Sporting clays is a wonderful sport in and of itself. But for the hunter, it is more than that. This represents the most lifelike practice you can get for hunting without shooting at real birds. In this episode I talk through numerous things you can do in order to focus your sporting clays time and money on building hunting skills that you can take into the woods. 

If your goal is to win sporting clays competitions, then this episode and strategy is not for you. But if your goal with shooting sporting clays is to become the best possible hunter then you will want to do some things differently to make as much of your sporting clays practice transferable to the woods.

First, you will want to shoot whatever shotgun you plan to hunt with. Using a gun made especially for sporting clays may give you a few advantages or comforts for the clays course, but it will not help you get to know your hunting shotgun. You want to practice mounting, aiming, reloading, and doing everything with the gun you plan to hunt with. This is the most important thing you can do. Will using a hunting shotgun make sporting clays harder and possibly cost you a few points worth of your score? It could, but your goal should NOT be the best possible score, it’s to get the best possible hunting practice. And you need to use your hunting shotgun for that to happen.

Next, you want to wear as much of your hunting gear as makes sense. Prove it out on the sporting clays course. This is particularly applicable to shirts, jackets, coats, etc. You want to make sure you can manage, shoulder, and shoot your gun right while wearing all this gear if you can.

Gloves are also a big one. You want to make sure your can run the shotgun, reload, and work your action with the gloves you plan to hunt with. This is crucial. You will be reloading under pressure, and if your gloves cause you to bobble some reloads and cost you a few points on the course then good! Because you learned those gloves could cost you a few birds in the woods. Better to miss clay targets now than real birds later.

Also avoid the temptation to get ready for the shot before you see the clay bird in the air. Since you are the one calling pull, it’s easy to anticipate the shot and get your gun up and in the air. This may make some of your shots easier, but it is not realistic. In the woods, birds will not appear on command. You should stand unassuming and wait until you see the clays to raise your gun, get your footing, mount the gun and shoot. This may cost you a few points on the sporting clays range, but it will help you shoot faster and more effectively in the woods under real hunting conditions. 

Do not take any shortcuts on the sporting clays range. Do things harder, push yourself, try to think about how to make everything more realistic to hunting scenarios. This will give you the best practice possible for hunting ducks, pheasants, doves, and anything that flies.

Most importantly, listen to this entire podcast episode to get all of the details!