Shotgun sports have been around for centuries, dating back to the mid 1700’s in England, and are still some of the most popular events for international competition and recreational shooting alike. Trap shooting is the oldest of these sports, which involves shooting clay birds from five locations behind the trap house. The trap is an electromechanical device that randomly throws a bird in different directions, presenting a challenge for the participants. Typical events are based on 25 rounds per shooter, five at each of the five stations behind the trap house. While the concept is simple (shoot clay birds when it’s your turn), consistently hitting a moving target is another story. Here are three tips on how to improve your trap game (none of which involve buying more expensive equipment).
Lean into it
One of the most overlooked factors in trap shooting is your stance. Since the birds could be flying in a number of directions and trajectories, you need to be able to find your target, swing, aim ahead of the bird, and pull the trigger. With an improper stance, this will wind up being a jerky motion, and you won’t be able to consistently pick off birds. Your front foot should be facing the direction of the trap house, and your back foot should be about 45* off of that, shoulder width apart. Here’s the key: you want to be leaning forward putting most of your weight on the front foot. This allows you to swing laterally either direction in a controlled, fluid motion, giving you the best opportunity to hit the bird.
Never look down the barrel
This one is completely counterintuitive, but looking down the barrel will cause you to miss more often than not. Most people are accustomed to looking through a scope on their rifles, or aligning sights on their handguns, so naturally you want to aim the bead at the end of your shotgun barrel at the bird. There are two primary reasons why this is wrong. First, the bird is a moving target, and to hit a moving target, you have to shoot in front of it. If you pull the trigger when the bird is in your sights, you’re going to miss behind it. Second, the human eye is good at a lot of things, but focusing on two things (at different depths) at once is something that it struggles with. You should have both eyes open when trap shooting, and focusing on both the bird and the bead often winds up with your eyes not focusing well on either. The sooner you learn to track the bird and point your shotgun to hit the leading edge of the bird, the better off you’ll be.
Take your time
This tip is particularly for new shooters, but even seasoned marksmen will appreciate this as well. There is a fine line between waiting too long, and rushing your shot. As soon as a bird is released, a lot of new shooters will be trigger happy and wind up missing the bird before they even gave themselves a chance to point the shotgun near the bird. You want to hit the bird either while it’s on the rise or at its peak; if you wait until it’s falling, then you’ve waited too long. This is a fast action sport, and you obviously want to be quick, but take enough time to the extent that your hands point the shotgun where your eyes are telling you to shoot.
Firing a shotgun is simple, and the concept of trap shooting is very straightforward. As always, the devil is in the details, though, and the more disciplined you are at the details, the better a shooter you will become. Maintain a proper stance leaning forward, shoot in front of the bird without looking down the barrel, and take your time. Practice these tips and you’ll see improvements in no time. Stay safe and happy trapping!