In the southern states of Australia the game bird seasons are nearing their end. How has your season been? Personally my shooting could have been better so, with still some time to make good, I took the chance to quiz Lauryn Mark about how to make some improvements. In case you’ve just arrived from Outer Space, Lauryn has represented Australia at both the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, winning three Commonwealth gold medals in the discipline of skeet shooting. She is also owner and operator of the highly successful Corporate Shooting Stars team-building business. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone better qualified than Lauryn to share some advice on how to become a better shot with the scattergun. Here are her top five tips.
1. Know your dominant eye.
Establishing your dominant eye is one of the most important aspects of becoming a good shotgun shooter. To check your eye dominance, point at a distant object (like the top of a tall tree) with both eyes open, ensuring your focus is on the object, with your finger blurry. Shut one eye. If your finger moves off the object then you have shut your dominant eye. If eye dominance is checked at an early age, it is best to shoot from the shoulder on the same side of the body as the eye that is dominant. The majority of shooters naturally shoot this way anyway (i.e. right handers are usually right eye dominant, and vice versa). In this case, Lauryn stresses the importance of shooting with both eyes open. If, on the other hand, you are one of approximately 30% of the population whose dominant hand is opposite to their dominant eye, then it becomes more difficult. In this case the shooter should either swap shoulders (which is very difficult when eye dominance is not established until later in a shooter’s career) or develop a habit of shooting with one eye closed (target shooters can tape one eye). Again, Lauryn stresses that this is the only case in which shotgun shooters should shoot with one eye closed. Shooting with both eyes open is far preferable.
2. Point don’t aim
Unlike rifle and pistol shooting where you aim the gun (meaning that you line up the sights or use the scope to shoot at the target), a shotgun shooter must ‘point’ to have success. This means the focus should not be on the end of the barrel. Your vision must be on the target with only a peripheral reference to the gun.
3. Correct equipment
Having the correct equipment is paramount to consistent good results in shotgun shooting. Once you have established strong fundamentals, it is important that you have a shotgun that fits you correctly. This includes having the correct stock in length, height, pitch and cast. If you are not knowledgeable in this area it is best to have your gun fitted by someone that is. The balance and weight of the gun is also important. Most of the time a gun should be weighted for equal balance at the hinge pin. The weight of the gun is also important but can vary greatly between different shotgun shooting disciplines (including hunting).
Stance can vary a little for each individual but as a general rule most people shoot best with a neutral stance. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart, with a slight bend equally in both legs. Lauryn often tells people to stand as if they are talking to her: the stance should be very relaxed and natural. The next most important thing is to position yourself so that you can swing at your most freely while your gun is pointing towards where you plan to shoot the target. So, for example, on a crossing target most people tend to naturally stand with their feet positioned to allow an easy set-up in relation to where the target is coming from. That is a big mistake. What you need to do is think about where you will shoot the target and set up a free body/swing at that point, then wind back to where you will start the gun. This allow a smooth movement where required.
5. Follow through
‘Follow through’ is one of the most important fundamentals of shotgun shooting. Often people will have the correct shot and sight picture, but will stop or slow the gun movement when they pull the trigger. You have to remember that it takes time for the shot to leave the end of the gun and then to get to the target. To ensure you are following through, the best thing to do is to pretend you are shooting at the target again. By that Lauryn means to keep your eyes on the target and your gun moving with the flight line until after you have seen the result.
I for one intend putting these tips to good use during what’s left of the duck season and in the future, whether that be on the swamp or at the range. If you’d like to learn more, why not book an afternoon with Corporate Shooting Stars? These sessions are held at various locations around the country, including the Marks’ ‘home range’ at Werribee. During your session you’ll get some tuition in clay target shooting from the experts (either Lauryn, Russell or some of their well-qualified staff) and have a fun competition with your mates. It makes for an especially good team building session with your family or work colleagues and will help your shooting as well.