Skeet trains field shooters
Ever since the sport of skeet shooting was introduced some 35 years ago, shot-gunners have argued its relative merits as compared to the older and more popular trap. Like trap, skeet is shot on a semicircular course and the targets are clay birds, but here the similarities end. Instead of five stations, in skeet there are eight, and targets are released not from one but from two traps: the high house, which is 10 feet above the ground and located directly behind station 1 (see above) and the low house, which is three feet above the ground and directly behind station 7. Birds travel a fixed line of flight crossing midway between the houses, or 20 yards from their point of release.
Any number of shooters up to five make up a squad, and each shoots from the same station before moving on to the next. A standard round consists of 25 shots, two fired separately from each station, two fired at double targets released simultaneously from both houses at stations 1, 2, 6 and 7, and an optional 25th shot that must be taken whenever the first target is missed. A shooter with 24 hits may take his 25th target from any station he chooses.
Because shots in skeet are at much closer range than in trap, guns with 26-inch barrels, cylinder or improved cylinder chokes and muzzle devices to smooth out patterns are preferred. There are four standard events in skeet involving guns of different gauges: the 12-gauge event, 20-gauge event, 28-gauge event and the .410-gauge.
Skeet, like trap, is excellent year-round practice for field shooting. Where trap is of particular value to the waterfowl hunter because it provides shots at a variety of angles and ranges, skeet is specifically geared to the upland shooter and was developed originally as an offseason exercise for quail and grouse hunters. Targets from the high house represent birds in full flight, while those from the low house simulate birds flushed from the ground. Both move at the same speed as trap targets and generally travel 55 to 65 yards.
To further simulate field shooting conditions, until recently the gun in skeet was not placed in actual firing position, or mounted, until after the call "Pull." While this is no longer required under U.S. rules, it is still practiced in international competition and by many bird hunters. The preferred skeet shooting stance is somewhat straighter than in trap, with less forward lean into the gun to permit swinging on the target as quickly as possible.
Figuring the leads and shooting doubles develop gun skill
Because the angles at which targets travel in skeet are fixed, an experienced shooter can judge where the bird will be when he fires at it and exactly how much lead is required to hit it. On each station, a good rule is to face the point at which the target is expected to be hit rather than the point from which it is released. The right distance to lead the target varies from station to station, but on each it is consistent enough so that with practice it can be estimated in advance. Below is a general guide for the beginner to proper leads. He will probably find station 8 (see box) the most difficult because it is comparable to a snap shot in the field. Point the gun directly at the target and fire as quickly as possible. Doubles targets also give the novice trouble. The best rule to remember is that there are two separate targets, which must be treated separately. On stations 1 and 2, shoot the high-house target first; on stations 6 and 7, shoot the low-house target first. On each, forget about the second target until after shooting the first, then swing on the second as though it were a single.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]