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Old July 19, 2001, 12:52 AM   #1
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Techniques to teaching a newbie how to skeet shoot?

My fiance wants to go dove hunting with me on opening weekend (Sept. 1). She had never really shot a shotgun before last Sunday. We went to a big gunshow awhile back and she picked out a Remington 870 20 gauge youth model. She's 5'4" and 100 pounds.
Anyway, last Sunday we went out shooting skeet for her first time. I left my shotgun at home so I would focus just on her. We also only took one box of shells (25 rounds) so that her shoulder wouldn't get too worn out her first time out.

We started out with a clay about 15 yards away propped up on a small rock so that she could shoot at an unmoving target and from the dirt spray have an idea of where the shot went in relation to where she pointed.

I then started throwing singles for her. I backed the tension on the mainspring off as much as possible so that it would throw them slower and be easier to hit. (Trying to keep her confidence up) This didn't help a whole lot because they still come out pretty fast. The first 10 shots she missed and it's hard for me to tell where she's shooting while at the thrower. On the 11th clay she dusted it! It was beautiful. I and the guys shooting skeet next to us congratulated her and she beamed ear to ear. On the last 13 she broke two more, but didn't dust them. She shot 3 out of 24 which is 12.5% on her first time out. I think she did well. Any methods I could try to bridge the gap between a resting skeet and a thrown one that you know of? Or do I just let her burn lots of shells and clays until she figures it out?

I've never had any formal shotgun training, just a country boy that went out hunting and kind of always shot a shotgun without thinking you know? I average 20-21 (out of 25) on trap and 16-18 (out of 25) on sporting clays with my 28" barrel 870 12 gauge. But since I have no formal training, I don't really know how to teach her stance, grip, shoulder mount, etc. Any recommendations?

Also she wants a pad of some sort for her shoulder. I thought of a PAST pad, but think a shooting vest with a padded shoulder would be more practical and less of a hassle for her. Know where to get one?

On the way home from shooting she was happy and started talking about how she wanted to go get somemore shells so that we can go again soon. We we are going again tommorrow night (Thursday) I'm glad she's starting to show some interest in an area of the shooting sports!!!

Have any of you gone through this with your wives or kids? How did you do it? Any help you guys can provide would be very much appreciated!

Old July 19, 2001, 01:56 AM   #2
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I walked my wife thru it much like you are doing. When the gun starts getting heavy, the shoulder sore, or it stops being fun, quit for the day.
My portable launcher has a cord release so I could stand behind her and call her missed shots a little easier. Every few shots, ignore the target and watch her for technique faults.
When my wife shot her first pheasant, her smile was priceless, and the dog that always, always delivers to my hand delivered her bird to her that time.
Good luck to you both.
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Old July 19, 2001, 07:14 AM   #3
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Here are a few things to try:

1. That 870 Express Youth Model typically comes with a Modified choke tube installed. Buy her a "Skeet" (recommended) or "Improved Cylinder" (if you can't find "Skeet") tube to use. It will be plenty of constriction for early season doves, but it will vastly improve her skeet score and bolster her confidence.
2. Get a PAST pad. It is infinitely more effective than a padded shooting vest. I have experience with my own son and daughter with the PAST. It is a great product.
3. Buy some Premium shells (Winchester AA, Remington STS, Federal Gold Medal). Walmart and Kmart typically have some Winchester AA shells for less than $5.00. They are well-worth the additional money paid over the "Dove and Quail" loads because they have cushion wads rather than solid card wads, and they attenuate the felt recoil. Recoil is a problem for any beginning shooter. Whatever you do to reduce it is positive.
4. Be certain that she is wearing hearing protection. The cheap, foam plugs work great. Noise = recoil to a new shooter.
5. Watch her stance and coach her to hold the gun in front of her and keep her face down on the stock. New, particulary small, shooters tend to rock back with their weight on the back foot and their back arched so that they can prop the shotgun at the center of their mass. This makes it virtually impossible to swing the gun with the target.

Good luck! Keep is posted on progress. Clemson
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Old July 19, 2001, 08:15 AM   #4
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Good advice from Clemson. FYI, PAST makes a shooting vest that is very good for recoil reduction. I find the strap on pads not all that convenient while walking around but a definitely shoulder saver while shooting from the bench.

Having helped a couple women learn to shoot the first item to check is eye dominance. More women are cross dominant than men.

I've found gun weight is more of an issue than recoil. My wife will happily shoot a 20 gauge that I find kicks every bit as much as my 12 with light loads. She can't shoot the 12 because its much heavier.

