I have been shooting this game of skeet for over 30 years and no target has caused
me more frustration and disappointment than 8 low. The high isn't high on my list
of favorites either. I do not think that I have been alone in those feelings.
Both of the Station 8 targets require a straight forward application of the basics.
1. You have to be positioned right to follow through after the shot.
2. Your hold point must be right for you.
You have to see it to hit it.
head has to be on the gun when you pull the trigger.
Item 1: You have to be positioned right when you call for the bird.
A method that I have been teaching for several years now consistently solves this
problem, and it is simple to learn and apply. Before every single shot on any
clay target course (skeet, trap, or sporting clays), figure out about where you
want to break the bird, hold the gun loosely at a relaxed height but not mounted
to anywhere near your shoulder (more like waist level) with both hands in their
normal pre-mount position and both elbows held in loosely against your body, and
look at where the gun is pointing. Newer shooters, in particular, will find that
it is pointing to near their hold point versus pointing to somewhere near their
break point. Clearly, being comfortable at your hold point and bound up so you
can no longer swing the gun at your break point is not good. I find that accomplished
shooters who try this consistently note that the gun is pointing to the area on
the field where they expect to break the target. Be careful when you try this
or you will cheat. By cheating I mean that you will put pressure on one of your
hands to cause the muzzle to point unnaturally. You have to relax all of your
muscles to do it right.
A great place
to prove to your self that this pointing technique works is at one of the center
stations (3, 4, or 5). When you do so, go through the routine and then bring your
gun up to your shoulder at your hold point. Next, move the gun very, very slowly
towards your break point. Keep moving the gun until you begin to feel your shoulder
muscles tighten up and look at where the gun is pointing. If it is pointing somewhere
just beyond your normal break point (where you were pointing the muzzle when you
held your elbows in to your sides) all is good. If it isn't, you can conclude
that you cheated on the pointing technique. Try it again. The technique has never
In the case of both of the
shots at Station 8 the gun should be pointing somewhere near the limit markers
for the range. Those are the stakes that are required on every range to define
where a hit target turns from a dead bird to a lost bird because you shot it out
of bounds. You won't break the target very far from that lateral location. In
fact, the later you shoot at either of these targets the smaller your pattern
will be because the bird will be closer to you. Your feet should be comfortably
spaced about shoulder width apart, and life will be better for you if you are
standing in the left rear of the station for the high house and right rear of
the station for the low house. Setting up in these locations helps turn the bird
into more of an incomer by increasing the angle between the gun and the target.
The major advantages of this method are twofold: it always results in the shooter
being able to follow through after the shot and it eliminates any need to look
at your feet and confuse your eyes on their priority (long range vision to see
the target or short range vision that tends to focus on the muzzle of the shotgun).
Item 2: Your hold point must be right for you.
I have tried about every conceivable hold point at the Station 8 Low House: in
the window, below it and centered, upper left, diagonally to the high left of
the window, 3-4 feet left of it, and others. I have also listened to enough AAA
shooters like Bob Myers, Jamie Gaines, Don Snyder, Mike Schmidt, and Dave Cunningham,
and professional instructors to learn that they do not all use the same hold points.
My conclusion is that you have to find the one that is right for you. For me,
I was settled "for evermore" on holding about three to four feet left
of the window (courtesy of John Shima) and about at the middle of the window in
height. Why? Because that hold point allows you to see the bird well, seems to
keep you from moving the gun before the bird comes out of the window, protects
against the flat wind driven target, and gives adequate room to swing smoothly
on the target.
(LOW 8 UPDATE) In my
first version of this article I was (really) devoted to doing the above and I
was fairly successful, but I still missed Low 8 more than I wanted to. So-o-o-o-o
I changed again. I now hold just below the lower left corner of the window and
look about one foot above the barrel. I could not believe the difference when
divine intervention caused me to do this the first time - I actually saw the target
clearly and could break it anytime I wanted to. I never had that feeling of control
before. I am happy to note that I have shot over 3,000 targets so far this year
without missing a Low 8 - an absolute record for me.
