And in a moment I’ll show you how our Touch-and-Go system we developed at Deep River Sporting Clays can help you dramatically improve your sporting clays scores and help you enjoy the game more than ever.
Before we continue, though, I think it’s important for you to understand that Touch-and-Go is actually only a single landmark in our teaching process. To ensure your success, we have to take a few preliminary steps before we go out on the course and begin shooting.
These preliminary steps are just as important as the Touch-and-Go system itself. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that you won’t realize your full potential as a Touch-and-Go shooter without taking these initial steps.
For Touch-and-Go to work, it has to fit you as an individual. Here at Deep River, we don’t believe in forcing a square peg into a round hole. Every shooter has their own unique attributes depending on their body type, habits and eye dominance. In our opinion, a successful shooting system is flexible enough to recognize these individual differences while at the same time maximize the strengths of each shooter.
We believe that the Touch-and-Go system does just that. So in order to determine your strengths, and to see how the Touch-and-Go System can work best for you, we have to see first hand how you shoot.
We begin with an interview regarding your shooting experience. As an instructor, it’s important for me to understand your specific goals for taking lessons, and to see how you shoot. The Touch-and-Go system is intended to close the gap between your goals and current level of experience -- and then take you far beyond your current shooting level.
After the interview, we go through a safety briefing. We have plenty of experienced shooters coming through the Deep River Shooting School who want to fix a problem or improve their competitive scores, and even the most experienced shooters appreciate a review of the safety basics.
After that, we walk to the instruction area. If our client is a new or intermediate shooter, I’ll educate them on the different type of clay targets that are presented to them in the course of shooting sporting clays.
Now remember, so far we haven’t shot at a target yet. There’s still some preliminary work to do.
Hand-eye coordination is perhaps the most important trait for consistently breaking targets. To make sure we understand the level of your hand-eye coordination, we go through a simple pointing exercise. This accomplishes two things: 1) it helps us determine your eye dominance (in other words, if you’re a right-hand shooter, is your right eye the one that sees the target first); 2) it also helps the student understand how we actually point at a moving target.
If a client indicates that they had previous shotgun shooting experience we go warm up, seeing what their shooting style is to evaluate any misunderstandings of key fundamentals such as:
1. That they focus on the small part of the target and excluding any other thoughts and emotions.
2. That they know the shotgun must be moving when the shot is executed.
3. That they are a confident shooter. To be successful at anything you must have confidence — to know when to pull the trigger when everything looks right.
4. That they have a proper gun mount including stance and balance for smooth and accurate movement of the gun.
Once we’ve sorted all of this out, we can move on.
Our Touch-and-Go system is a modified form of the more familiar pull-away method. The pull-away method says that you touch the target and then move sufficiently ahead of it to gain the proper lead. The pull-away method tends to lean more toward a quantitative approach where you actually start to measure the lead you need. With Touch-and-Go, you do not have to measure the lead. Here’s why…
Getting back to the aviation reference of Touch-and-Go, the pilot can’t see the wheels touch the landing strip. It’s done by feel. And it’s that sense of feel, rather than a precise site picture where you measure the lead, which we strive to teach our clients in the Touch-and-Go system.
So with that in mind, here is how Touch-and-Go works.
You mount the shotgun, touch the moving target, accelerate away and pull the trigger. The central point of Touch-and-Go has to do with the acceleration. You don’t measure your lead. You simply move the muzzle a little faster than the target, gain the proper forward allowance, and surprisingly your brain will tell you exactly when to pull the trigger without having to frantically compute the lead.
You see, our idea of forward allowance -- the relative velocity of the muzzle compared with the target -- eliminates the necessity of looking back at the gun to see if you have the proper lead. Again, with your forward velocity of the gun you’re simply moving the muzzle ahead of the target (forward allowance) without any concern for a precise lead.
Of course, there are certain assumptions here: that you mount the gun properly, that you focus on the target excluding any other thoughts and emotions (a skill that must be learned) and that you have a confident foundation as a shooter.
I’d like to leave you with six important tips that are related to becoming a successful Touch-and-Go shooter:
1. The most important concept is to focus on the target and never look at the gun.
2. Any movement of the gun, prior to being focused on the target, is wasted movement and is committing to a target line that has not yet been established.
3. We move the gun to touch the target, but we mount the gun to focus.
4. Remember you can’t control the target. So let the target tell you what to do.
5. Think of merging with the target and then going a little faster as forward allowance is required.
6. Rushing ruins rhythm. Move and mount the gun in cadence with the target.
With these six points in mind, there is one more thing. We call it a post-shot routine. When you miss the target, think about the last thing you saw, so you can recognize the mistake and fix it promptly.
Chuck Foster is an NSCA Level II instructor at Deep River Sporting Clays in Sanford, North Carolina.