Ready to Shoot - From Head to Toe
It's All About the Base
No, I haven't gone hip-hop on you - it is all about the base - your base of operations on the range. Where you place your feet, how you stand, is not optional, it is critical to success. So, to quote a famous female politician, "what difference does it make?"
If you have had a lesson on shooting skeet, trap or sporting clays by a qualified instructor and they have not said, "your feet aren't right," get your money back. They left off one of the critical factors in making your shot - every time.
When I was coaching some young people years ago, I had some that had gotten exceptionally good at hitting the target most of the time. Just to frustrate me as the coach, they would stand on one foot, spread their feet apart. whatever just to try to suggest to me they could stand any way they wanted to shoot and still hit targets. The truth is these guys could hit targets sitting down with their feet up, so it wasn't that big of a deal - until they came to compete and then they would always have their feet right because they knew it may make the difference in one or two targets even for them!
What is the "right" position? First, let me dodge that question and go to something just as important to me - footwear. I still have shooters coming to shoot in flip flops, cowboy boots and dress shoes. Why? Why can't they come to the range with a range bag and a pair of shoes they always shoot in? Why do they assume that standing in a pair of cowboy boots with hard leather soles gives them the same stability as a pair of good quality soft soled shoes or boots? Slipping around in a pair of sandals or flip flops makes as much sense. But here they come, and I just shake my head. Sometimes I might say something like "so you decided not to be competitive today?" That was the choice when they did this with their shoes!
If you are shooting skeet or sporting clays, you will take your position, and I will bet you a dollar to a donut you will decide on a hold point and break point. When you do that, do you adjust your feet so you are perfectly on target at the break point with your feet, and maybe a little beyond?
When you shoot trap, do you just stand parallel to the line for all shots or make some adjustment in position for each post?
Shooting skeet, has anyone ever told you to point your belly-button the the low house? Do you wonder why? It is because of your feet! By pointing your belly-button in the low house, (for right handed shooters) you align your feet for the best position for most shots. Not exactly, but almost - so you may have to make some small, personal, adjustments. These will happen as you decide your hold and break point for that station.
I have had younger shooters suggest that they are very flexible and it doesn't make such a difference for them - or thin guys and gals say something similar. Well I have news for them.
One of my real world jobs is representing spine implants - that's right, I'm in there with the surgeon as he dissects your spine to place a wedge known as a "cage" between vertebrae to develop a fusion between the two vertebrae. In some cases it is necessary to dissect away some of the bony protrusions of the spine,the facet joints - like little wings coming out away from the core. Those bones along with the bones that stick out toward the back, the spinous process, and the other bony protrusions are all surrounded with connective tissue and muscle. These all work together to allow you to be upright and have stability.
Do the Twist
So take a look at that bony setup above. Note to thin or fit shooters - your spine is just as big as my spine, I just have more coverings that go over it. So with regard to your spine - it doesn't matter that I am carrying a bunch more middle because the physics of the spine are going to be constant.
When you twist those bones on top of each other something happens. For there to be room, and nothing break, as you twist the spine is compressed. Well, solids don't like to compress so the slide on top of each other and that pushes everything longer, so even short people get taller when they do the twist. But the point is that if you have your feet wrong, you will have to twist to get on target. When you twist, you have no anatomical choice in the matter, you are going to get taller.
Do the Twist
See, I Told You
Now you can see why your spine has to move. Now translate that into having your feet in the wrong position - all the sudden as you are moving to your shot, with your feet set up too far behind the break point, your spine gets compressed and you move up and over your target just because anatomically you can't help it.
What is the cure? Listen to your coach - set your feet for the shot. Be in position for the break point, not where you start! So what does that mean in trap or skeet?
In trap, this is fairly simple, but will require you to adjust regularly. On position one (right handed shooter), step into the box and prepare for the hard left shot. Set up for a break point for that shot - hard left. What you will find is the other option, the straight away, for post 1 is still easily available without having to move, but now your swing to the left doesn't require any restriction on your spine - so no rise - so you can now stay down on the bird and break it at your break point.
As you move to post 2, you will have to set up for the left bird but not as much of an angle and you need to remember now your shot could be a bit to the right. Set up for the most difficult left bird which will be somewhat less drastic than your post 1 angle.
The center post, post 3, offers both left and right birds so you are going to be more squared up here. The rule book puts a foot on each side of center of the box, but that doesn't mean you can't shade yourself off center in your line-up. Why? So you can see the bird. If you will weight your position so most of your bulk is on the left of center (right handed shooter) you will see the target sooner because your gun isn't in the way. Set up for whatever you find as your most difficult of the two angles - you have both left and right - and you are good to go.
Post 4 is where you switch things up. Now begin setting up for that right hand shot. Set your feet for the hardest option right hand, allow for the fact it can still go a little to the left.
Post 5 is the exact opposite of post one, just as post 4 is the exact opposite of post 2. Set up on post 5 for your hard right target. Position for that target break point. You should still be able to comfortably take the straight away without moving.
As we stated earlier, you start with your belly button pointing into the low house. Feet about shoulder width apart, weight distributed 60/40 with more on the front foot (left if you are right handed). Nearly square to the low house, you are set.
Post two you still set up with belly button (BB) to the low house window. Decide where you are going to break the bird. Make slight adjustments to your foot position based on that break point. And so it goes through station 6. Obviously we aren't pointing our bb into the low house on station 7 - exactly opposite there and on high 8, but back there again on low 8.
Always make small adjustments to the position until it is right. When it is right, make a note, write it in your log and keep up with it.
Everything stated above fits into sporting clays. Sporting clays is just the other two games shot in the woods with a few errant targets like springing teal and rabbits. Set your feet according to the most difficult break point you determine and you will be able to have the flexibility on the shot that you need.
Head on the stock, eye on the rock - all from a fundamentally strong foundation!