The really great thing about that hold point is that I don't feel anywhere the
need to move the gun (jump) the target because I can see it so much better and
know that I can break it anywhere between the low house and where I am standing.
My guess is that where you look for this bird is really important and your personal
style and reflexes will determine where your eyes have to be to get that clear
target picture every time.
High 8 seems simple to me even though it is almost the same shot as Low 8. I hold
about a foot to the right of the opening and maybe a couple of inches below it
to protect against a flat target. I always look right in the opening for this
shot. The hold points mentioned above work for many others on High 8 if you reverse
any reference to "left" so that it read "right." Here too
I am looking for a clear focus on the target and can break it anywhere between
the house and where I am standing.
Item 3: You have to see it to hit it.
This point is so obvious that we tend to just accept it and move on. Many shooters
get positioned right, put the muzzle at their hold point, look for the bird and
never really see it clearly. You have to look right in the "hole" (or
wherever you have found works for you) and keep your eyes there while you wait
for the bird to come out. The most common mistake is to look in the window, call
for the bird, and simultaneously move your eyes to the end of the barrel. Result:
nearly a guaranteed miss. Looking over the barrel doesn't help me at all on any
station because I pick up the bird in my peripheral vision and get the gun moving
too soon, or tend to focus on the end of the barrel instead of beyond it so that
I can see the bird clearly.
at Station 8 give no time for second chances. You have to look at them hard from
the time they emerge from the window until the time they disappear in "smoke"
after you pull the trigger. Often, I believe many of us are such control freaks
that we fail to trust our natural coordination and instincts to do this. The bird
will break if you just look at it and let your brain do the rest of the work:
moving the gun, pulling the trigger, and following through after the shot.
Item 4: Your head has to be on the gun when you pull the trigger.
For the two Station 8 targets, many of us tend to get everything right. We get
positioned right with the muzzle pointing somewhere near our desired break point
(Skeet is not a precision shooting sport so close is good enough), mount the gun
at or near our hold point, check to be sure we are at the right hold point, check
to be sure our head is on the stock, look in the window, call for the target,
look at the bird, swing the gun with the speed of the bird, pull the trigger when
our brain says to, watch the bird break, and follow through.
The rest of us do almost everything right. It is the "almost" that results
in a miss that should not have happened. Usually the "almost" is that
we lift our head just before we pull the trigger. We do this for two reasons:
we jump the bird, or we simply move the gun much faster than the bird is moving.
Both of the above promote lifting the head as we pull the trigger. In both cases
we lift our head to see the target. If we jumped the bird our brain said to look
at what was moving and what was moving was the gun muzzle, but we know we wanted
to be looking at the target. So-o-o-o we lift our head to see the target because
the muzzle is blocking it out. In the second case, we may have done everything
right up to the time we first saw the target come out of the window. At that point,
we get anxious to kill it! The result of that anxiety is that we move the muzzle
fast (too fast) and swing through the target so far that we no longer can see
the target. Here too, the tendency is to lift our heads so that we can see the
target again. The problem is that the gun is no longer pointing where we are looking
if our head is off of the stock, and when we pull the trigger all we can expect
to hear is "LOST."
A young soldier who was my two-man team partner many years ago put a sign on my
gun stock (a Winchester 101 at the time). It simply said: "Wood to Wood Boss."
If I read it that day it helped. The rest of the time I just had to remember the
basics since they never change:
You have to be positioned to break the target at your break point for each shot
and follow through after the shot. Being comfortable at your hold point doesn't
break as many targets because you will run out of swing and stop the gun movement.
2. You have to place your hold point where you can clearly see the target come
out of the window and stay there until you see the target clearly.
3. You have to keep your eye on the target to the exclusion of your muzzle, doves,
geese, targets from another field, or the best looking puller you ever saw until
you watch it turn into dust.
have to have your head on the gun when you pull the trigger. It can be anywhere
when you mount the gun and call for the bird but it has to be on the gun when
you pull the trigger. Calling for the bird with the head off of the stock works
for some, but most of us don't need to make the game more physically demanding
than it has to be.
Pat Knutson Fort Lee