Breaking clay: Summer days are great for shotgun intro

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Whether at a public shooting range or an impromptu spot in your own back yard, virtually any place a shotgun can be safely fired can be made into a great homemade trap and skeet venue.
Cases of clay targets are pretty cheap, and one of the best investments any enthusiast can make is a mechanical thrower. Virtually no other gear beyond a shotgun and hearing protection is needed.
The basic skills required of shooters of any experience level are all grounded in the same beginnings, the core of which is correctly mounting the gun.
Shotguns are designed to be pointed rather than aimed, which means the way they’re handled needs to be natural and smooth.
Getting a new shooter started should begin by making sure their gun’s comb is not too low or too high. The comb is the top curve of the stock, the place where the shooter’s cheek should touch the gun. If the comb is too low, their eye won’t be able to see down the line of the gun. If it’s too high, they’ll be able to see but the barrel can’t consistently be made to point where they’re looking. Have them try a few different shotguns until they find one that fits comfortably. Youngsters often need some sort of padding added around the comb to bring their eye up into correct alignment.
Practice at the mirror
Once this fit is assured, it’s a good idea to have them stand facing a mirror with an unloaded gun and practice bringing the gun up. Have them stand up straight and bring the gun up to their eye, then snug the stock up to their shoulder in that order, making sure they shrug their shoulder up rather than pull their head down. The idea is to keep their eyes open and level, the better to judge angle and distance.
As they’re doing this, have them position their feet so their body is comfortably pointed in the direction they’re practicing to shoot. For a right-handed shooter, the left foot should point about 45 degrees away from the right, and a line running through the left big toe, left heel and right heel should point approximately where they expect to shoot. This way they’re balanced and their swing isn’t going to be affected by their lower half being contorted into a knot.
Shotgun shooting is a learned skill, but one that should come to feel natural. The gun mount and stance business is intended to get the shooter out of their own way so they may connect the rest of the dots on their own.
Out at the range, have the new shooter stand close behind the mechanical thrower so the targets fly straight away from them. By shooting these they can get the feel for mounting the gun and using the stance without worrying about leading a target. As they get a grip of this, have them move a few feet to the left and begin practicing a little bit of lead. From that point on, they’ll be hooked.