Clemson is correct about noise equally recoil in perception of new shooters. I get the highest rated earmuffs I can find for newbies.
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Old July 19, 2001, 08:19 AM   #5
Dave McC
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Kilgor, good advice above, here's some more....

There's an old thread here on proper mounting techniques that should help.

Some of the mail order ammo companies have listed lighter loads for the 20. Something like a 7/8 oz load will do the trick and leave your lady's shoulder intact.

Much as I love my PAST pad for bench work, it's a bit binding for shooting flying stuff. A snazzy looking vest with padding may serve better here. Browning has some nice ones with an insert pocket for a good wearable pad.

Skeet's a good place to start. A sustained lead system will have your lady crunching clays PDQ. Once she learns how much daylight to have ahead of the bird, she'll be onto the game, and much closer to ready for dove.
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Old July 19, 2001, 08:41 AM   #6
Join Date: October 7, 1999
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I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Pachmayr's Skeetshooting Video with Ken Robertson. Everything you need to know about skeetshooting is in this video. Don't try to learn this sport without this kind of excellent instruction.
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Old July 19, 2001, 09:56 AM   #7
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You mentioned cross dominance but don't mention what to recommend if in fact the lady IS cross dominant.

I ask because my wife is right handed and left eye dominant. She recently went to the range with me for the first time and shot a .22 pistol. She's showed me that she's a good shot, but with a pistol, it's easier to aim with a cross dominant eye. What's the fix for shotgunning?
Gun control should just be about hitting your target.
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Old July 19, 2001, 12:55 PM   #8
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The Ledbetter Way

. . . is of course the easy way. When I took my stepsons for the first time, I went to a range where there is a trapmaster I know. He was happy to give the boys pointers and knows way more than me after all. One of my boys was shooting in the high teens his first day out. BTW, it was with my bargain 1100 from Wal-Mart (Thanks, Dave).

I agree with everything Clemson said.

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Old July 19, 2001, 01:28 PM   #9
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Just have fun...

with it. Go shooting when she wants, and take her hunting. I shot for about two years before I was old enough to take the HSC. My first time pheasant hunting was the most fun I've had...and I didn't hit a thing(I'm sure I hit something somewhere, just nothing I could eat). After that I was shooting every weekend. And when I went hunting again later that year, I got my limit(I was about 12 and a half yrs.). It sounds like she'll have a lot of fun hunting, and, if she does, she should be rather motivated to improve her skills, on her own. I've been shooting and hunting for over twelve years, no formal instructions, just raw experience, and I get my limit almost every time. I've never been dove hunting, but if it's anything like quail hunting, it should be fun. My 2 cents.

Work the ditches, beat the brush...and bang 'em down
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Old July 19, 2001, 01:50 PM   #10
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Good point. There are solutions to cross dominance. The easiest is to shoot with one eye. The simplest way of achieving this is to smear some grease or put a stick-on on the shooting glasses over the dominant eye. A novel approach that I saw once was a shooter who used prescription shooting glasses but only had the prescription in the lens over the non-dominant eye forcing it to be dominant becauses it saw more clearly.

The second choice is to learn to shoot with the same hand as the dominant eye. This can be a real challenge depending how dominant the hand is and it adds the prospect for the majority of the population of finding a left-handed gun.

Finally, custom stocks can be made with a significant bend in them that when shouldered will put the gun under the dominant eye. This is costly and not seen very often.
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Old July 19, 2001, 03:41 PM   #11
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Excellent advise above...

Just to add my $0.02 worth, from my experience with new skeet shooters, if at all possible, try to get her to learn to shoot with both eyes open. Closing one eye kills depth perception.

Make sure she's looking at the bird and not the gun. Once the gun is mounted and the eye is lined up with the bead, she should move her eyes away from the gun to be looking for the bird to come flying out of the house and the eyes should follow the bird all the way. The gun will point to where the eyes are looking.

Follow through! Some new skeet shooters tend to stop the gun in mid-swing. Shouldn't be trying to nail it "rifle style" but should be laying out a pattern of shot always in front of the bird. Keep the gun swinging after the shot is pulled off. It's better to lead a bird too far than to hit behind it. Shots going behind the bird have a 100% chance of missing whereas shots going ahead of the bird have at least some chance of hitting it.

Weight slightly forward, forward knee slightly bent, cheek on the stock and kept there throughout the swing. Have her shoot some easy incoming and going away shots at stations 1 and 7 to build up her confidance. Then move to the other stations for crossing shots.

Man I'll tell ya, nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than a good bird dog pointing on a covey of quail. I love quail hunting but it's alot of work unless you have a good bird dog. Dove hunting is easier... you basically wait for one to fly over and shoot it. If there are alot of dove flying the action can get fast and furious. I'm going to Yuma, AZ for the dove opener, like I have every year for the past five years.

