Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Dynamic Approach to Sporting Clays

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This week we have a contribution from Anthony Matarese. If the name sounds familiar, here’s why:

13 Time All-American (Open 1st Team 10 consecutive years)

9 Time Member of Team USA Sporting

7 Time Member of Team USA FITASC

2 Time Great American Champion

3 Time Master’s Cup Champion

5 Time New Jersey State Champion

2 Time National FITASC Champion

2001 US Open Runner-Up

2005 World Sporting 5th Overall

2006 Seminole Cup Champion

2006 US Open Third Over-all

2006 World FITASC Bronze Medalist (Tied for Gold Medal, lost in shoot-off)

2007 US Open Third Over-all

2007 World Sporting 6th Overall

2007 Nemacolin Pro-AM Champion

2008 Browning / Briley Champion

2008 East Coast Championship HOA

2008 US Open Champion

2008 World FITASC Silver Medalist

2008 National Sporting Clays Champion

Junior Wins

2 Time World Sporting Junior Champion

4 Time National Junior Champion

3 Time US Open Junior Champion

2 Time National FITASC Junior Champion

Anthony is recognized as one of the top competitors in the U.S. and the world. In addition, he is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College, where he studied Business Finance and Economics. Anthony recently released an instructional sporting clays DVD, “Timed to Win: A Dynamic New Approach to Sporting Clays.”

Now, Anthony fills us in on his Dynamic Approach to Sporting Clays.


By Anthony Matarese

The complexity and challenge of sporting clays can leave even the most experienced shooters scratching their heads.

The sport is far from easy. Just when you think you have found the method that works best, you may find your approach leaving you with less than desirable results.

Over the last 15 years, in an effort to the fix the flaws in my shooting, I have developed what I call a “dynamic approach.” A dynamic approach is simply a combination of a few shooting methods. The choice of which method and in what situation to use each can be determined by understanding a few core principles.

Unlike clays-shooting sports such as skeet and trap, the wide variety of sporting-clays targets move in a lively fashion depending on the weather, time of day and the landscape of the course.

Therefore, steadfast rules such as timing, hold points and mounts associated with more predictable shotgun sports can leave even the most experienced shooters “in the woods” when it comes to the dynamics of sporting clays. Whereas skeet and trap fields are built to exacting specifications, sporting-clays courses by their very design are intended to conjure up a natural habitat where game birds can perform their acrobatics – challenging the shooter to make the kill.

While it’s easy for shooters to understand why they need a systematic approach to the predictable flight lines of skeet and trap, others may question of the value of something like that when it comes to the more complex sporting clays.

In fact, the best way to develop a successful approach for sporting clays is to recognize the core principles of the sport that have proven successful. Proper instructions and ongoing practice in terms of the mechanics of shooting then provide a knowledge base that lets the shooter recognize which of these core principles to apply for any given target presentation in sporting clays.

The objective is to arm the shooter with both the mechanical basics of shooting and the core principles in order to achieve a reliable and consistent approach to sporting clays which is flexible, dynamic and plays to the strengths of each individual shooter. I call this line of attack the Dynamic Approach.

Before moving on I feel it is important to give credit where credit is due. I honestly could not have developed this approach without the instruction I received from Dan Carlisle at a young age. His guiding principles that my approach are based on have become a fundamental part of my shooting.

So what are these core principles? The principle that I feel is the most critical in determining how to approach a target is related to the visual clarity of the target. Simply put, you should shoot the target where you see the bird the clearest, or at the point of the target’s flight where the target looks the biggest.

Another principle to live by is to never use excess gun speed. In other words, if the target is traveling 20 mph your gun should not travel much faster than 21 mph. On the same note, if you have already met the target your gun speed should not be slower than the target. If the target is traveling 20 mph and your gun speed is 19 mph you have either started your gun too far in front of the target or you are going to shoot behind. In essence this leaves you with a way to determine hold point.

Determining the angle of a target is also critical in the decision of what method or approach use. For example, is the target crossing, shallow quartering, deep quartering, incoming or quartering in? The angle of the target is critical to determining the insertion or placement of the gun relative to the target.

As I mentioned, you can’t simply follow a set rule-of-thumb as you would in skeet that says your hold point should be 2/3 back from the center stake to the trap house. Remember, this is the Dynamic Approach – meaning that you must be flexible when it comes to applying the core principles.

Understanding the principles discussed above will be critical to determining the best approach. You need to be able to answer the following question: Should I pre-mount or shoot low-gun? Should I use a form of pull-way? If so, where should I insert the gun? Should I use a form of intercept, such as “move-mount-shoot”? Should my gun ever start behind the target? If so, what type of target?

I believe you need to be able to shoot both pre-mounted and low-gun. Keep in mind low-gun means having an actual mount, not just lifting your head. Moreover, how low the gun starts can vary depending on the amount of time you have for the shot.

Let’s start with pre-mounting. You should always pre-mount on anything that you would consider a trap-shot. Specifically, you can pre-mount anytime the trap is located between 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock if you where standing at 6 o’clock. If the target gets past the point where you see it the clearest before you can mount the gun, then I would shoot pre-mounted. When pre-mounted, the most important variable will be your hold point.

As the angle of the target becomes greater, there becomes a point where you may want to shoot low-gun. If the traps are at 4 o’clock or 8 o’clock, while you are standing at 6 o’clock, the decision to pre-mount or shoot low-gun depends on speed and distance.

Your best approach on crossers and targets that give you plenty of time will be to shoot low-gun. The advantage of low gun when shooting crossers is that the movement of the gun to your face gives you timing. The purpose of a mount is to merge the gun and the bird together seamlessly.

I suggest using some form of pull-way as your main approach and using other approaches as needed. You must first determine where you see the target the clearest. If you have plenty of time to shoot the target where you see it the clearest then I suggest using pull-away. When using pull-away you do not always start the gun on the front edge of the target. Specifically, you should start the gun far enough in front so that if the target is moving 20 mph you can move the gun 21 mph and reach the required lead. Therefore, a long crosser may require starting the gun a good bit in front and then “stretching away” to finish the lead. As distance and speed increase you should insert further and further in front. A shallow quartering target is best approached by mounting on the back edge and stretching to the front by moving slightly faster than the target.

You should use a form of “move-mount-shoot” when you want to shoot a target rather quickly. Remember, to shoot a trap-style target quickly you should pre-mount, but if it the target is more of a crosser you should be using a lower-gun and shooting a form of “move-mount-shoot”. You will choose this method when the target looks the clearest for a short period of time and then turns on edge or when you are trying to shoot the first bird of a pair rather quickly to get to the second target. In other words the presentation does not give you enough time to meet the target and “stretch” or pull away to finish the lead. However, I urge you to pull-away from the target when the target gives you time to do so.

As you can see, these core principles are essential for becoming a successful sporting clays shooter. Because sporting clays is dynamic, you need a Dynamic Approach.

To contact Anthony Matarese about sporting clays instructions, please visit his web site at

1 comment:

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