Saturday, June 6, 2009

How to Run Station 2 on Skeet Each and Every Time

This article originally appeared in Shotgun Life's free weekly e-letter. To sign up, please visit http://www.shotgunlife.com.


by Bob Uknalis

If the devil took up residence on the skeet field, most people think it would be on Station 2.

Many shooters believe that to beat the station you need to combine the skills of a gunslinger and a contortionist. As they approach the station they’re thinking “No way.”

After all, Station 2 does call for you to break two singles and then a double. On the singles, the high house screams out of the hole from your extreme left, while the low house takes so long to get across the field you actually get impatient waiting for it -- and then you miss it because you mistakenly think it’s a “gimme.”

When it comes to the doubles on Station 2, your anxiety really gets tweaked up. First you have to break the high house real fast, and then you have to find the low-house target. Usually, by time you do locate the low-house target you have only a few feet left before it disappears behind the high house. By that time, you’re off balance, frantic and desperate to catch up.

In reality, though, all it takes to consistently run Station 2 is a fundamental understanding of some shooting basics -- and of course practice.

Once you master the basics, your anxiety of the station will disappear. You’ll find yourself running shooting Station 2 with complete confidence.

Let’s start with foot position.

The proper placement of your feet is one of the most over-looked requirements to successful skeet shooting. A lot of shooters either ignore proper foot placement or follow a common rule of thumb that says your belt buckle should always point towards the low house -- putting your feet in that direction as well.

But I have a different approach that has always worked for me. I call it the clock method. By following the clock method, you’ll have a greater range of motion for Station 2 (and other stations as well.)

Unlike the belt-buckle rule, the clock method gives you permission to recalibrate your foot position according to the station. As a result, your torso can twist to wider angles for solid breaks. With the clock method, you don’t “run out of swing” as quickly as you do with the belt-buckle rule.

The clock method got its name from when skeet was originally called Shooting Around the Clock in 1920. The trap house was located at 12:00 and the shooters basically shot in a circle around it with each station on the hour of the clock face.

Legend has it that a nearby chicken farmer complained about the shot hitting the roof of his coop. In consideration, the skeet shooters cut the field in half, giving us the modern skeet field.

Applying the clock method today, the 12:00 position is Station 4. At Station 4, both feet are facing the center post. Counting back, then, at Station 2 your left foot is at 10:00 (for right-hand shooters).

It’s only your left foot that follows the hours. Your right foot should be in a neutral, comfortable position. Left-hand shooters follow the clock face with their right foot.

I find the clock method provides a full range of motion at every station. For example, if you were to follow the belt-buckle theory, you could easily run out of swing on Station 2 if you were trying to catch up with the low-house target. By comparison, if your left foot is at 10:00, you have a far greater range of motion to nail that low-house bird.

First thing you do, then, is look at your feet to make sure they are properly placed. Don’t take it for granted. Look at your feet every time you take your position.

Once your feet are pointing in the right direction, the next thing you need to concern yourself with is gun mount.

What I do is face the break point of the station. Ideally, you want to break all the targets over the center stake. At the same time, you have to be realistic about your own capabilities.

If you feel that haven’t mastered the station to break it over the center stake, then go to the right of the center state 1½ - 2 feet. The ability to break a target within a certain area versus a specific point is called zone shooting. I find zone shooting most effective and it’s the approach that I use.

Now, you’re facing the zone where you will break the target. Mount the shotgun and point it the place where you expect to break the target. With the gun mounted, you then move it the hold point, which is the final place you will hold the gun before calling for the target.

For Station 2, you now pull back the gun until its parallel with the high house. The best way to consistently find the parallel position is to look for the distance marker that is 60 yards out. These markers should always be in the same, standard place at each skeet field. Being parallel with the high house equals having your muzzle pointing at the distance marker.

Now that your gun is parallel with the high house, move it slightly to the right. This is your final hold point for Station 2: it’s slightly past parallel. There is a very good reason for you to hold the gun here.

The bird leaves the high house at approximately 50 mph. You try chasing anything going 50 mpg and you’ll probably discover it’s a losing proposition. However, by holding your gun slightly past parallel you’re allowing the target to slow down. By the time you pick up the target, it may be going 45 mph -- a more manageable speed for breaking it within your zone.

After you’ve established the slightly-past-parallel hold point, move your barrel down 1-1½ feet below the flight path. This gives you better visibility of the target. Your barrel won’t block the shot. Remember, it’s always easier to come up to a target than to drop your barrel.

So your hold point for Station 2 is now firmly established: slightly-past-parallel and 1-1½ feet below the flight path.

The next thing you do is look back to the high house as far as you can without moving your head. Maximize your peripheral vision. Looking back to the window with only your eyes gives you a jump start on establishing your lead. You’re watching the target coming up on you before you move the gun. You never move the gun on your call. You only move the gun when you’ve established the target with your eyes -- and you keep your eyes glued to the target.

What you’ll discover is quite surprising. By looking back to the high house with your peripheral vision, the target almost seems to move in slow motion on its flight path. Your eyes are locked onto it. Suddenly, you find that you have a head start on the target instead of having to chase it.

With your eyes and gun under control, make sure you’re relaxed before calling for the target. You feel balanced, your breathing is even and you know the zone where you will break the target.

You call for the high house and your muzzle speed is matching the target speed. You shoot directly at the target on high 2. There is virtually no lead on this shot.

Regarding your low-house hold point, you should move your gun about 2/3 of the way back from the center post to the low house. Again, you want to hold your gun 1-1½ feet below the flight path.

Your eyes are on the hole of the low house. When you call for the target, the muzzle speed matches the target speed. Your lead on the low 2 target is 12-16 inches in front of the bird. Ideally, you want to break the low bird right before it passes you (but as a zone shooter you have some wiggle room on that).

For doubles, you have to consider them as two single shots. The dynamics are exactly the same. Just remain calm.

Consistency is very important for successful skeet shooting. That’s why I follow this routine when I walk onto the station: 1) foot position, 2) don’t shoulder the gun until you determine where you are going to break the target, 3) mount the gun, 4) eyes to the window.

Keep practicing and you’ll be astounded at your results on Station 2.

Bob Uknalis is a nine-time World Skeet Champion and has won Doubles Long-Run Record of 731 straight. He has been inducted into the National Skeet Shooting Association Hall of Fame. He is available for lessons and can be contacted at (215) 240-2585 or bobuknalis@shotgunlife.com.

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