column By: Bryan E. Bilinski | October, 21
If you enjoy bird hunting, you have also most likely enjoyed shooting sporting clays, a great practice medium for your days afield. To shoot consistently well on game birds, you must practice on clay targets. However, you may have realized that the target presentations have become more difficult and complex than the targets you shot on your home clays course years ago. You are not alone in this observation. Many of the targets presented today are definitely and deliberately being “set” like nothing you have ever seen or encountered afield and, of course, on the sporting clays ranges of old. These new, unique and very challenging presentations are deliberately set as “targets in transition.”
The definition of transition is “the process or period of changing from one state or condition to another.” Add to that: movement or passage or change from one position to another. This clearly relates to clay targets that leave behind an angled trajectory and begin curling and descending back to Mother Earth.
Back in the early 1980s, when sporting clays came to America, the trap machines available and in use were stationary and anchored. All machines were bolted down to level concrete pads or solid wooden platforms. Targets launched from anchored flat machines flew on relatively straight lines, reaching a normal, arching apex and then beginning a descending or rather gentle journey back to earth. As a sporting clays shooter, if you moved your gun on the relative flight line of this type of target presentation, you really only had two places to hit or miss the target – behind or in front. The traditional swing through method of shooting worked very well for a target that flew on a defined, relatively straight line. The swing through method is still very effective on targets that fly on a straight defined line. A skeet field represents a good example of targets thrown on a basic trajectory, reaching the apex over the center of the field and then gravity and deceleration begin to affect the target’s flight line.
Well, in case you missed the memo, sporting clays has evolved from its basic roots and beginnings in America, tenfold. Now the trap machines are very mobile and totally adjustable. The plates that the target launches from can be set at almost any angle. The targets that leave these traps can throw a target that would make a Frisbee blush.
Shooters today are struggling with these types of target presentations because they can be difficult to read and diagnose. They can even be more difficult to determine how to break.
Enter the “face of the clock.”
The beginning phase of gun movement is relatively the same – harmony with the target line and target speed. It is the ending picture that is different. When your gun swing is completing the journey to the “break point” of the target in transition, the lead picture you see relates to the face of the clock. Instead of the normal movement of the gun through the 3:00 or 9:00 position of the clock, the final insertion point of the subconscious awareness of the gun barrel moves and relocates into a different number on the face of the clock. If you position the target at the center axis of the clock, the movement and gap of daylight for a target in transition may be at 8:00 or 4:00 for dropping and curling targets. An arching battue or shondell clay may be shot with an insertion point at 11:00 or 1:00, depending on whether the target machine launched the clay from your right or left side.
Learning to shoot targets in transition using the face of the clock picture takes time and lots of practice. You also need to be a student of reading the target correctly. The better your awareness of what the target is really doing in flight, the more accurate you are going to be in the final positioning of your gun barrel to the correct “time” on the clock. In case you missed the memo, “sporting clays” is no longer your grandfathers’ game of sporting clays.