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3 Ways to Up Your Sporting Clays Game ft. Travis Mears

how to shoot a shotgun Apr 04, 2024
3 Ways to Up Your Sporting Clays Game ft. Travis Mears

Sporting clays is one of the most fun competitive shooting disciplines for shooters of all skill levels. In short, sporting clays is a dynamic shooting sport that simulates hunting scenarios, challenging participants to hit clay targets launched from various angles and trajectories. It's set up on a course with multiple stations.

You're probably here because you're already shooting sporting clays and want to up your game. But whether you are new to the sport or have been shooting for a while, today's blog/video is packed full of valuable information.

Like you, I want to get better, so we met up with a professional sporting clays shooter who has been around the block more than a few times. Travis Mears has been competing in sporting clays at the pro level for 20 years and has a track record of championships and trophies to show for it. Today we're at his range near Fort Worth, Texas to pick his brain and get better at sporting clays. Let's go!


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Today we'll be covering three main topics that will make you a better sporting clays shooter if you put them into practice. Everything we'll be talking about today comes back to one word: Consistency. The more we can repeat motions at various stations, the more x's we can put on scorecards. Let's dive into the three chapters of this in-depth run-down: 1. Foot position & Stance 2. Hold Points & Break Points 3. Approaching far-away, and fast Targets. 

1. Foot Position & Stance

All of these points are fundamental to sporting clays. The most foundational aspect is the foundation of our bodies: The feet. First, we need to step into the station and stand with adequate comfort, and an appropriate range of motion for the given target presentation. If you're new to sporting clays, it's good to know that when you step up for your shot, you'll be able to see the bird before shooting it. This is crucial as we need to determine where our eyes see it best. This may be a different spot for everyone, but the same fundamentals apply once we know where the bird is going. Before we solidify our stance, we need to determine the breakpoint. In our situation, this was a left-to-right crossing shot that peaked at about 40 feet. For this scenario, we will be talking about shooting singles.

Now that we know about breakpoint, we can adjust our stance to give our hips the widest range of motion with the center of that range being fixed to the point in the sky that we determined to be the break-point. TRAVIS MEARS PRO TIP: Use landmarks to have a better gauge as to where the break-point is.

Finally, a very important note on stance: Like most shooting scenarios, we want to have a bit of forward lean into our gun. A general rule would be 60% of our weight on our front foot, and 40% on our back foot. This is to combat recoil when we have a report-pair and need to shoot a second shot. TRAVIS MEARS PRO TIP: Remember that our hands are supporting the weight of the gun, and our hips are what control our swing. Using your hands too much will create a less-smooth swing. NOTE: Today we'll be approaching every target from a pre-mounted position.

2. Hold Points & Break Points

Now we touched on break points a bit already, but what is a hold point? The hold point is where we position the shotgun relative to the breakpoint to give us the best chance of shooting that clay. As we mentioned, this scenario is a left-to-right crossing shot. Before we dive into this, we need to explain "The line" - When we walk into the station and get to see that first clay, we don't only want to determine the breakpoint. We also need to visualize the entire flight path of the clay to also understand our hold point. And finally, we need to determine our focal point. This is the first place that we are able to visually see the bird. The focal point completes our line. (focal point to breakpoint) Now we can really dial in our setup for a desirable outcome.

Most sporting clay courses are going to have targets that can broken down into two categories: Crossing shots, and quartering shots. The type of shot also determines our breakpoints and hold points. A crossing shot is anything that crosses us at near a 90 degree angle: left to right, right to left=crossing shot. Everything else is a quartering shot bird. On a quartering shot, the clay is flying at away or towards us to one degree or another. TRAVIS MEARS PRO TIP: As a general rule of thumb, our holding point on a crossing shot should be about 50% back towards the focal point from the breakpoint (This is why we need a stance that gives us adequate hip mobility) On a quartering target, the hold point should only be about 25% back to the focal point.


All of these angles as they relate to the hold point are kind of on a sliding scale and not completely concrete. If it's in that gray area of a crosser but still has some angle to it, split the difference between that 50% and 25% to give yourself the most comfortable position both visually and physically. Speaking of splitting the difference, when we get a report pair, we have to account for where our gun will be after the first shot relative to the line of the second clay. If you get a unique target presentation where the clays are separated significantly by speed and distance, you may have to alter the breakpoint of your first clay to give you enough time to pick up the second. This is all very scenario-based and may require another blog. Nevertheless, all the fundamentals and principles are the same. When we step into the station, we need to calculate the equation for every presentation uniquely and answer the question of where we need to be set up to have the best chance at shooting one, or both clays. Consistency of process is what gets us more points on the scorecard.

3. Lead & Shooting Difficult Targets

For this segment, we went to one of Travis's hardest stations. When it comes to shooting sports the two things that intimidate folks are speed and distance. This station has zooming right-to-left crossing shot at about 50/60 yards. Shotgun lead comes into the conversation much more at this distance. If you don't know, "lead" refers to the distance ahead of the bird that our shotgun needs to be when we pull the trigger. If you want to learn more about different lead strategies, (CLICK HERE)

We're not going to dive super far into lead as each station will vary, and every person perceives lead differently. But what we can tell you is that this shot required a "good amount" of lead. Another unique factor of this shot is that from this station, we're unable to see the clay thrower as it's covered by bushes. This means that we need to adjust our hold point as our focal point is now 5-10(ish) feet away from the thrower. We didn't talk about this earlier, but for every shot, our best chance at hitting our target happens when we are matching the line and speed of the target. We've discussed the line, but matching the speed is crucial. This is where having a good stance and hip work comes in. Below is the progression of accomplishing this difficult shot. Notice how the lead increases right before the shot in image #4. You can see just how much distance was required to get the BB's to meet the bird in mid-air. It's slight, but noticeable between images #3 & #4. Travis calls this move at the end a "Stretch". Imagine you are holding a rubber band between your two pointer fingers with no slack. With just a little bit of energy, we can pull our fingers apart and slightly stretch the rubber band to momentarily increase its length. Think about lead this way as you slightly "stretch" your lead right before you pull the trigger.







If you ever find yourself in the Fort Worth area, check out Travis's range! Defender Outdoors Clay Sport Ranch. It is a phenomenal setup! (CHECK IT OUT)

Be sure to check out Travis Mears' Channel as well! (HERE)

In Conclusion, at the end of the day, consistency is the best way to get more Xs on your scorecard. If you can duplicate your moves and processes at every station with the confidence of knowing these fundamentals, you can increase your scores in very short order with practice and repetition. The most important principle through all of this is learning how to identify your mistakes when you make them, and knowing how to fix them for the next one. There are a lot of personal preferences and style choices that come into play, but if you can nail these fundamentals and understand YOUR game, adjusting your habits and fixing mistakes will cause you great success! 


Whether our targets in the field or our targets in life, we will only hit what we are focused on, so live the #targetfocusedlife   

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