BTW, good luck! My wife wants me to teach her how to shoot a pistol but she has no interest in shotgunning.
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Old July 19, 2001, 10:49 PM   #12
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Thank you everyone!!!

I'll check eye dominance and do my best to make sure she follows through. We didn't go tonight because she wasn't feeling well, but we are going to go next week. I'm just thrilled that she wants to learn to shoot something!

There's an ATA trap shoot coming up in October. I think I'll she if she wants to enter and see if maybe some more experienced shooters can give her some tips in the warm up rounds.

I really appreciate all of the helpful insights

Old August 19, 2001, 11:18 PM   #13
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Just wanted to let you guys know what kind of progress we have made.

I bought her a nice looking PAST shooting vest with padded shoulder, fits her nicely.

I also ground down the toe of the recoil pad a hair to permit her to shoulder the gun without snagging before it was in place. Seems to have helped.

We've been a few more times and she still wasn't hitting well. Like I said, I really didn't know how to teach her, but I am trying. Friday we went out shooting and there was a fellow there that I know. He's a real shooter and is quite good. I asked him to show her proper form and such and he did. She then busted, no she DUSTED the next clay. I was throwing them with at the sporting clays range and throwing the clay that goes straight away (easier to hit). She shot a box of shells and hit 18 out of the last 20 (the first five were all misses before Lefty showed her proper stance and hold the gun with a few more tips thrown in). I was shocked. You could have knocked me over with a feather and she was positively beaming. Those first five had hurt her shoulder and she was done with 25.

We went back out the next day (at HER request ). She shot 50 shells with no pain (holding the gun right helps I suppose ). I threw her some crossing shots as well and she missed a few of them until she figured out the lead and then started busting them. She busted about 70%.

She's not an ATA champ yet, but she has come so far in such a short time that I am astounded. She's got a lot of natural talent. We go dove hunting in 2 weeks and they may just have something to fear from her...

Thank you guys for your help. I'm a very happy man.

Old August 20, 2001, 07:42 AM   #14
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It's good to hear that things are working out for the lady. Shooting skeet is about the most fun thing that you can do with your clothes on (and we shoot naked on Thursdays!).

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Old August 20, 2001, 04:51 PM   #15
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Thank YOU Kilgor, for making my day....
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Old August 21, 2001, 09:08 PM   #16
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"Skeet's a good place to start. A sustained lead system will have your lady crunching clays PDQ. Once she learns how much daylight to have ahead of the bird, she'll be onto the game, and much closer to ready for dove."

no offence intended, but just one word for you. NO.

speaking as one of the english open skeet champions this year:

maintained lead works well on the skeet field, and helped win me a few competitions a few months back, until I realised that reading clays gives higher scores.

speaking as a sporting, ball trap, FITASC and DTL, shooter:

maintained lead doesn't work anywhere else but on the skeet field, on a good sporting course many different lead pictures have to be applied, skeet will train for crossers, but not much else, in ALL other disciplines, there are two useable techniques, MMS (move mount shoot) which relies on experience, and on the target, in front of the target, squeeze (can't think of a better explanation, its 3:10AM here). teaching the young lady proper technique will help her shooting no end, so will employing the services of a decent (CPSA trained+qualified, if possible) coach, after 11 months of shooting, I had a 75 straight skeet, and a 27/75 DTL, not to mention many 24s, 23s, and 22s on the sporting and FITASC layouts, this was not down to skill, it was down to training, coaching, and grit determination.

good luck to you.
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Old August 22, 2001, 08:36 AM   #17
Dave McC
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GreaZ, a few things.....

One, I doubt the lady in question will be doing any serious competition for a while. At the beginner's level, the important thing that the rookie needs to do is break birds. Rookies need some victories.

When I started on doves, after casual clay shooting many years ago and some ground game, it took maybe a box of shells for me to get my first couple doves. The next box may have had 4 or 5 birds to show for 25 shells, then the one after some more, etc.

Two, the best practice for doves is doves.Any clay shooting will help in getting used to the gun, but clays don't flare,dip,evade,etc, like doves do. This can get frustrating, if I get 3/3 straight, I smile. That's after 40 years of dove shooting.

I do use maintained lead sometimes, but oft I swing through.Sometimes I just shoot the darn thing. It depends on the shot and the distance. Knowing what to use comes with experience.

Agreed on a good coach, tho not all good ones have all those letters. And a few that do, aren't.

Congrats on your win,that took grit,endurance, determination, and effort. Kudoes...
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