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For many beginning shooters, the terms trap and skeet are often mistakenly used interchangeably. It isn't uncommon to hear well-intentioned shooters say they're going to shoot trap or skeet when they really mean they're just going to throw some clays for a little shooting practice. In reality, trap and skeet are dramatically different sports with unique rules and equipment needs.
American Trap originated as a shooting sport to simulate a flushing target such as a chukar or pheasant. In trap, the shooting is done from five adjacent positions in a crescent-shaped formation 16 or more yards behind the trap house. Inside the house, a mechanical trap swings back and forth to randomly change the angles of the targets. Shooting is done in rotation with the person in the No. 1 position firing first and working down the line from left to right ending at the fifth position. After each shooter has fired five shots from a particular position, the shooters move one position to the right until everyone on the squad has fired from all five positions for a total of 25 shots. Targets are thrown a distance of 50 yards with the maximum angles reaching 22 degrees left and right.
With its crisscrossing targets, American Skeet accurately simulates the flight path of migratory birds such as ducks, doves and geese. At its most basic level, a round of skeet involves firing 25 shots from eight positions called stations. Clays are thrown in a set sequence of singles and simultaneous doubles. Squads of five shooters take their turns from eight shooting stations. Each squad member takes two singles and one double from stations one, two, six and seven. Two singles are taken from stations three, four, five and eight. The 25th target is taken after the first target is missed, or as a final target (low-house station eight) after 24 kills. Targets are thrown a distance of 60 yards. Variations in the angles of the targets presented from the high and low house result from the shooter moving from station to station.
There are limits on what gauge of gun you can use, on how quick your ammunition can be, on what the makeup of the shells can be and various other factors. To compete at nationally sanctioned competitions you must become a member of the American Trap Association or the National Skeet Shooters Association. There you'll receive a rule book that completely outlines all aspects of each sport.
The most common mistake I see from even the most experienced shooters is when shooting a shotgun, they tend to close one eye and focus on the shotgunsights, as if they where shooting a rifle. With a shotgun, you want to keepboth eyes open and focus as hard as you can on the target. Our brains and eyes are not built to focus on two things at once in total clarity. So when we focus on our sights while trying to shoot a moving target we loose clarity of the target and our gun speed slows. This generally causes us to miss behind the target.
At 26, Corey Cogdell already holds many of the highest accolades in International Trapshooting, including becoming the first American woman to win an Olympic Medal in the sport. Born in Alaska, Corey began shooting and hunting as a young girl. She honed her trap-shooting skills through a local 4-H Club shooting program. At the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, China, Corey claimed Team USA's first shooting medal - the bronze in Women's Trap. Corey has also appeared on television shows including "Cabela's Ultimate Adventures," "Outdoor Guide" and "Safari Hunter's Journal."
Originally developed as offseason practice by an avid Massachusetts grouse hunter during the 1920s, the sport of skeet has changed little since its humble beginnings.
A modern skeet field is made up of seven stations in a semicircle with an eighth station in the middle. The targets are thrown from a high house on your left and a low house on your right, and cross in front of you at approximately 46 miles per hour. While the targets are always thrown the same across the field, the angles change as you move to each station. In American skeet, a round consists of 25 targets. After your first miss, you repeat the shot. If you shoot and break the first 24 targets, you shoot your last target (the Station 8 low-house target) twice.
Most competitive shooters use an over-and-under shotgun, due to its reliability. One of the most important features of any shotgun is that it fits you properly. It is worth the time and money to have a stock custom made to your measurements. Once you do, you should immediately see your scores improve. For kids, the right stock helps keep them from developing bad habits.
To add to the difficulty of the game, skeet is often shot with smaller-gauge shotguns. In a typical competition, competitors will shoot four rounds (25 targets each) using a 12 gauge, then four rounds using a 20 gauge, four rounds using a 28 gauge and four rounds using a .410. Many skeet shooters use tubes to achieve the different gauges rather than purchase four separate guns. These tubes work great, are easy to travel with, and cost less than four separate guns.
A good pair of helps enhance the target off the background. They have many different lens options and usually thin frames, so as not to block your view. The more common colors used are brown for a bright sunny day, yellow for shooting at night under lights, lavender and vermillion. Shooting glasses help you see the target as quickly as possible and get on it.
One technique that I use to practice is repetition. For skeet I stand on Station 1 and shoot until I break three high-house targets in a row. If I miss I start over until I have broken three in a row. Then I shoot until I break three low-house targets in a row. Then doubles. I go around the entire skeet field, through all eight stations. When I can break three in a row easily I increase the number to five in a row, then eight in a row, then 10 in a row. This technique serves several purposes; one is muscle memory and the other is building self-confidence. You know when you step out on that station that you can break every target, because you have done it many times in practice.
When I step out on the line to shoot, whether it is in trap or skeet, I always think of three basic things: 1) Stare at the target. Pick a point like the front edge of the target. 2) Keep your head down on the stock. 3) Follow through.
In sports, there is no such thing as a sure thing, but Kim Rhode is about as close as one can get. Kim is a six-time national champion in double trap and has won an Olympic medal in each of the last five Olympic Games. She is the only woman to have won two Olympic gold medals for Double Trap. Most recently, she won a gold medal in international skeet shooting at the 2012 Olympic Games, equaling the world record of 99 out of 100 clays.
We spend weeks, months or even years training for that match that we have dreamed of winning. We buy the best ammunition, gear, glasses and guns we can afford, to hopefully give ourselves the extra target that will put us on top. Having all the tools you need to perform is an essential part of being a champion. There are a couple ways to make sure you always have all the gear necessary to go out and shoot successfully.
One way is to have a range bag that contains all your chokes, glasses, oil, grease, journal, vest and all the necessary things you need besides your gun. This works fine when you are driving the same vehicle that probably has some extra things in it, just in case it is cold or if a trap breaks. But things become different when you are getting ready for a match and are trying to pack a suitcase. This is where I suggest the second option: a physical checklist.
I remember many times I have laid in bed the night before I leave for a big match wondering what else I could possibly need. Then I would remember the next day on the plane. But of course, by then, it's a little too late. The best way to get some sleep and peace of mind is to make a physical checklist. Sit down and think of all the things you might need. Be sure to consider the climate, location and food options that will be available. You'll even want your list to include the obvious shotgun and shells. I have seen more than one person forget these at home. Once you have the list, begin to pack and check each item off only after it is in your bag or car. I always like to be overpacked and have things that I end up not using rather than getting to my shoot and wishing I had brought more. Having all the tools you need to perform at your highest level is sometimes the difference between first and second place. Making a good checklist not only ensures you have what you need, but also gives you an extra bit of confidence during your pre-match routine.
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