The distance trap

Q. At a recent sporting shoot I missed all three of the first clays of a report pair. I felt I was behind the first clay when shooting the stand, but I had it in my mind it was only a 30 yard target and felt the picture was right for that distance.

After finishing the stand I watched the clay again and decided it was probably further than I thought. The stand was empty for awhile and I asked the ref if I could shoot a couple of first birds. I shot them assuming they were 40 yards and sure enough each broke. I seem to fall into this trap regularly, how can I prevent repeating this mistake?


A. Firstly, anytime you miss it is wise to strive for a different target-muzzle picture on the subsequent attempt. I will not discuss the steps to analyse the target flight line here that guide you in this process but I do have a suggestion that will help, become better at estimating distance!

I am not meaning to be flippant. This is one of the areas of shooting that I think is guided somewhat by myth. Distance and lead are of course related and the myth is that we all see lead differently and we can’t really know how far the clay is or perceive what four feet in front looks like. The only reason we can’t is because we have never learned to.

If you follow these suggestions you will become skilled at estimating distance and perceiving lead. Measure distances in ten yard increments out to 60 yards and mark each increment with about a four foot tall two by four stake. Get a six foot long two by four to balance on top of the stake and mark it into two foot sections (It would be good to have an eight foot one as well if possible). Place it on top of the stakes and place targets on the marks and study the set up at various distances. Mount your gun on targets noting the space awareness between the clays at different distances. Use standard and midi targets.

By knowing the exact distance to and between the clays you will begin to associate the size of the clay and with a known distance and your mind will begin to form a target/ distance/lead relationship that will carry into your Sporting rounds. You will learn what three, four, five feet etc. looks like at a given  distance.

Another helpful hint: it is 40 yards from station one to station seven on a Skeet field. Spend some time studying that perspective and it will help you accurately estimate distance on the Sporting course.



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One comment on “The distance trap
  1. years ago I rented an actual skeet range for a year which allowed me to safely shoot stations 3-5 back to sixty yards. I set bricks flush with the ground (so grass could be cut) at ten yard increments back of each station so myself or anyone using my field could instantly learn to access the various distances from any station. By standing between the bricks, 5 yard changes were possible. I instructed dozens of waterfowlers to shoot confirmed longer range distances.

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