working more accurately – the gun is swinging upwards from below to above the target so we can always see the clay with both eyes and furthermore we get a good spread of pellets through the clay; instinct comes into play as the gun rises towards the clay and the brain works things out and we know when to pull the trigger.
This is probably the slowest target you’ll come across on the sporting circuit without the clay going up and then stopping to come down again, obviously. New shooters will look at a rabbit and cry out, ‘easy, peasy’ and then miss the lot. There are two basic rules in my book concerning rabbits – stay in front and stay under. When you call for the clay, don’t hold your gun on the trap but put the spout well in front, look back for the target and watch it roll towards the gun as you mount into your shoulder, swinging in front of the clay all the while. If you have read all my stuff you’ll now say, yeah, yeah, heard it all before. Yes, you have but it’s doubly important with rabs because they travel more slowly and there may well be more time for you to start thinking about what you’re doing. Start that and you will be in front of the target finding you have time to check the lead – then you will lose concentration on the bird, check the barrels, drop behind and miss.
The second important factor with rabs is that they are low, funnily enough running along the ground like a rabbit. So come on then, what happens? Spot on – you miss above. If I haven’t already written it, there will be a story all about coming up to a target, go and read that. When you wait for your rabbit, hold the gun pointing well below the expected line it will take across the ground – if it rolls evenly your barrel will come up to the rab and break it. Whatever you do, don’t hold above the line of flight because it is well nigh impossible to bring your gun down onto a target with any consistent accuracy, if you do you’ll miss below the rabbit’s feet. Even if the rabbit bounces as it goes along you will be ready for it and the gun will rise to break the target as if by magic. As a point of fact, I tend to wait until the rabbit bounces before I pull the trigger; it seems to be that much easier for me.
At the time of writing I can’t remember the last time I missed a rabbit. Guess what will happen now………
The classic game shot – a high and fast clay driven straight over your head, a good target to feel pleased about when you break it because you probably won’t be looking at it when you pull the trigger. The standard instinctive method for successful driven is to stand facing the trap, holding the muzzles far enough along the line of flight so that you watch the clay coming towards the gun as it’s being mounted; you’ll probably lose sight of the clay but if things work as they should your brain will have told your finger to fire as the gun comes to the shoulder. Don’t be afraid to move your weight from your leading leg to the back leg as you mount – unless it’s a slow clay you’ll find you need to bend over backwards to keep in front of the clay. It’s far easier to rock from front to back on your feet than it is to stand still and try to keep ahead of the target just by bending your back.
On a driven pair one behind the other, take the front one first and you will still be ahead of the second ready to break that when you look at it. If the pair is thrown one beside the other you’ll usually find that there is one in front at your kill point, that’s the one to go for first, even though the hold point for the gun must be slightly to one side so you can watch the first clay as you mount. The main trick is to start ahead and stay ahead. Let your brain do the work without you realising it, just give it a chance by holding the gun in the right place before you start.
I’d never had any trouble shooting a driven target until a few months ago when I lined up for a high, fast tower shot and missed the lot. I worked out what was wrong after another go; the old back had been playing up and I just wasn’t fast enough to keep the gun ahead of the clay so I missed behind every time. There’s another way of shooting driven targets which came in handy while the back didn’t want to work properly on the quicker targets. I’ve now got into the habit of shooting them sideways on, with a bit of practice you may find it easier this way. On a driven directly overhead clay, stand side on to the trap and treat the targets as crossers; that is, hold the gun high up, look back towards the trap and watch the clay come to the gun as you mount – make sure as in all other targets that the gun comes up underneath the clay. On driven pairs take the front or furthest target first, if the front one also happens to be the bottom clay you’ve got it made, there’s no excuse. On some occasions I’ve found this an easier method, taking the clays earlier with less work than usual.
This target is most people’s idea of the nightmare scenario; you have a sim. pair and your second clay is now on its way out of the ground: you missed the first and want to try it again coming down because it seems easier than going for the second – the trouble is that dropping birds always seem difficult unless you have hit some for your ‘sight library’. My scribings have always shown that the gun needs to be mounted in front of the clay but how can that be done with this target? Consider the simultaneous pair for which there is no choice, you broke the first and the second is now falling below your gun: you could always chop the barrel down from the top, through the target and pull the trigger once you’re below. There is a good chance this may work because the barrel will be moving fast, spreading the shot string through and underneath the target but the shooter will have to have some idea of when to fire the gun as the clay is accelerating fast towards the earth instead of slowing down as is usually the case with most of our targets.
The second method is my favoured and something that should be tried as it has always seemed an easier and more precise way of killing droppers. Consider this:- a falling single teal; you’ve missed it on the way up, there’s another cartridge left over, so what now? After the first shot take the gun slightly out of your shoulder so you can see what’s happening and drop the muzzle below the dropping clay; even though the clay is picking up speed, re-mount the gun from beneath the target and that old brain I talked about before will work things out for you so your barrels are pointing out the correct lead, they’re back in front again where they belong. You may find that as the gun drops with the falling clay, it feels as if your gun is lifting towards the target as you mount and fire, in practice this can’t happen as target and gun would be moving in opposite directions. The secret of confidently breaking dropping clays is to take the gun from behind and put it back in front; dis-mount from above and re-mount below so you can see what’s going on and get back in front. Once you hit a couple of droppers you will be amazed at the lead that’s needed, especially if the ground is very close! Depending on the highest point of the target, gravity could pull a clay downwards very much faster than a trap can throw it in the first place so the lead needed could well be more than a long crosser, if we can stay in front to take the shot there’s no need to chop down and guess how far to go.